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Stream Nation, the cloud storage startup launched by Deezer cofounder Jonathan Benassaya, has added a new feature today that will allow its users to virtually “lend” movies and TV show files to friends and family.
The startup launched earlier this year as a cloud storage service that was optimized for a person’s library of media files, including photos, self-recorded videos, movies, TV shows, and more. The biggest selling point was that you’d be able to access your entire collection of media from the cloud on various apps and platforms — thus giving you the experience of using Netflix while retaining ownership of all the content. Movies and TV shows are often ripped from DVDs and Blu-ray discs to digital formats so they can be played and loaded on mobile devices, and Stream Nation wants to be the place where you keep all those files.
Today’s new lending feature makes it possible to grant your friends access to a video for a period of 24 hours. The file cannot be downloaded by anyone other than the original owner, and can only be accessed when streamed to a device. The service itself offers a free tier that gives you 10GB of storage space, with premium plans running from $4 to $20 per month for additional space.
It’s a pretty ambitious service, but also one that raises plenty of additional questions.
While Stream Nation’s new feature eliminates the need to share physical media when you want to let a friend borrow a movie, it seems like the kind of thing that media companies wouldn’t necessarily be OK with — regardless if it seems to initially comply with DMCA.
The industry has thus far thrown its weight behind platforms like UltraViolet to expand physical purchases into the digital world, and fully embraced selling access to copyrighted videos via stores like iTunes and Amazon that force you to watch within a single platform. And if you access a movie you’ve digitally lent to a friend, will those media companies view Stream Nation’s sharing functionality as a violation of copyright? This is an important question for anyone who plans to trust a cloud service with their entire library of digital videos.
“We see our product much more like the library you have at home and our business model is to sell additional shelves for your library,” said Benassaya in an email response to VentureBeat. “Stream Nation truly leverages the ownership of content and the industry is pushing toward the same direction. We are convinced that we are aligned with [media companies] on our product, and thus the discussion will always be open.”
Benassaya added that, while the company doesn’t police content on an individual basis (nor can it, due to Stream Nation encrypting all its user’s data), it will comply with official take down notices should it find that users are sharing something illegally. For instance, that means Stream Nation isn’t cool with letting users share pirated movies that are still in theaters.
The other big question facing Stream Media is one of desire. Do people really want to go through the process of ripping all their physical media to digital files, then uploading them to another service to gain access? And for the people who don’t mind going the extra mile to rip media, is it a large enough group to build a sustainable business model. After all Apple, Amazon, and plenty of others have built strong business models on the notion that people don’t really care if they can download the movie they just purchases long as they can watch that content whenever they want on most devices.
But to its credit, Stream Media does a damn good job in revolutionizing the formerly shitty experience of watching those ripped video files across multiple devices. You aren’t looking at bland folders that you have to carefully label and organize, nor are you watching those movies using the basic media player provided by whatever platform you’re using. Stream Nation does want to optimize the media library experience to feel like Amazon and Apple — except for the part where you don’t actually get to download your media library and go elsewhere should you choose.