The US for some years has had a different approach to format shifting, in that for consumers they have a right to fair use, and format shifting was allowed. In the UK it is still to be made legal, though obviously ripping a DVD or Blu-ray and then uploading it to a file-sharing network would still infringe copyright.
Walmart through its 3,500 stores across America is bringing format shifting to the masses, with people able to obtain a digital copy of DVDs and Blu-ray discs that they own for $2, and where you only own a DVD copy, you can upgrade to a 1080p version for $5. The consumer gets to retain the physical media, and the ripping does not occur in store, paying for the rip simply buys you access to a stream from the VUDU service.
The content appears to be at a reasonable quality level with SD running at 1 Mbps, and HDX (1080p) running at around 4.5 Mbps. Currently a range of devices are supported including, PC, Mac, PS3, XBox 360, Blu-ray players, Internet enabled TVs and the iPad, it is thought that an Android app is in development.
While the service still uses DRM, it shows a possible way forward for the UK. Ripping using the many DVD and Blu-ray rip utilities on the market may prove cheaper, but the time taken and hassle factor will put many off. As part of the puzzle to help reduce copyright infringement, and increase income for the movie studios, but still offer a reasonable price to the consumer this new Walmart service will be interesting to watch.
With Asda owned by Walmart in the UK, and Netflix growing its presence in the UK, with a sole main competitor in the form of Lovefilm, it is just possible we may see more options for the UK consumer over the next 12 months.