MPW Blog: Mr. EULA and The Cloud – by Karl Huddleston

The Cloud

You may remember a few years ago when Walmart announced its big “Cloud” initiative in relation to DVDs and Blu-ray movies. Basically, you could bring in all your discs that you had purchased in the past from anywhere, and they would take them and “give” you a copy of that movie “in The Cloud” that you would own “forever” and stream whenever you like.

Yeah, right.

This is the part where I love to introduce our good friend, “Mr. EULA” (pronounced “yoo-la”). I became good friends with Mr. EULA when I worked for seven years at a large software company doing compliance work. Essentially, my job was to make sure that all our customers had paid for all the software they were using, because they could install as many instances of the software as they wanted — at will.

The customers were bound by two things: Their contract and the software EULA. The contract could be customized to their liking — and ours — and I learned quickly how fluid contracts can be.

For example, most people don’t know this, but when you are reading a contract that you are going to sign, if there is something you do not agree with, you can cross it out and initial it and that is a valid, legal addendum to that contract. The contract writer can reject it — and in fact, most contracts say, “void if modified” — but if it’s void, you’re not bound by it.

The more important element is the EULA, which stands for “End User License Agreement.” This basically lays out what you have the right to do with the software when you buy a license. It points out the fact that you do not own the software, you are merely granted a license to use it.

If you owned the software, you’d be allowed to alter it, and in the software world, that is a big no-no. Mr. EULA also makes it very clear that the software can be changed at any time. It can be revoked (although that would be very rare — most EULAs grant you the license to use that version of software in perpetuity, meaning ongoing). And it can be rewritten.

Essentially, the EULA means that things can change at any moment at the software creator’s whim. And the same is true for The Cloud.

I guarantee you that at some point in a Cloud agreement that you clicked, signed or agreed to their licensing or contract terms, which stipulate that at any point, they can revoke your right to stream, view or even own the copyrighted material you handed over to Walmart or any other content provider. They could even change the licensing model to be pay-per-view down the line. And every time you want to watch one of the movies you used to own, you get to pay a fee.

Physical media

In contrast, when you buy a disc of a movie, it is yours forever. No one can take it from you or your right to view it as often as you like, or to hand it down to generations after you. You have purchased that copy and can do with it what you will. You could even, if the technology existed, edit that film on that disc and play it differently. There is no EULA with a DVD or Blu-ray. You own that copy.

So, I always encourage folks: If you love movies and want to see the ability to own them for your own private enjoyment to continue, BUY PHYSICAL MEDIA! It sends the message to Hollywood that they should continue creating physical media and not just move toward The Cloud or streaming-only options … which Hollywood would love to see happen because then it could truly charge you every time you wanted to watch “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” every year at Thanksgiving.

Not only will you own a copy forever, but for the foreseeable future (at least a decade, I think) your copy will be far superior to streaming in both video and audio.

Remember, the only clouds we should be viewing are the white ones in the sky.

Karl Karl Huddleston is a host of Movie Podcast Weekly,, a show that provides weekly movie reviews of new releases every Wednesday. Karl is “The Actor” of this podcast, and he is also known for being the Irish curmudgeon. His propensity toward profanity is matched only by his tendency to reveal major plot spoilers (which, rest assured, are always edited). So, if you’re a hot-headed cinephile like Karl, check out Karl’s podcast and these other great movie shows, which comprise the MOVIE PODCAST NETWORK:

Horror Movie Podcast — Dead Serious About Horror Movies.

Movie Stream Cast – Short Reviews of Movies Streaming Online.

The Sci-Fi Podcast – The Soylent Green of Science Fiction Movie Podcasts.

Geek Cast Live Podcast – Geek News, Discussions and Fun With Updates Every Saturday.

Forgotten Flix Remembers – Remembering the Movies That You Grew Up With…

20 thoughts on “MPW Blog: Mr. EULA and The Cloud – by Karl Huddleston

  1. Karl,
    I have a question… When you wrote this paragraph:

    “I guarantee you that at some point in a Cloud agreement that you clicked, signed or agreed to their licensing or contract terms, which stipulate that at any point, they can revoke your right to stream, view or even own the copyrighted material you handed over to Walmart or any other content provider. They could even change the licensing model to be pay-per-view down the line. And every time you want to watch one of the movies you used to own, you get to pay a fee.”

