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If you've bought DRM'd film files from Acetrax, here's the bad news

We hope you have plenty of spare time, you'll need it

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Sky will next month shut down Acetrax, a website that streams movies and offers downloads of DRM-encrypted films to paying punters.

The closure has highlighted yet again one of the many flaws inherent in Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology.

In this case, users must go through the hassle of downloading all of their purchased video again and then watching it all “for at least five minutes” in order to apply fresh DRM settings that will enable them to watch the flicks in perpetuity, the soon-to-axed service said this week.

Zurich-based Acetrax will cease to offer any new content on 21 June. After that, owners of Windows PCs can download their films. Mac users can forget it, as can anyone hoping to re-download HD films. Even on Windows, it’s standard definition only from that point.

Movies that users have previously downloaded will cease to play from that date, so re-downloading films is mandatory if you want to continue to be able to watch them. Re-downloaded films will be tied solely to the machine on which they’re first played. Because they use Microsoft’s Windows Media Player DRM, the films can’t be transferred to any platform that doesn’t support the copy-protection technology.

“You may only retain a copy of the content on the personal computer on which you make the original download. Resetting the factory settings on your PC will also result in removal of the license which can then not be retrieved,” the company warned.

Acetrax said anyone who has purchased HD movies or any kind of film on a Mac computer, an iOS or Android device, or a smart TV can enter their request into a web page the company has put up for the purpose. Refunds will only be made to PayPal or ClickandBuy accounts, Acetrax warned.

Those who are able to download their films will need to do so promptly once the 21st comes round. It’s not clear how long Acetrax will make the films available for download after 21 June. Anyone with an outstanding account balance has until 20 June to use it up, or request a refund. Credit vouchers, likewise.

Acetrax launched in 2006 primarily as a streaming service for connected TVs. Early partners included Panasonic and Samsung. It was acquired by British Sky Broadcasting just over a year ago.

Since then, Sky has launched its own streaming service, Now TV - which is the satellite broadcaster’s bid to keep up with the likes of Netflix and Amazon’s Lovefilm, and gives it an opportunity to sell content to punters who aren’t also Sky subscribers.

Sky said at the time it was buying Acetrax for its experience and expertise in streaming. With the establishment of Now TV, Sky presumably reckons it no longer requires the Acetrax brand. Privately held, Acetrax never published subscriber numbers. Over here it has almost certainly been largely eclipsed by the Netflix and Lovefilm, firms that marketed themselves to potential subscribers far more than Acetrax ever did. ®

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