Studio To Amazon Instant Video Customer: Thanks For The $$$. Enjoy Your Blank Screen.

from the watched-any-good-LICENSES-lately? dept

The best way to combat piracy is to offer content at a reasonable price, make it easily accessible and hamper it with as few limitations as possible. Very, very slowly, the major studios are coming around to this line of thinking. A few tentative (and pretty much awful) steps have been taken, but it seems that for every minute, baby step forward, the motion picture industry staggers several steps back.

Case in point: Amazon’s Instant Video service, which has “over 100,000 top movies and TV shows to rent or buy.” This includes many new releases, and the purchaser can stream the movie indefinitely and at any time to compatible devices. The purchaser also has the option to download the movie to a PC or Kindle Fire for viewing without an internet connection.

It all sounds like a pretty good deal, until you realize that the words “indefinitely” and “any time” mean something completely different to the studios.

Consumerist reader Rebecca found this out the hard way, when she purchased Puss In Boots for $14.99 from Amazon, believing that, per Amazon’s marketing, she would be able to watch the movie when she wanted and for as many times as she wanted.

And all was going well for a few weeks until Rebecca went to stream Puss In Boots and instead saw a message stating that the film was no longer available for viewing.

As Rebecca found out, “any time” means “any time the studio is not currently milking every last dollar out of its latest release by shuffling it in and out of rental, PPV and premium cable windows.” Why these windows should matter to someone who has already paid for the movie is beyond me. After all, the purchaser should be able to set his or her own “window,” starting from the point they paid for the movie and going forward.

Amazon’s marketing seems to agree with this customer-friendly “any time window.” But once something like this happens, the real details come out. Rebecca contacted Amazon for some clarification on this bullshit “anomaly” and received this:

Due to licensing restrictions, videos can become temporarily unavailable for viewing or downloading. The video will automatically be made available again once that restriction ends.

Availability of videos for purchase, re-download, or access from a backup copy is determined by the owners of the content. On very rare occasions, a video you previously purchased may become unavailable.

Well, that’s kind of crap. The video you “previously purchased” may become “unavailable” at the whims of “THE OWNERS OF THE CONTENT.” No doubt wrinkles of incomprehension form on the brows of studio and label execs when customers make bizarre claims of “ownership” after purchasing movies and music. According to the execs, they only “licensed” the content to you (with all the billions of lousy stipulations that transaction entails). [Unless you’re Eminem and demanding to be paid larger “license” royalties. In this specific case, you were sold actual songs.]

While this studio chicanery is nothing new, especially when it comes to digital goods, Amazon isn’t helping matters by burying the exceptions and limitations that come with purchasing “indefinite” access. The licensing restrictions Rebecca had detailed for her by Amazon appear nowhere on the purchase pages. In fact, the “Amazon Instant Video Usage Rules” page carries none of this information either. Instead, it gives you this phrase and link:

Viewing Period: Indefinite — you may watch and re-watch your purchased videos as often as you want and as long as you want (subject to the limitations described in the Amazon Instant Video Terms of Use).

The TOS link brings you to a less-than-helpful wall of text, leaving the purchaser to scroll up and down before finding the pertinent information that explains exactly why something they purchased is unavailable.

Purchased Digital Content will generally continue to be available to you for download or streaming from the Service, as applicable, but may become unavailable due to potential content provider licensing restrictions and for other reasons, and Amazon will not be liable to you if Purchased Digital Content becomes unavailable for further download or streaming. You may download and store your own copy of Purchased Digital Content on a Compatible Device authorized for such download so that you can view that Purchased Digital Content if it becomes unavailable for further download or streaming from the Service.

Nice, huh? For any reason, your purchase may be limited, unavailable or removed completely by the “content provider.” Amazon suggests (when it’s done letting you know that “hey, not our fault”) that the purchaser download and store their own copies to avoid being locked out of their purchases by the content providers. Well, thanks for the suggestion, Amazon, but even that half-assed “workaround” is useless thanks to the fact that the content provider can also make purchases “unavailable for further download.” It’s not as if Dreamworks is going to send an email blast letting customers know that their purchased streams are about to vanish thanks to a six-week run on pay-per-view. And the studios certainly aren’t going to tell customers “Download now because we’re yanking that movie from Amazon completely.” Everyone involved would just rather the problem be dealt with when the angry emails start pouring in, if at all.

