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Apple and major movie studio 20th Century Fox had reportedly signed an agreement under which Apple will rent movies of the studio to end-users via its iTunes service. Online movie rental is hardly something new, but what makes Apple considerably different from similar services is that it will rent the latest DVD releases of the major film maker.

At present only Walt Disney studio sells its latest releases via Apple iTunes, whereas Paramount, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Lionsgate sell older library titles. The agreement will allow consumers to rent the latest Fox DVD releases by downloading a digital copy from Apple’s iTunes platform for a limited time, Financial Times reports citing a person familiar with the situation. In addition, Apple had reportedly been in talks with with Sony Pictures Entertainment, Paramount and Warner Bros about making their new releases available on iTunes to buy and rent.

Nowadays online movie rental services allow customers to watch a single movie for 24 hours, but after that the file either becomes unplayable, or inaccessible. In order to obtain the same functionality, Apple will have to impose its FairPlay digital rights management system. It is unclear, whether to rent a movie people will need to have Apple TV set-top-box, or a personal computer with iTunes installed will be enough.

Apple iTunes is among the world’s most popular digital media stores that has tens of millions of customers and brings stable revenue streams to both Apple as well as its content partners. But there are certain issues with Apple iTunes too, which can impact prospects of its movie rental feature.

Firstly, iTunes it is not available in many countries, therefore, movie studios will have to negotiate directly with local online movie rental services. Secondly, the quality of movies iTunes sells now is below-DVD quality (720x480 [NTSC] or 720x576 [PAL] resolution with Dolby Digital audio) with resolution of 640x480 (up to 480, depending on the aspect ratio), which is insufficient for technically savvy HDTV owners. Thirdly, since movies require translation to different languages and are usually released at a different time for different regions, Apple iTunes movie store does not solve the problem with illegal digital downloads of content from countries where those movies are not available.

Apple, 20th Century Fox and other studios did not comment on the news-story.

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