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Weekly Musings #28 – The MGM Ripoff
Author: Michael Ahlf 
Date: January 31st 2005

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. Digital 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 not all 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 troubles.

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 DVD.

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 exchange list?

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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Alternatively, post 'em right here for everyone to see!





Weekly Musings #28: The MGM Ripoff

Added:  Monday, January 31, 2005
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf


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