Movies Anywhere users can now share their movies — with a few catches

Digital movie locker service Movies Anywhere released a new sharing feature called Screen Pass to a limited number of beta users. Originally slated to be launched in May, Screen Pass lets beta members loan movies from their Movies Anywhere collection to friends and family members, who can then stream the titles on their own devices.

If you’re a Movies Anywhere member and want to get a chance to lend your movies via Screen Pass, you will need to be invited to the beta program.

As cool as Screen Pass sounds, there are some caveats that restrict eligibility and what you can do with the new feature. Although there is no charge for using the Screen Pass system, once you’ve been accepted to the beta program, you will need to buy a Movies Anywhere-eligible movie or redeem a digital code every six months to maintain your Screen Pass status. So if you were hoping to just lend out your existing movies on an ongoing basis without buying any new ones, that is clearly not what Movies Anywhere has in mind.

It’s also not a free-for-all. Each Screen Pass member will be allotted three Screen Passes per month to hand out as they see fit, which means you’ll need to be a bit picky about which movies you lend (and to whom you lend them).

Each Screen Pass is attached to a movie in your Movies Anywhere library; it does not entitle the recipient to browse your library and pick their own movie. Once you send out a Screen Pass, the recipient has up to seven days to accept the pass. After accepting, they have up to 14 days to begin watching the movie and 72 hours to finish watching from the time they start streaming it. Unused Screen Passes don’t accumulate; you get three per month with a new batch of three issued on the first of the month.

Screen Passes are only good for direct streaming — there’s no download option. In this way, Screen Pass acts more like a movie rental from a cable or satellite provider.

At the moment, not all movies in Movies Anywhere are Screen Pass eligible. Each studio gets to decide which of its titles can be Screen Passed. More than 6,000 movies or about 80% of the Movies Anywhere collection are eligible, but as The Verge points out, there are some notable omissions, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Disney titles. There’s also no built-in communication tool to let lenders and borrowers discuss which movies are available. You’ll have to manage that process on your own.

If you like the idea of Screen Pass, but feel it’s too restrictive, it’s worth taking a look at Plex. The media server software lets you grant friends and family access to some or all of your private media collection, so they can browse what’s available and stream it at their convenience. The setup isn’t as easy as Movies Anywhere Screen Pass and you’ll need a decently fast broadband connection to make it work, but it’s a great alternative for those with a bit of time and patience.

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