Google announced today that it will start offering movie rentals on the company's popular video portal YouTube.
The five initial movies from the 2009 and 2010 Sundance Film Festival will be available from Friday on for US YouTube users with additional movies from partners being added to the site in the following weeks.
The limited number of movies offered on YouTube make the five initial movies look like a test run to see how the technology holds up. Google is expected to push movie rentals and purchases as yet another monetization option on the YouTube platform.
But it is not just the limited number of movies that are offered for rental that are worrying YouTube users. More pressing than that is the fact that only US users will be able to rent those movies for a - premium - of $3.99 per movie providing that they have access to a Google Checkout account.
There is also chatter in the blogosphere that Google has plans to extend the movie rental plans to live TV plans as well so that users - we again assume that there will be country restrictions - can watch live events, including live sports events, on YouTube after paying for that event with the possibility that subscription based plans are introduced as well.
It is not clear yet how the movie rentals are protected from being watched by YouTube users who have not paid for them. It is likely that Google will require users to have a YouTube account that the rented movies will be linked to.
It remains to be seen if other forms of protection - read DRM - will be implemented by Google to protect the movies from being downloaded. Google will make another announcement tomorrow that will contain more details about the YouTube movie rentals process.
Update: Google is now not only renting movies but also selling movies on YouTube. It is offering independent and blockbuster movies for sale on the site, and you may see movies offered to you on specific searches.
If you search for Star Wars The Force Awakens for instance, one of the first results that you get is an offer to rent or purchase the movie on YouTube.
YouTube movie rentals and sales are offered in SD and HD quality. Rentals need to be started withing 30 days of renting the movie and are available for 48 hours after starting to watch it.
A central start page for movie rentals and purchases is the official Movies channel. It lists movies by genre but does not seem to feature a search that you can make use of to find movies of interest.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.