I backed 'Veronica Mars,' but DRM is hobbling my reward

Quick, call Veronica Mars! We need a detective to figure out why some "Veronica Mars" Kickstarter backers can't watch their digital rewards.

Veronica Mars
Veronica Mars, ready to snark her way back into your heart. Veronica Mars

When I heard the "Veronica Mars" movie was up on Kickstarter, I ran over to the crowdfunding site and elatedly flung my $35 pledge at the project. Along with 91,584 other people, I helped raise $5.7 million to fund the film. This past Friday, it was officially released into theaters. My town of Albuquerque, N.M., however, was not on the theater list. But, never fear, my pledge included a digital copy of the film.

My official Kickstarter email arrived, with a link to a Digital Ultraviolet version of the film, accessed through the Flixter streaming video service. Cool. So, I went through the sign-up, got a Flixster and Digital Ultraviolet account, and settled in to watch it stream. It started to load. Then, it stopped.

I got this message, like a stab in my crowdfunding heart: "Your screen configuration does not support protected playback." Huh? I went to the FAQ for explanation and discovered my dual-monitor desktop setup violates Flixster's DRM restrictions. I wonder if Flixster thinks dual monitors are a gateway to pirating activities.

If I had ever tried to use Flixster before, I would have been aware of this ban on dual monitors, but I had to meet the ugly truth while in a "Veronica Mars" fever of fan fervor, which quickly slapped a big cold damper on my excitement. There are ways around the issue. I ended up downloading the Flixster app to my computer and running the movie from there. I could have switched to my laptop. Really, I just wanted the convenience of streaming my reward right then and there.

I'm not the only person who tripped over a Flixster-shaped "Veronica Mars" stumbling block. Other backers have reported issues with Flixster working with Roku boxes, along with a lack of Flixster support for Apple TV. The result was a number of upset comments on the Kickstarter update page. Backer Sarah Zaslow wrote, "I am beyond angry that I had to use Flixster to get my digital download."

There is a bit of a happy ending to all this. An official Kickstarter backer update arrived with an explanation and a way around the whole Flixster thing. First, the explanation: "In the end, Flixster was the best option for getting the digital movie reward out to all of you, worldwide, at the same time."

Now, the options: "We understand that some of you prefer other platforms or services for watching digital content. If you contact our Customer Support team, they can help." If you complain and share your technical issues with Warner Bros. customer support, you get the option to buy the movie on a service of your choice and get a refund for the purchase price.

After all this, am I down on "Veronica Mars?" No. The project has done so much right, I'm not going to torpedo the whole thing just because of the ill-advised method of doling out the digital copies. We didn't get a "too bad, tough luck" answer to complaints, we got a work-around. It's not ideal, but it gets you the movie on your terms.

The larger issue here is the ongoing weirdness with DRM efforts. Flixster's DRM prevented me, a legitimate backer, from streaming the movie in my browser. If you head over to the Pirate Bay, you'll see "Veronica Mars" sitting near the top of the current Top-100 movies list. Annoying me and plenty of other people with overzealous DRM hasn't done anything to prevent the spread of the movie through illicit means. It won't keep me from backing other Kickstarter films, but I hope future projects will have the faith to offer a DRM-free download.

 

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