    I know you said “guarantee,” but did you mean it? I’m not second-guessing you; I just want to verify — is this alarmist speculation or are you dead serious that you believe this will be our dark future? I guess the answer is obvious, and I should just believe what you said, but I’m having trouble accepting a world that would do such a thing to me…


  2. J-
    I do guarantee that in some fashion – either clicking through an agreement, physically signing something at the store or even just by accessing the cloud – you agree to their terms. And in my experience, they make those terms to protect themselves (the company) from any and all future liability if things become unfavorable to them. Ever seen how many pages the EULA/Agreement is for iTunes?
    It’s the equivalent of reading War & Peace!
    No one reads it because A) It’s mostly legalese and B) Unless you’ve had ample experience reading them (like I did) they can be hard to understand.
    It would be extreme for them to cut service off or start charging PPV (most likely it would lead to a class action lawsuit) but LEGALLY they could do it.

      • Yeah, I feel like this blog post missed the mark big time, but not necessarily in the way you all are thinking. I’ll try to post my thoughts later today. But, before I go down that rabbit hole, I have two suggestions for J:

        1. You should definitely be tweeting out these blog posts.

        2. If these blog posts are going to be something that continues (and I hope they do), I would suggest adding a section on the site that just has all the podcast episodes (and perhaps another that just has all the blog posts). Maybe it’s just a matter of changing the “Podcast Episode Archive” to “Podcast Episodes” or “Podcast Episode List” (or something like that), and including all the podcasts there. The main view on the site could then become a sort of “latest content” stream.

        Just my 2 cents. I’ll be back.

  3. Heck, most of the movies I want to own on Blu Ray come with a digital copy, so it’s all gravy! The thing that irks me is they keep catching me in their consumer web…first I had to have the DVD, then the Blu Ray, and now the digital copy. Sigh…

    And Karl, I am with you on the picture quality. Blu Ray is still the way to go if you want the best picture. VUDU comes closest in my experience, but it can’t quite match Blu Ray quality.

    One good thing about digital copies is it can clear a lot of the lousy kids movies and chick flicks off your shelves to make room for movie titles worthy of the man cave. I have been convincing my wife to store her movies on the cloud and sell the physical copies at a garage sale. Bye, bye “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and “The Lake House”, hello “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “The Great Escape”.

    Like I said, it’s all gravy.

    • Amen Vance! Having a digital copy can be very convenient when picture/audio quality isn’t a priority – I just wouldn’t rely on it as my only source for owning a film that I want in my collection.

    • Huh, I actually went to the movies today to see MI: ROGUE NATION. There were two idiot-looking-characters sitting up front who got up about 3/4 of the way through. Not gonna lie, I actually kept an eye on them to see what they were doing. Turned out to most likely be a potty break or something, but it’s the first time I was ever in a theater and had “possible gunman” in my mind. Sad.

      • I know how you feel Dino. I used to carry (legally) a concealed firearm on occasions when I was out with my family in public places – but I gave it up due to the constant concern of being safe with it and the responsibility. But lately I have been contemplating buying a very small concealable handgun simply for when I go to the movies. What’s next? Getting shot at the DMV?

  4. Just as the title for the 2015 Academy Award winner for best picture is made better and more descriptive by its subtitle – BIRDMAN: OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) – I think this article would be better served by including its implied subtitle – MR. EULA AND THE CLOUD: OR (THE ALARMIST RAMBLINGS OF A TECHNOPHOBE).

    Look, I understand that this was meant as an opinion piece, but I feel like it missed the mark big time. I’m not going to argue that your opinion is wrong. Your opinion is yours and yours alone, and it’s not my place or my concern to convince you otherwise.

    Whether or not I agree with your stance on physical vs. digital media really has nothing to do with it, though. The reason I feel you missed the mark is because you essentially presume this future imaginary event will happen, and then say the solution is to ditch digital media and buy physical media. Karl, bubby, that’s not a solution – it’s an alternative.

    For someone like me who has basically said goodbye to buying physical media completely, that is not an option. (And, believe me, we are aplenty.) Using physical media has become such a painful and unappealing process to me, that I have absolutely no desire to use it again. And, given an alternative, I simply won’t.