Now, Rebecca obviously prefers streaming, so getting shafted by the studios probably isn’t going to drive her to massive torrenting. What it may do, however, is send her towards streaming services like Amazon Prime or Netflix. Because of its shortsighted urge to drain every last penny out of “Puss in Boots,” Dreamworks seems willing to sacrifice actual “digital dollars” from Amazon Instant Video for the “digital dimes” of other streaming services. Of course, if the studio already has your $14.99, it’s probably not very concerned about how satisfied you are with the spotty availability of your purchased movie license. It’s not like Rebecca can return it. All she can do is wait for Dreamworks to reopen her (prepaid) window.

Streaming is becoming the preferred option for movies and music and Hollywood seems to be willing to fight it every step of the way. It’s sad and it’s ugly. The industry has crippled Hulu and Netflix (while offering nothing comparable of their own) and now seems ready and willing to kick Amazon and its customers around for as long as it can get away with it. It’s one thing to play stupid games with content when customers are playing a flat rate for “all you can watch.” It’s quite another to yank content away from customers who have paid directly for a title at prices that rival a physical DVD purchase. That’s not a “business model.” That’s abusing your customers for fun and profit.

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Comments on “Studio To Amazon Instant Video Customer: Thanks For The $$$. Enjoy Your Blank Screen.”

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158 Comments
nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile) says:

License Now for only $14.99!

All online retailer should be specified by law to change the wording of their offerings.

If T&Cs call the media item a “license” then the button should say “License” rather than “Buy”, and it should be clear to the purchaser they are buying a “license” from the the “owner” and nothing more.

That would not only solve much of the confusion and heartache, it might draw more mainstream focus on the whole issue of over-reaching copyright maximalism.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

All they want is to enjoy the movie/song/game they paid for.

You may download and store your own copy of Purchased Digital Content on a Compatible Device authorized for such download so that you can view that Purchased Digital Content if it becomes unavailable for further download or streaming from the Service.

This whiny bitchboy act you guys perform every day is beyond stale.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

But what if the customer has been happily streaming a purchased movie and the studio makes the movie unavailable for both streaming AND download, as is stated in that quote? What then? They can’t stream and they can’t download a copy to tide them over until streaming returns (if it does).

Remember, this movie was paid for UPFRONT but the studio can still revoke all access to it at any time, without warning. Do you just download right after purchase just to be safe? Some people may not want a hard drive full of purchased movies. But it’s “whining” for a customer to want to enjoy their purchased movies the way they want to, rather than be subject to the whims of studios that will gladly take their money but give up absolutely no control over the purchased content.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

But it’s “whining” for a customer to want to enjoy their purchased movies the way they want to, rather than be subject to the whims of studios that will gladly take their money but give up absolutely no control over the purchased content.

Try addressing this: this is the “whining” part.

A customer pays money to purchase a movie but the studio still gets to dictate WHEN and HOW the movie is available.

That’s what the “whining” is about. Adapt that to physical items and see if anyone would put up with that shit. You like car analogies, right?

“Due to the manufacturer’s licensing restrictions, your newly purchased vehicle is unavailable for driving. You are welcome to enjoy your vehicle while it is parked in the garage or otherwise stationary. You will be alerted when your vehicle becomes available for driving again.”

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Piracy is not the problem. Content providers are not “competing with free”, they are “competing with superior versions”. They are “competing with better convenience”. They are not competing with organized criminals; they are competing with fans who possess awesome technological skills.

Were I a major content provider, I would hire every Scene participant I could find and put them to work converting my entire backlog. Before some other content provider snatched them up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Were I a major content provider, I would hire every Scene participant I could find and put them to work converting my entire backlog. Before some other content provider snatched them up.

