In Costa Rica the phrase “full extras” is a popular Anglicism that is used to describe a car that comes with all added extra features, and has evolved as anexpression that refers to any product loaded with perks and extras. “Full extras” was the first thought that crossed my mind when I watched the excellent-yet-underrated flawed masterpiece that is the movie adaptation of Watchmen on Blu-ray over the weekend. The Blu-ray special edition comes with the usual amount of featurettes and commentary that one has come to expect on DVDs, but what I found surprising about the Watchmen is that it comes with a 3rd disc carrying a digital copy of the film. I was intrigued and therefore read the insert to discover that this disc allows the user to make a digital copy of the film into a computer either through Windows Media or iTunes.
This is precisely the type of smart user-friendly approach that some people in the copyright industries are starting to come up with. I personally found the possibility of making a “legal” copy of the movie to transfer to my iPod an excellent perk to the purchase of a DVD. The digital transfer process was very easily done through iTunes, and I have to say that Paramount pictures have a satisfied customer here. While this capability would not have made a difference in buying a physical copy of the film, I believe that measures such as this one make the consumer feel well-treated, and recognises that people nowadays would like their purchases to be transferable to different media. It also makes perfect legal sense in the future. One argument in favour of the circumvention of technological protection measures has been that consumers should be entitled to make digital copies of their media. By including the digital copy in the purchase price, producers are directly tackling this excuse. It could be argued that if you have the capability of making a digital copy legally, there is no reason to use methods that circumvent protection.
There are of course problems involved here. It could be said that these digital copies are encumbered with DRM, and there is the fact that Linux is not supported because only specific formats and programs are included. Still, one feels that this is a step in the right direction.
The perk economy could very well be one of the best ways to compete against free downloads. Fans will feel that they have more to gain from purchasing copies of music and DVDs that contain all sorts of perks and special features for the discerning consumer. Lyrics, pictures, special features, video discs and similar have been around for a while, but producers should be encouraged to continue to think of things to include to make fans feel happy. A musician told me recently that bands have to work hard to keep fans content by constantly providing these perks, encouraging consumers to buy physical products. Free downloads are appealing to many, but those willing and able to purchase CDs and DVDs will be more likely to cough-up the cash if they feel they are getting something worthwhile in return.