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Online Movie Service Voddler Tries to Sell Users on Sharing

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Movie Sharing Experience
Voddler's new feature lets users share their movies with friends for a monthly fee.  Photographer: Steve Bonini

"Sharing" can be a dirty word in the entertainment industry, which continues to battle digital piracy. But an online video service from Stockholm has a new feature that encourages it.

Voddler , which has attracted more than 1 million users in the Nordic region and Spain, is going global with a service starting Thursday that lets users legally share movies and shows that they rent or buy with as many as 10 friends.

So an online movie rented for 48 hours can also be viewed by friends during that span, and a film bought from Voddler can be watched by friends whenever. Users can also upload flicks from other sources, such as iTunes, or even their own DVD libraries, and share those.

The entertainment industry has long sought ways to curb illegal downloading of its movies, music and games. It hasn't been easy. After more than a decade, the record industry's revenue grew for the first time last year as more consumers used streaming services and downloaded licensed music.

Voddler's sharing feature, called LiveShelf, costs about $5 to $6 a month. The company gives some of that revenue to the content producers.

"Sharing is natural and our digital shelf is the first legal service that encourages this behavior," Voddler Chief Executive Marcus Baecklund said in an interview. "People won't have to resort to piracy anymore."

We'll see. The sharing feature aside, there will always be those who don't want to pay for content.

The Nordic region, with its high broadband penetration and limited and expensive pay-TV offerings, has emerged as an online-video battleground as local services such as Voddler and ViaPlay have taken on Netflix and Amazon. HBO chose the Nordic countries as the first market last year where consumers can watch its shows online without having to subscribe to any pay-TV service.

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