That’s some genius thinking right there. Might be kinda tough, I bet there are quite a few anti-establishment types in the ranks of those scene guys.

But just imagine the pre times!

fogbugzd (profile) says:

Wow. I was just about to join Amazon Prime when I saw this.

Toddlers fall in love with a particular movie and watch it over and over for a while. Then they move on to another movie. As someone with a toddler in the family my fear is that I would have a movie suddenly yanked during the favorite period. Obviously the person who made this decision has never faced a two-year-old denied her Lion King.

Amazon may blame the studio, but as a customer I blame Amazon. A lot of times when I buy from Amazon I am actually dealing with a third party I don’t know. To a large extent I depend on Amazon as an intermediary to make sure I get a fair deal. If Amazon agreed to this “feature” then they have failed their customers. I was tolerant of some of their bad Kindle decisions because they were dragging publishers into the 21st century. But in this case they utterly failed their customers with a blatantly unfair policy, then they compounded their failure by burying it in walls of text.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

> Wow. I was just about to join Amazon Prime when I saw this.

Yeah, me too. We were recently talking about adding Amazon Prime. Now I have to seriously re-think that.

At least with Netflix, you can rent the actual DVDs anytime. With Red Box you can also rent DVDs, but not the special creatures section found on most consumer disks. And then you can find gobs and gobs of older (and also junk) movies in the $5 bin at Walmart. But over years, I have found plenty of those $5 dvds that were just what I had wanted.

With pyTivo software, it is possible, using a web control panel from my phone, to tell the pyTivo to pull a particular recording from my TiVo, and un-DRM it. I can then re-codec it into a much smaller file for the small screen of a phone or tablet.

Yesh, some of that involves a few extra steps, but if you have your own jukebox, you can watch at any time. Absolutely no file sharing is necessary.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

>>I have found plenty of those $5 dvds that were just what I had wanted.

The next logical step is to have the MPAA send goons to your home to collect up your physical DVD’s when they get ready to put something “back in the vault” to quote the Disney term for repeat-windowing movies. Obviously that is impractical, but it isn’t really different morally from suspending your rights to watch a movie that you thought you had purchased.

The only reason they don’t send out the goons is that it cheap to have Amazon flip the “piss off paying customers” switch.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

My rethinking joining Amazon Prime has more to do with my confidence in the company being shaken. My opinion of Amazon is that they are usually a fair company (with some early and current Kindle exceptions). I rely on them to assure me that third parties deal with me in a fair manner. I blame them first for allowing this provision in the contract, and blame them even more for not being up front about it. The movie companies may have forced the provision, but Amazon was 100% in control of burying notice to its customers.

Manabi (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I still blame the studio. Probably the only way Amazon can get the licenses to “sell” the movies digitally is to agree to this kind of crap. It’s basically an either-or decision: sell digital movies or don’t sell them at all. (Or at least nothing from the major studios.) Both choices are bad, but having the content to sell with ridiculous restrictions is better than not having it to sell at all from Amazon’s viewpoint.

As for Amazon Prime, this really doesn’t impact that. The free streaming stuff is subject to change at any time anyway. Even if it’s still on the service, Amazon can change what is free and what isn’t, so you definitely don’t want to depend on it for keeping your toddler happy. Amazon Prime’s free videos are great if you view them as a bonus to the “free” 2nd day shipping you’re actually paying for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The Prime deal is more about instant streaming the library they offer at the time, so that doesn’t bother me as much. This exact same issue occurred to me with Slumdog Millionaire, since then I refuse to purchase anything from Amazon on their Digital Library. I’ve been burned a few times with other companies as well, so my advice is be wary of any company selling DRM’d ditigal goods.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oooh, the trolls seem awfully quiet on this? WHY I ask, WHY?

You see, you made a very important point.

BUT, BUT PIRACY!!!

You can stick your lame piracy excuses in your rotten greedy ass.

