Opinion Piece: Digital Review
By, Jeremy Kahn
For a while (a good few years actually), I used Celtx for all my comic script needs. Celtx, for those not aware, is an alternative software application for use instead of Final Draft. What was great about it was that it had a built in comic template (one for screenplays for tv/film and stage, audio broadcasts, and even a storyboard template.
But alas, all good things must come to an end. For a long time Celtx was in a beta period, meaning the program could be used for free. There were some annoying things about it though. For example, once you wrote up your script, in order to save it as a PDF you had to have an internet connection. This meant that unless you were connected online, you couldn’t save your project in any format other than the Celtx extension (no other program could read this).
Though for a free program with similar capabilities to Final Draft, this could go by overlooked (seeing how it was free and all). Now that Celtx is out of beta, you have to buy the program in order to create a PDF of your projects. To make matters worse this isn’t a one time purchase. Instead you have to pay a monthly fee in order to use the program.
From what I can gather this means you are paying to let the company verify that you have purchased the program. This monthly fee is an access fee to to allow you to continue validating your program with the company (sorta like a monthly charge for an MMO where you pay monthly to access a game company’s servers). One where you have to pay 4.95 a month in order to use the desired program.
Now, most likely this isn’t a DRM type scenario, rather it most likely is about acquiring money for the company to continue their project. They might see their software as something not in demand, so they need a way to make a profit. Charging a monthly fee could be a way for them to know if continue support of the program is a good idea.
Now, I am getting at a point here (not just rambling theories, so stay with me). All of this got me thinking about copyright protection, and how it is used today, as well as digital distribution. Remember a while back when Ubisoft’s servers went off line. All their games which had DRM requiring those games to have an internet connection to run could not be play. This was due to the fact that gamers could not access Ubisoft’s servers.
Here is my point, and remember, opinions will vary. We come to a time when a majority of what we want can be found online. Digital purchases can be made ranging from buying physical items through online stores to digital items like video and games. For these video and game purchases, a lot of the services distributing them store our orders on our account. This allows us to re-download items previously purchased.
What happens when one of these distributers goes out of business? For one we won’t be able to access our games or videos anymore. Another problem is some of these places license what they sell. Recently for example, people bought a certain EA title off of Steam only to have that title pulled from Steam not so long after. For those that purchased the game, what happens if they delete the game off their hard drive and need to reinstall it. Or even worse, there might be people yet to install the game and got stuck with a bill.
Another example is downloadable content (DLC). There have be various accounts of DLC appearing and disappearing from XBox Live or PlayStation Network. For those that bought a game and held off buying the DLC, this is a bad omen as they might never get the full game (especially since a lot of DLC is already on the disc, you’re just paying to unlock it).
What I’m trying to get at is, should we have to buy something with knowledge that at some point we may lose what it is we bought? At this point can we really claim we are buying a product, rather are we really just renting it until a undecided date? If so, should we be made to pay full price for these items? If you go to iTunes for example, then the video section, a good section of the videos are for rent as well as purchase. Is there really a difference here? Let’s say Apple went out of business tomorrow and you needed to re-download a video because something happened to your hard drive and you needed to reformat. With this scenario you wouldn’t be able to re-download the video. This makes your purchased video the same as a rental (you just payed more).
This type of scenario can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone. Companies come and go. Within this digital age, maybe it is time we rethink how things are done.