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PlayStation Network Video DRM Decidedly User Unfriendly

While PC users face anti-piracy software and restrictions on a daily basis via games, music and other software purchases, console gamers are beginning to get a taste of the evil DRM beast.

According to an article over on Ars Technica, PlayStation 3 owners who purchase and download movies through Sony’s PlayStation Network Video Store are only allowed one official download. The files cannot be backed up, or moved to another hard drive. This limitation seems rather harsh considering that hard drives can fail or files can be accidently deleted.

To make room for new content, one Ars Technica reader cleaned off his PlayStation 3 hard drive only to find out that his movie could not be re-downloaded. "You can only download videos once and they are tied to your PS3 forever," reports the reader. "If your PS3 dies or hard drive dies you lose. Don’t get burned like I did."

However, Sony’s rule of thumb about purchasing and downloading video content has been perfectly clear since the service began: "Purchased content can be downloaded to a single PLAYSTATION 3 or a single PSP system. Content cannot be re-downloaded once it has been downloaded to either a PLAYSTATION 3 or PSP system."

PlayStation Network media relations manager Lincoln Davis explained to the Ars Technica website that consumers could actually request one additional download. "If a consumer deletes a purchased movie from their PS3, they will not be able to redownload the movie without assistance from SCEA’s consumer services," he said. "Consumer service can issue a redownload as a one-time courtesy, as provided by our guidelines, for the title to allow the consumer to go back and download the movie from their PSN download list."

Of course, PlayStation 3 owners who rent movies need not worry about the DRM restrictions, as rental movies are only valid for 24 hours. But when system updates brick the console or consumers upgrade the hard drive as permitted by Sony itself, it seems rather excessive to only allow the consumer one official download of the purchased version; that’s $15 gone for good. After all, other downloadable content like full-blown games and add-on packages remain active as long as the consumer’s PlayStation Network account remains valid. Why should video files be handled differently? Namely because the sharing of content is possible on other PlayStation 3 consoles.

In some ways, restricting video downloads makes sense. After all, consumers don’t receive free backup copies of Blu-ray disks when the master copy becomes scratched or cracked. But DRM sucks in any case, and recent escalations of DRM usage in BioShock, Spore and even Windows Genuine Advantage leaves the legit consumer feeling like a victim rather than the protected investor.

Like it or not, DRM is the future of digital media, and now even console owners are feeling the bite of the beast’s evil teeth sinking into their wallets.