Ford does not show me ominous FBI warnings, mandatory ads or prevents me from using their car whenever they feel like just because I MIGHT use their car to transport drugs. Why can the MAFIAA do it without punishment?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Unfortunately I don’t think it would be considered illegal, given that the ToS does in fact say that this sort of thing can happen, even if such facts are apparently hidden quite well from casual looking.

Unbelievably unethical, and a massive abuse of a customer’s trust in a service/company, yes. Illegal, probably not.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

More to the essence, the problem stems from the fact that corporations don’t have to abide by any sort of standard practice, giving them leeway to write up any ToS they deem appropriate. The law should spell out clearly that once a consumer purchases something, any corporate entity (or third-party) which attempts in any way, shape or form to deny access to it is in breach of law and may be subject to a fine of no less than $500,000 (hey, if it’s good for the goose…).

Davey says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“The law should spell out clearly that once a consumer purchases something, any corporate entity (or third-party) which attempts in any way, shape or form to deny access to it is in breach of law and may be subject to a fine of no less than $500,000 (hey, if it’s good for the goose…).”

Yeah, but that would be infringing on the Liberty of grifters and thieves to pursue their special kind of happiness. I’m so proud to live in a country where Big Gov Regulation can’t destroy “our Freedom”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

In the world of emotional thinking, emotional judgement and emotional law (does that exist?) I would agree with you… However, the Techdirt article writer was able to follow the path through Amazon’s T&C to find the relevant wording that unless the user is a complete moron clearly spells out why a movie etc. may not be available AND it also says if you want to absolutely guard against that problem, download the file to your computer.
I agree, it may be somewhat hidden, it may appear to be somewhat sneaky, and it definitely is Bass Ackward thinking on the part of Amazon and the studios. But at the end of the day, is it illegal. No. We can agree that the laws and legalese of it all is wrong and stupid, but until the laws change, the studios adopt better business models and copyright/trademark law move into this century, people need to READ THE TERMS AND USE AGREEMENTS BEFORE YOU BUY!
Eulas, copyrights, terms of use etc. are not just annoying statements we see at the beginning of every game, film, book and show. They are actually legally binding contracts between the producer, distributor, seller and buyer. A simple read of these things by Rebecca prior to purchase would have allowed her to be informed before she essentially threw her $14.99 down a potential black hole.

Ophelia Millais says:

Re: Re: "Clickwrap" agreements are enforceable

I just add the hours I spend reading TOSes to the 244 hours per year I spend reading privacy policies. I’m getting paid for this, right?

Seriously, though, if the TOS had to be clicked on to complete the transaction, courts have found them enforceable, at least according to what I’ve seen on Eric Goldman’s blog.

Anonymous Coward says:

Amazon should be flexing it's muscles here

All this serves to make Amazon look bad. Amazon should remind the studios that they are a major if not the main distribution site for all their media in lots of forms. If an Amazon license isn’t the equivalent of an Ultraviolet license why bother.

Amazon can do more to make the studios miserable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Amazon should be flexing it's muscles here

“All this serves to make Amazon look bad.”

Yes, it does. My mother was recently considering getting Netflix, she took the 30 day trial and within a day she said, “There’s nothing on there I want to see, only very old stuff.”

I explained why and her response was, “That’s crap. Can’t it just be downloaded illegally then? At least I’ll get what I want in that case.” I told her that was an option. (But I didn’t do it for her or teach her how. I just said it was an option, before various ACs start wagging their fingers and making assumptions at/about me.)

When my law abiding mother, who scolds people for jaywalking is realizing there’s a major problem with the legal offerings and is asking about the illegal ones knowing that they will meet her needs… there’s a problem with your legal offerings.

“Amazon should remind the studios that they are a major if not the main distribution site for all their media in lots of forms.”

They should, but the problem is the studios and labels and publishers have had their way for so long that they don’t realize they need the distributors like Amazon. Sure, without their products Amazon won’t have something to sell, but someone else WILL give Amazon content to sell.

