Are You UltraViolet Impaired? by Mike Nappa

Trends & Truth is a monthly column in ParentLife magazine and also here at ParentLife Online. Mike Nappa speaks about pop culture and its effect on our kids.


ultraviolet.jpgYour kids are badgering you to go online and get an “UltraViolet locker.” Movie studios and retailers are pressuring you to do the same. But what is UltraViolet? Is it safe? Can your kids use it? Can you?

Read on to learn what you need to know about this new digital media trend …


What is UltraViolet Exactly?

UltraViolet is the new normal in digital video distribution. Basically, it’s a system for buying and using digital movie files. Instead of keeping your movies on your computer or tablet device, UltraViolet keeps your purchases in a “digital locker” within their online library of titles. Buying an “UltraViolet Digital Copy” of a movie means you are granted access to that movie on their site.


How Does UltraViolet Work?

According to HomeMedia magazine, UltraViolet works this way:

“Consumers buy a [movie] title, either digitally or a physical Blu-ray or DVD, then activate a free UltraViolet account online and unlock access to a digital copy from the cloud, which holds it in permanent storage for instant access on a wide range of viewing devices.” A movie in UltraViolet’s library should be viewable on pretty much any popular device, such as tablet computers, internet-connected TVs, game consoles, and so on.


Does My Family Need to Buy Into UltraViolet?

Philosophically, there are some concerns. There’s a definite “Big Brother” aspect to the UltraViolet system. Access to your own property relies on the goodwill of whoever controls the service—and whatever new fees/restrictions they choose to impose in the future. (Netflix anyone?) It also keeps detailed records about your family’s viewing choices and demographics, which will be used in marketing and which some view as an unnecessary invasion of privacy.

On a practical level, because UltraViolet is a brand-new technology, there will be glitches and growing pains. For instance, at present, you have to sign up at the UltraViolet website AND also at individual movie studio sites. Also, UltraViolet can’t handle movie rentals or subscriptions, and not all movies are in the UltraViolet library yet. And because it’s internet-based only, any online disruption will interfere with your access.

HOWEVER, in spite of those things, UltraViolet appears to be here to stay.

Most Hollywood studios are betting millions on this new initiative (which helps them guard against piracy and also helps lock in their customers), and retail outlets are following suit. When Walmart joined the supporters, that pretty much guaranteed UltraViolet is not going away anytime soon—and that there would be no real competition to it in the near future.

That means that if your family likes to watch digital editions of movies, yeah, you’re probably going to have to join the UltraViolet universe. If UltraViolet ends up replacing physical media (such as Blu-ray and DVD), we’re all going to have to do that.


Does UltraViolet Offer Any Parental Protections?

According to the FAQ on UltraViolet Demystified the short answer is, Yes.

“Each UltraViolet user has parental control information. Parents can set the maximum rating level for their children (and perhaps the children’s grandparents), which limits what the children can purchase, what they can see when they view the digital library, and what they can stream. Parents can also set parental control on their UltraViolet players, which will restrict playback of UltraViolet movies with ratings that exceed the settings.”


Where Can I Learn More?

Check out the official UltraViolet website at, and the UltraViolet Demystified website at


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Mike Nappa is a bestselling author, a noted commentator on pop culture, and founder of the website for parents,

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