Legal DVD downloads coming to U.S.

Legal online downloads of feature films may soon be available to Internet users in the United States. An upcoming German experiment over a file-swapping network may be a prelude for a U.S. venture, CNET News reported.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment said last week that it would launch a peer-to-peer video download service in Germany beginning in March. The service will use file-swapping technology developed by Bertelsmann to sell movies online at the same time as they’re released on DVD.

CNET said the service is being launched in Germany first, partially to address that market’s rampant piracy issues. But similar services, the report said, are likely to emerge in the United States from companies such as Amazon or Best Buy.

Warner has had “preliminary discussions” about selling movies by direct download over the Internet with all of its major retail customers, but has not yet signed deals.

Amazon is also reportedly in discussions with studios and might launch a video download service sometime in April.

Studios, traditionally fearful of piracy, have avoided digital download services in the past. However, the release of Apple’s iTunes video sales service and the ensuing enthusiastic response from consumers has changed the minds of studio executives.

CinemaNow President Bruce Eisen said that because of Apple’s success with selling video content, the studios are now looking at making their movies available as video downloads.

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