Warner Brothers has advised this week that as of the end of this year they will cease shipping DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs (BRDs) of the Harry Potter movie series (read more here [new tab]). Now the last of the eight movies has not yet been released and I expect that I am most definitely not alone in having waited for the conclusion of the series to purchase en masse. This move tells me WB doesn’t actually want my money. I do not like being told how or when I should buy something. Particularly during the holiday season.
Pre-order prices for the whole set will vary depending on format and where, but $60 for DVD and $100 for BRD are the low-end of what I’m seeing. Now were I a child, say like the likely target audience for this, we aren’t discussing an inconsequential amount of money. Probably would have taken my entire allowance for the two months they will be available (adjusting for inflation). Though it is unlikely retailers will run out immediately after shipping stops, I find it a real possibility that some interested parties may not be able to purchase this during their designated window. Instead they have to wait until the next release which is at an as yet undetermined time and price. Could cost more. Could cost less.
Certainly some products lend themselves to exclusivity. However that’s really limited to physical properties. In a digital age, I’m sorry to say movies are not allowed to do that. It is a common mistake, though. Basically if your company is unwilling to sell me your product and I can acquire it through other means, I have no ethical reservations about doing so. So for an album, book, movie or video game that’s out of print, violating copyright seems completely justified. It’s not like you deprived them of a sale.
To take this further, there is a band I know personally who ran into an issue with the record company they recorded an album with. The label would neither print more copies of the CD nor did they want to release their rights to the masters so the band could do it themselves. So the band told us they were OK with the fans just burning copies for new fans. Eventually this was resolved. The band was, within a couple of years, able to re-master the album and I bought the new version. Does make me wonder how many sales were lost in that time? Warner Bros. should be asking a very similar question about this plan of theirs.