It’s the same thing with iTunes and Netflix. They (studios/labels/publishers) DO NOT realize how much they need the distributors to reach their target audience/the consumers. And when the distributors remind them that they (the distributors) are needed, then those rights holders have an epileptic seizure and start with their, “No! You need us!” nonsense.

“Amazon can do more to make the studios miserable.”

They can, but to no avail. It’s the same thing with the trolls on here. “If you don’t like it, do without.” So when we do without they still say, “See! We’re not making more money! Protect us government, but make sure that YOU pay for protecting us!”

It’s a vicious circle as far as the distributors and public is concerned. We’re damned no matter what.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Typical entitled freetards crying because just because something they paid for doesn’t meet every single one of their expectations.

It’s the customers fault for agreeing to a stupid deal they didn’t understand and now they’re crying because they can’t do anything they want with it.

Soon, they’ll want to re-release movie with them credited as the director just because they paid for the film.

The world doesn’t work that way. The studio has a right to protect their intellectual assets.

There, happy?

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Denying people what they paid for is NOT following intellectual rights.

The expectation of accessing the content you paid to access IS reasonable and not something to be dismissed. That’s what happens when you buy a DVD or CD, you have a license to access the content.

Customer’s fault? What other option does she have? Oh right, she could acquire the access “illegally” so you could chime in and call her a pirate. I wonder, do you feel the same way about the recording contracts where artists wine because they signed a shitty contract and can’t do anything about it?

“Soon, they’ll want to re-release movie with them credited as the director just because they paid for the film” If you are talking about the studios, then you are correct. If you are talking about the consumer attempting to legally access content she PAID to access, then you are way off base.

Again, protecting intellectual assets is not accomplished by defrauding people. What the studio did was wrong, what Amazon should be doing is pushing back. The fact that they don’t shows you just how deep the studio’s pockets are.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, thank you. Now excuse me as I get any content I want regardless of your futile attempts of placing artificial windows or pretending I don’t own what I buy.

Also, if you ever manage to make your content completely unavailable and insist in not providing it in an easy, widely available drm-free way I’ll simply not see your content and I won’t shed a tear once you die in obscurity.

You can sit on your intellectual property all day meanwhile 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Did they take your Stride too?

I’m surprised people are so shocked…. I mean didn’t we go through this whole thing a few years ago with Eminem and the ITunes licensing/selling thing? I bet most people don’t know you actually license songs instead of buying them.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still stupid and unless you have access to library, there shouldn’t be any licensing – it should only be able to be sold.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I’m surprised people are so shocked…. I mean didn’t we go through this whole thing a few years ago with Eminem and the ITunes licensing/selling thing? I bet most people don’t know you actually license songs instead of buying them.”

It’s word games. By changing ‘buy’ to ‘license’, the labels can counter that since the consumers only bought a license to access a song, it doesn’t count as a ‘sale’ and therefore the artist shouldn’t be owed royalties.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: The disadvantage of streaming

This is not only the disadvantage of streaming, it is the disadvantage of cloud storage and of DRM with “licensing servers”. Cloud storage could go away. Licensing servers can be shut down.

Then there are eBooks. We have heard of more than one episode of Amazon “disappearing” ebooks people had purchased.

Then there are the Cheshire cat like disappearing and re-appearing titles on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Let me tell you a story of DRM servers. There was a DRM kingdom. The king built a castle and thusly named it Plays For Sure! That name was to emphasize that the king believed he had finally (maybe) gotten it right that any DRMed content from any licensed musical shoppe could play on any licensed magical device. By licensing the music shoppes, the king made money off each music sale. By licensing the toolsmiths who made mp3 players, the king made money off each magical device sold. This was good for the king, but not so for the common folks.

When most common folks were not buying it, the king burned down the castle of Plays For Sure and constructed a new magical castle of Zune. He promised that people who buy into Zune won’t get scroooowed this time – For Sure!. I promise! Cross my heart and hope to profit! Instead of licensing, this time the king used the fruity approach of making his own unattractive player devices and selling all the music himself. No more third party shoppes. Now the common people should be happy. Yet after much marketing went forth, common teenagers could be asked about “the Zune” and would thusly reply with “the what?”???

