Conversion Alternatives

There are three ways of being able to watch a DVD without a DVD player: either by converting the DVD into a single software file and storing/playing it on your PC; by obtaining that software file from elsewhere and storing/playing it on your PC; or by streaming the movie from an internet service or location. Having established that conversion is a definite possibility, I thought I’d explore the other options.

I started by investigating the five DVDs which claimed to also provide a downloadable version for a limited period. In three cases, specific expiration dates were quoted (02Dec2014, 27Feb2019, and  31Dec2019) – though two of these just said that the download may not be available after the date specified. One of the remaining two specified that the download code “may expire two years after the release of the film”; and the other one simply said “redemption code subject to expiration”. Given these caveats I wasn’t very hopeful as I set about accessing the specified websites to try and obtain the digital copies.

In one case, the website specified no longer existed. In a second case the process took me to the Apple Store after which it hung and I had to abort; after two attempts I gave up and assumed the code had expired. The third one said “Sorry this code has expired”, and the fourth one proclaimed that “Support for digital copy redemption has ceased”. However, the fifth one, despite specifying the 27Feb2019 expiration date, was successful! I put in the voucher code and after confirming it was for the movie Jack Reacher – Never Go Back, it offered me just one provider option – Apple TV. I put in my Apple account info, downloaded iTunes, and, after taking me to the iTunes Store, it said the movie was being transferred to my iCloud library (though there was no sign of it when I looked). However, shortly afterwards it appeared in the Recently Added section of the iTunes app. When I clicked on it, it started to play in a new window. These results are summarised in the table below.

Movie Expiration Date Website Result
The Dark Knight Rises [2012] 02Dec2014 opens as The website has 3 options (ultraviolet technology; a video streaming app; and info about Disney Plus subscriptions). Assumed voucher had expired.
Minority Report [2002] Two years after release None specified: 2nd disc initiates a process requiring the iTunes app, and linking to the Apple Store Apple Store hung and required aborting. Assumed voucher had expired.
The Lady in the Van [2015] 31Dec2019 opens as Got message “Sorry this code has expired”
Jason Bourne [2016] Redemption code subject to expiration Got message “Support for digital copy redemption has ceased”
Jack Reacher – Never Go Back (2016) 27Feb2019

opens as

Put code in and it said “Select a provider” listing one option – Apple TV. I provided my apple account details, downloaded iTunes, was taken to the iTUnes store and the movie appeared in the recently added section of the iTunes app where I was able to play it

Despite being able to actually play the Jack Reacher movie, it is not a stand-alone file. It can only be played from within iTunes. When it is copied out of iTunes, DRM functions (Digital Rights Management) are introduced such that it will only play a series of static scenes. In similar fashion, Amazon applies DRM controls when it offers movies to rent or buy: for both types of purchase, access to the movie is via the Amazon Prime Video app. The files cannot be copied and moved outside the app. So, you are not actually buying the file – just access to it. I believe this is the way all internet sales of movies work; it is not legally possible to acquire the actual video file. Having said that, if you simply want to watch a movie again at some unspecified point in time, then it’s a reasonable assumption that you will be able to find a copy to rent. A quick trawl of Amazon Prime determined that 49 of the 58 titles in my collection are available for rent at prices between 99p and £3.49. I also did a check of Netflix (which provides free access to subscribers) but could find only 6 of the titles.

My conclusion from this rather cursory investigation is that for movies you might want to watch again sometime in the future then it should be possible to rent them relatively cheaply and easily; but that if long term reliable access is required, then conversion by HandBrake is the best option. It goes without saying that you should not pass a converted copy to anyone else. I, personally, always store away the originals of CDs, videos, and books that I copy, to demonstrate proof of ownership.

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