Videos Purchased from Google to Self-Destruct Wednesday

In a move that may have some wondering whether the proverbial left hand knows what the other left hand is doing, Google issued a notice to its Google Video customers last week informing them that it is discontinuing its video sales business on Wednesday. But that wasn't all: The notice explicitly says that videos purchased or rented, and then downloaded to customers' PCs will no longer be viewable on or after August 15.

In other words, if you were to use this page to search for a video within a specific price range today, regardless of what you pay for it, due to DRM restrictions it will not play after Wednesday.

As a way of compensating for customers' grievances, the company is offering them coupons good toward purchases through other online retailers that use Google Checkout. Based on early reports, the value of the coupons is roughly equivalent to the amount of their purchases. However, in order for customers to redeem them, they must make purchases of the same amount or more, and they must do so within 60 days of August 15.

The move comes just after Universal Music Group indicated its intention to sell MP3 tracks without DRM through Google and perhaps others, though not iTunes.

Google's official explanation, as cited by the Associated Press, is that the company believes more in the compensating power of advertising support alongside video than in charging users directly.

"The current change is a reaffirmation of our commitment to building out our ad-supported...models for video," the AP report quotes Google spokesperson Gabriel Strickler as saying.

There is some data to back Strickler up. According to a comScore Media Metrix report last month, Google accounted for 21.5% of the US' streaming media traffic, with Fox Interactive's sites (mostly MySpace) a distant second at 8.1%. That's streams, such as the embedded kind that appears in Web pages, not VOD or direct downloads. If the money in video is to be made in exploiting audience size for advertising, some might rightfully ask how come audio doesn't work the same way.

Of course, all this diverts from what could be the major question in customers' minds: Weren't their video purchases supposed to be permanent? Strickler's comments appear only to be addressing shareholders' concerns, not customers.

One of those customers is Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow, who wrote last Friday, "This is a giant, flaming middle finger, sent by Google and the studios to the customers who were dumb trusting enough to buy DRM videos. How many of these people will trust the next DRM play from Google (no doubt coming soon from YouTube) or the studios?"

Apparently not every customer is so worried. A member of the Broadband Reports forum who invested $17.12 on replay videos of NBA basketball games, wrote on Saturday, "I'm being reimbursed for $20 so I actually come out ahead. Losing that video is no big deal anyway."

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