Most common folk still weren’t buying it. So the king burned down the castle of Zune, and laid waste to its DRM servers. This time, he decided not to associate the next castle with words the peasants were suspicious of. Instead he decided to use words that had some measure of success. Thus he named the new castle Xbox Musical Flying Chairs service. This time, the king promised, you really, really won’t get scroooowed — I promise — For Sure! The king figured people probably wouldn’t remember. They weren’t as smart as he was. And they were probably too busy with common folk work such as rebooting and reinstalling their PCs.

How does the story of the third castle end? Stay tuned and we’ll find out.

Trust the king. Don’t put your trust on unsafe DRM-free files stored on your own magical devices.

The lesson will be continued for people who trust the cloud king.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The disadvantage of streaming

Microsoft’s DRM troubles don’t stop there. One other thing will come back to haunt them in the near future.

I’m talking about Windows XP product activation. The same danger is present here. Eventually, Microsoft will stop activating Windows XP; they simply can’t keep doing it forever. Now recall that a lot of people are still using Windows XP some 11 years after its debut, and certainly a sizable number of people will continue to refuse to upgrade for one reason or another (maybe they have an old machine that can’t run anything later; maybe they have this one program that only runs on XP). What happens when, several years from now after Microsoft stops activating, these XP “holdouts” run into something bad and need to re-install their OS? They won’t be able to activate, because online activation no longer works, and more than likely the activate-by-phone service will have been discontinued as well. After thirty days, poof?their machine has been effectively bricked.

These XP users will be totally screwed. They will be required to switch to a different operating system; whether or not they stay with Microsoft is irrelevant now. These people will continue to need their computers, and will need to find a new OS, which is an ordeal beyond the capabilities of a lot of people. It will be bad news for everyone. All because Microsoft decided to crack down on disc sharing back in 2001.

The exact same issue applies to other software DRM schemes that depend on “phoning home”. What happens when the home phone is disconnected or otherwise unreachable? Lots of widely-used applications rely on DRM schemes like this, and most are programmed to assume the worst if things don’t go as expected.

Imagine the following (same scenario, just a generalization): A large software company takes down its application’s licensing servers for some reason (maybe they go out of business, or maybe they just decide to “move on”); the application attempts to verify the license by connecting to the server; the connection fails, so the software assumes the worst, and locks itself down as an anti-piracy measure. The individuals and businesses using this software are now left without. People can’t do their jobs because they can’t use the software they need. Disaster ensues.

So yeah, DRM is bad.

arahman81 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The disadvantage of streaming

The problem with this is, WHY ARE YOU STILL USING XP? If your argument is underpowered PC, get a Linux distro. Otherwise, if you need Windows, and have a capable PC (which is not hard, unless your PC is like 2 decades old), upgrade to Windows 7. By now, XP is already far behind the technological curve.

Your other arguments are sound, but a decade is a really long lifetime for an OS.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The disadvantage of streaming

Exactly. This cloud stuff is just hype. It’s only a matter of time before something bad happens and people realize the dangers of keeping their data in the cloud.

There’s also the inherent security risk in having your data reside on a third party’s computers, where insiders could be snooping on your data without you knowing. Sure, you’d have a good case against them, but that’s only after the fact.

I’ll stick to my local drives, thanks. If I want to use files on another machine, I’ll plug in a flash drive and copy it.

Freedom says:

Personal Story...

This is a bit of an aside, but validates the common theme/points about piracy.

I currently pay a bit over $200 to Audible (owned by Amazon) for the right to “buy” ~20 audio books each year.

Considering the cost of a typical audio book. This is definitely a fair value.

The problem comes with their playback software. The books are encrypted. Their software, while not horrible, fails to integrate well on Android phones (and probably all devices). While not to bore you, in short means that playing via Bluetooth can be challenging at times which is my main way of playing the audio books while driving.

As such, I went looking for a way to just get a MP3 version of the file so I could play it via the Media Player on my phone. Of course — no luck, PITA to convert/decrypt and a huge waste of my time.

