So one of the big stories in the gaming world
– I guess because we’re all techno-geeks who don’t just
mess with computers, but with all our stuff – was
the proposed settlement of a
lawsuit against MGM that alleged their “Widescreen” DVDs
weren’t truly widescreen.
Bits and ZDNet
quickly chimed in with their take. ZDNet says the mere fact that MGM was
willing to settle was an indicator that something’s up, either in the
presentation or just that we’re being overcharged for DVD movies;
Digital Bits say that the complaint itself is bogus.
On Digital Bits’ side, their assessment
is pretty accurate. Movie-by-movie, some of them are correct, and some may
not be. It’s additionally difficult when considering that
movies are shot in the same ratio. Some are shot in 1.85:1, some as
high as 2.4:1, depending on the equipment on hand, what the director wants
to use, and other factors. Additionally, when some of the scene is shot,
there’s always the possibility of “extra” bits being
trimmed out later; the director may want to “salvage” a scene
by deliberately removing an edge where something wandered into camera, but
which was otherwise flawless. George Lucas has taken this to a ridiculous
extent recently (Star Wars: Episode II) by digitally cropping two different
scene-takes and merging them together. The varying aspect ratios of feature
films is one reason most “Widescreen” TVs today have a
multi-aspect Zoom feature; it allows for viewing of almost any aspect ratio
(or at least the most common ones) with minimal distortion.
Despite the technical aspect and merits of the
case, however, MGM’s offering a
settlement. If you read
it, and the accompanying eligible
DVD list, you’ll see a few things.
First of all, the plaintiffs in the matter are
being paid off. While everyone else in the class is being offered a
nebulous trade-in deal, they each get a few thousand dollars for their
Second of all,
users have to turn in their old DVDs completely. They
don’t just get a refund for the defective product if they
didn’t like it; they have to give it up entirely. And nowhere in the
exchange does it say that they’ll be getting a DVD that meets
expectations if they choose the trade-in option.
Third of all – and this is the most
important part – if you don’t want another DVD,
you are screwed. You’re
handing in your DVD for $7.10. Yes, that’s right, a lousy $7.10 per
At first glance, this sounds good. However,
this is a class action settlement. You paid for something, and MGM, while
saying over and over in the settlement that they admit nothing, is tacitly
– by not fighting this out – admitting that something is up enough
to get many users PO’ed at them. Further,
remember what you paid for those DVDs. Standard
retail pricing on those things was at least $15.
In other words, you lose your DVD, and MGM gets to keep $7.90 of
your money and laugh all the way to the bank. Or, they give you
“another” DVD – but who knows which ones will be on the
Meanwhile, as ZDNet has pointed out, the mere
fact that MGM is trying to settle this lawsuit as they are is an
indication, at the very least, that we’re being overcharged for DVDs
when we originally buy them. Adding insult to injury by offering less than
half what we paid for the DVD in return, well, that’s just not right.
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