(via Techdirt) USA Today reports that online movie rental service Netflix is ready to begin offering a truly Internet rental service to its subscribers. Perhaps downloading is not the precise word, as the movies will be streamed into the computer, and therefore "in theory" will not be subject to being saved.
It seems like the industry is covering its collective behind by only allowing Netflix to stream unpopular B films and some few classics such as Amadeus and Bridge on the River Kwai. The streaming apparently is protected by Microsoft's DRM, which in theory does not allow the stream to be saved into a file.
I think that the film industry will eventually have to give in and allow "legal" downloads. The technology already exists to allow people to buy and download movies to their video iPods (I'm still trying to fill-up mine), but the industry is still uneasy, and only a few flicks are sold on iTunes. A lot of hit TV shows are sold on the iTunes store (at least in the USA, in the UK we still can't), so my opinion is that there is definitely a movie download market out there.
Nevertheless, you can download Mean Girls in the USA. We're not missing much.