What’s my point of all this? Why am I even bothering? There are torrent sites that have access to most of the audio books and in decrypted/MP3 formats. I haven’t switched yet, but I’m very close and they’ll lose my $200 a year…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Personal Story...

I had joined Audible due to one of their free trials a few years ago, when the player I owned was a Creative Zen. I was making some long journeys on public transport at the time, and thought an audiobook would be a good way to kill the time if I got bored of my synced music collection.

However, I soon found it to be a nightmare. I could play back on my PC, except I mostly used Linux and so wasn’t allowed to play back the book I’d downloaded without rebooting. My model of player wasn’t supported by the DRM despite the fact that the models immediately above and below were fully supported. I got no answer as to why except “sorry, the publishers demanded it”. I *could* have pirated them, but I opted to not listen to audiobooks at all, and not pay a penny to Audible.

So, I looked into alternative ways of filling my journey times and discovered podcasts. Now, not only am I happy enough with those to not bother with audiobooks at all, I definitely listen to more podcasts on the road than music.

The DRM is probably still insisted upon by the publishers rather than Amazon/Audible, but the experience is clear – DRM does more to chase away customers as it does to protect the content.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Personal Story...

You’re PREPAYING $10/book (of which I’d argue is probably overpriced between 2x and 5x depending on the book) and being forced to buy 20 books a year to get DRM’d files which don’t play on the device of your choice….

What made you think this was a good deal in the first place? That just sounds awful from the start.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Personal Story...

TO handle the on topic argument:
The DRM is difficult. They are expanding their compatible offerings regularly, but it can be difficult. The DRM isn’t hard for me to get around, but i can see where it is. I find the DRM type used to be a better alternative to other options and I can easily create backups of my data on CD, that now no longer have DRM, so if my book ever disappears from Audible or Audible goes dead, I still have a legal, DRM free copy. I hope like iTunes music they will eventually end the DRM. Oh, and they now allow returns on digital purchases, after download, if you don’t like the book. Find another digital service that allows that. That said, I am getting a significant discount by buying the DRMed Files rather than getting it on CD. Which brings me to my next points-

A) $10 an Audiobook is CHEAP (almost the same cost as buying in paperback despite the extra costs of production). If I bought it on cd it would cost 2x-5x more. I know all the costs that go into making an audio book outside the book itself. Even a home recording studio which is good enough for spoken word rather then music costs hundreds of dollars, and you make only about $2 a sale at the $10 price point. That doesn’t account for the fact that at federal minimum wage, an 8 hour run time novel, read straight through no errors and requiring no editing (never gonna happen), costs a minimum of $123.25 to make (8 to record, 8 to review, and an hour of set up). So yes, I am very willing to pay over 200 dollars a year for 20 high-quality audiobooks, plus a discount on the others I buy. It saves me money and is not overpriced. (Full Disclosure, I am at the higher $22/month membership price point, which is a lower cost per credit)
B) I’m not being forced to buy more books. I can choose to cancel my membership at anytime.
C) I prepay to buy a physical book as well by your standard. Given that after my card is charged for my membership i can immediately purchase and download, at high speed, 2 high quality audiobooks that I can then listen to without issue. Hell, I have bought and started listening to a book faster then finding and buying it at a bookstore on credit day. I’d say that’s pretty reasonable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Personal Story...

I tried an Audible trial for my significant other who loves audiobooks. I spent hours getting them converted to a format that would work on her device because I refuse to use iTunes on my computer. I decided after that that it wasn’t worth it.

I’m not going to pay for the privilege of having to crack DRM and reformat files I legally purchase just because Audible and the publishers are paranoid about copyright violations. Worry about your paying customers or else you’ll lose them.

It’s like your parents warning you against being friends with “those types of people” turns you into “those types of people.”

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Personal Story...

