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Cloud-based movie storage service Ultraviolet shutting down July 31

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Once upon a time, Ultraviolet, a cloud-based storage and digital rights system for movies, looked like the future. With wide support from most of the major studios, it grew from its launch in 2011 to its current 30 million members. But the service’s days are numbered. DECE, the consortium responsible for overseeing Ultraviolet, has announced it will shutter the platform on July 31.

Wendy Aylsworth, president of DECE, cited changes in the online entertainment space for the closure, according to an interview with Variety. Indeed, since Ultraviolet launched, the growth in both online media ownership options, as well as subscription and ad-supported streaming services, has blossomed. Another strong contributing factor has been the rise of Disney’s own online movie locker service, Movies Anywhere. Disney proved to be a long-term holdout among the major studios that supported Ultraviolet, and its absence from the platform proved a challenge as time went on. Aylsworth claims the Ultraviolet shutdown decision wasn’t a response to Movies Anywhere — despite the fact that Disney was able to create alliances with Apple’s iTunes, Amazon, and Google, something that Ultraviolet never accomplished. She also denied that interest in movie ownership is flagging. “It’s very clear to us that it is on very sound footing,” she said.

Despite the imminent shutdown, Ultraviolet customers will still be able to access their cloud-based movies after July 31, as long as their account is associated with at least one of the platform’s partner retailers. In the U.S., the retailers are Fandango Now, Paramount Movies, Verizon Fios, Vudu, and Kaleidescape. In Canada, it’s Flixster, Kaleidescape, and Sony Pictures. Owned content that resides on Ultraviolet will be accessible through these companies, though there may be some discrepancies. According to Ultraviolet’s FAQ:

Most, and perhaps all, existing rights in UltraViolet Libraries currently available through your linked retailers that are still operating should continue to be available from those retailers. While there could be some disruption, we do not anticipate this on a broad scale and are working diligently to minimize and avoid such instances.

Those words don’t exactly fill us with confidence that users’ rights will be universally preserved. To be safe, or at least safer, users may want to create accounts with several of these retailers because your rights to any one movie might vary from one retailer to another. In other words, though you still have the right to a specific movie, if your chosen retailer doesn’t have the right to it as well, you won’t be able to access that movie through that retailer. Most importantly, do not delete your Ultraviolet account prior to July 31.

One strategy that might simplify things — if you live in the U.S. — is to create accounts with all five retailers, then create a Movies Anywhere account, and then link the five retailers to Movies Anywhere. This creates an awkward, but largely effective, digital bridge for your Ultraviolet movie rights.

Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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