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More pay-to-own movie download services debut

US consumers get a look-in

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US video rental companies Movielink and CinemaNow will today begin offering pay-to-own movie downloads from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's Sony Pictures and MGM catalogues. Tomorrow, they will offer the first Sony title to be made simultaneously available in both DVD and download formats.

The first dual-format release is Dirty. It will be followed on 11 April by Fun with Dick and Jane. Today, some 75 titles go on sale as downloads, including Memoirs of a Geisha, Spider-Man 2, Taxi Driver, Barbershop and Hitch. More will be added on a regular basis, Sony said.

The downloads are expected to be priced between $9.95 and $19.95 (£6-11.50) and will be encoded in Windows Media format with DRM copy-protected.

The announcement comes two weeks after the UK's first pay-to-own movie download service was unveiled and a week after a similar service was announced in the Netherlands. Like the Movielink and CinemaNow offerings, Lovefilm's UK-oriented service and Free Record Shop's movie download scheme in Holland are both based on Windows Media technology.

All of which is of little benefit to iPod owners unwilling to violate download services' terms and conditions, all of which undoubtedly forbid - toothlessly, it has to be said - re-encoding files to remove the DRM. But it would be surprising indeed if, given all the noise being made by alternative services, Apple hasn't got its own pay-to-earn movie plan lined up. ®

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