    Honestly, though, I believe your point as it stands now to be completely moot. The mere fact that a company can alter the End User License Agreement does not portend that they will alter the arrangement, or at least that they will in a way that harms the consumer somewhere down the road. I refuse to be that cynical. And, certainly, denying yourself a potentially better option just because the possibility of something happening in the future exists is the equivalent of tying one hand behind your back.

    Now, while I refuse to be that cynical, I’m not saying we should naively look at the world with rose-colored glasses, and this is where I think your article could have hit a much higher note. If you’re writing about your concerns over the existence of a EULA tied to a streaming and/or digital media service, perhaps it would be more worthwhile to suggest ways to protect yourself in the event this imagined dark future comes to bear. And, again, simply saying “buy physical media instead” is not fruitful.

    As someone who has nearly given up buying physical media altogether (and happily so), there are two pieces of advice I would give to those who already have or are looking to make the move in the future:

    1. CHOOSE YOUR ECOSYSTEM WISELY – By this, I mean select your preferred digital/streaming media vendor carefully. Target companies that fit the following two criteria:

    — Only buy from companies that are large, sound, and well-established, so you don’t have to worry about them going out of business in the near future. Even if a company does go out of business, their digital/streaming media arm would likely be sold to another company during the bankruptcy process, but it’s best not to have to worry about this at all (because this is the scenario where harmful alterations to a EULA are most likely).

    — Only buy from companies where digital and/or streaming media are a central component to their business model. Namely, those that are focused on creating a complete ecosystem for their users – companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft (I would recommend Apple or Amazon). You can rest assured that these companies are in the digital media game for the long haul, and aren’t likely to monkey around with the user terms in a way that will upset their users. Likewise, you should avoid companies where digital/streaming media is not a major component of their business model – companies like Walmart (Vudu) and Best Buy (CinemaNow), for example. They have no real skin in the game, and are likely to go the way of Target Ticket the second they realize they can’t compete with the serious players.

    2. BACKUP YOUR DIGITAL FILES – Once you select your preferred digital/streaming media vendor and start purchasing content, make sure to backup your digital files. This is an absolute no-brainer, and is a practice you should have in place for your entire digital life (i.e. photos, music, documents, etc), not just movies. Poop happens, so it’s always best to be prepared with your backup plan, which should include at least one off-site backup component. Here’s my current workflow:

    — Buy content.
    — Run files from said content into an app to remove the DRM and convert file into a playable .mp4 or .mkv file.
    — Move converted file to my local backup, which is automatically backed up via cloud storage (i.e. off-site backup).

    And there you have it. Peace of mind that the digital movies I’ve purchased will be available to me in perpetuity. In fact, even greater peace of mind than someone who purchases a physical copy. After all, what happens to that physical disc in the unfortunate event of a burglary, fire, or some other disaster? What happens when that disc’s quality degrades from years of use? Or, what if you simply just lose it?…

    The choice to buy physical or digital media is highly subjective, based on the preferences and needs of an individual. There is no right or wrong choice, just the right or wrong choice for you. As such, this is not a topic that’s really worth spending time trying to convince others to join one side or the other. Both sides have their advantages and disadvantages. So, I think the value in discussing a perceived disadvantage of one choice is to present a solution, rather than to simply say that is why it’s the wrong choice.

    • #damnson

      Dino, great reply! I’m not on either side because I’m a streamer, but I do love the physical media. As a matter of fact, I’m a bit of a collector. I just haven’t taken the time to start collecting movies. Someday though, I would love to have a big collection like Doc or Josh. On certain things, I’m more about the total experience rather than convenience. I hope everyone can see past the “I’m right, you’re wrong” aspect of this argument and just inform themselves better even if just to be fully aware of their options.


    • Good points Dino. I think you’re addressing from a slightly different angle but still valid. I’ve worked in corp america long enough that I AM a total cynic. I trust no one.
      You’re probably right that it most likely wouldn’t happen (as I mentioned there would probably be a class action lawsuit) but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t – and I’m a firm believer in Mr. Murphy and his celebrated law. :-)
      Assuming my fears never came true then it does come down to a convenience vs quality debate for the foreseeable future – and I am strongly in the quality camp and always will be.

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