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Apple in Online Film-Rental Deal with Fox Studio?

The Financial Times reports that Apple has signed a deal with the 20th Century Fox studio to launch an online video-on-demand service "that could change the way people pay for online film content." The new service is set to launch at Macworld Expo, which kicks off on January 15th with Steve Jobs' keynote speech. The service will allow consumers to rent the latest Fox DVD releases by downloading a copy from iTunes for a limited time.

Rumors of Apple adopting a rental-model for movies have been circulating since last year. While no pricing information is provided with today's rumor, the Financial Times claimed in June that Apple was negotiating a rental service for $2.99/film for a 30-day rental. Pricing details, however, may have changed since negotiations first began.

Meanwhile, a digitally protected version of a film is also expected be included with DVD releases, allowing users to copy the movie easily to their iPods and iPhones, without resorting to "ripping" or otherwise converting the DVD to another format. This digital version would employ the same FairPlay copy-protection system used by Apple on their iTunes store purchases, though the details of the restrictions are unknown at this time. This move would help cement Apple's iPod and iPhone as the standard devices for mobile video content.