Freedom,

I don’t have experience with Andriod, as I use iPhone. I found the integration to be fine. However, your problem with Bluetooth might be the same I had. Standard Bluetooth protocols do not stream audio that isn’t a phone call well if at all. Your devices all need to support A2DP to properly stream that audio. But if you are convinced the app is to blame (and it might be)…

Honestly, if you don’t want to go through the process of using a software-based CD drive passthrough to remove the DRM, I would suggest buying them anyway, then torrenting the non-DRM copies. It gives you a potentially valid fair use defense and DRM free files. I do the same with video games.

Avialle says:

Re: Personal Story...

Allow me to solve this for you. I had the EXACT same issue with Audible’s offerings on the Windows Mobile device I have, I thought maybe it was just that my device was so old and they haven’t bothered to update the software, but if this is indeed a problem with all of their software, I feel obligated to put this fix into the public domain.

http://go4up.com/dl/1yvay22pPu7P

Step 1: Get the zip file, extract.
Step 2: Install AudibleMediaPlayerFilter and register it to your Audible account (This is Fair Use and not piracy, as you must have a valid account to decrypt)
Step 3: You can use your own converter, or use the one I included (I don’t remember if it’s freeware or a trial version, buy or donate to the author if you like it), but it’s called dBPowerAmp. Installation goes like this Setup, then dMCPower Pack, then Codecs/DirectShow. There’s a howto file in there too, you can follow the second section about how to convert from .aa to .mp3 and it will work. The first method via Audibler no longer works, as they no longer handle the DRM-adding via Manager. Just download via Manager and decrypt using the player filter and any DirectShow compatible media converter. I hope I didn’t miss a step or anything, but I’ve had this set up for about 2 years now and it’s worked beautifully with anything I’ve thrown at it. The trick is that Audible discontinued PlayerFilter support, which is probably why you couldn’t find this method of decryption anywhere.

Regards and good luck,
Avialle.

Avialle (profile) says:

Re: Personal Story...

I actually wrote a reply telling you how to remove the DRM from purchased Audible content (An operation, which by the way, is -not- illegal), but it looks like the comment got denied by moderators. If the powers that be are really going to be like that, my vote is to cancel your subscription and torrent it. I’m apparently not allowed to share what I know, so use what you do.

Avialle (profile) says:

Re: Re: Personal Story...

Note to moderators: Apparently not all comments here are moderated. I’m not sure why my first one was held, but if you do approve it know that I made the mistake of assuming comments posted after mine showing up in the thread meant that mine was denied. If you do indeed approve it, please delete these two comments and accept my apology.

Elphie says:

I would think a good solution would be for Amazon, or any other streaming service, give the option for the buyer to have the DVD/BD sent if/when service becomes unavailable. Ofcourse the main content providers won’t go for it because of a potential 2nd sell.

I do wish one day Hollywood and Disney would just set up its own streaming service and make it superior to all the others out there. I definitely would pay even if it’s a higher price just to have access to literally 1000’s of films to watch whenever I want.

While they’re at it, they can also set up some deals for the people overseas. Do they not see the dollar signs from that idea alone? I just don’t understand.

The Real Michael says:

What we have here is an example of a corporate entity (in this case, a movie studio) defrauding the public.

If I sell you something and then take it away from you, I am effectively a criminal, a swindler.

This is why I’ll never trust any digital service which doesn’t give me full ownership and unfettered access immediately upon purchase.

DC says:

But wait one moment...

Let’s be reasonable about this. Say you’re Amazon, and you are offering Puss In Boots on Amazon Instant Video. You offer it for 3 months flat out, then various factors including your range of products (movies) changes, meaning you no longer offer Puss In Boots. It would be reasonable to make Puss In Boots available to purchasers for a period after it’s pulled from the ‘shelf’. But is it reasonable to make it available in perpetuity?

Let’s think about this. If Amazon were required to make every film ever offered available to stream in perpetuity, it would need to be able to provide a streaming service for every single film it intends to offer, and ever HAS offered, EVER! This, at the moment, is not feasible – for technological reasons, for licensing reasons (boo hiss).

If 100 customers purchase PIB, and after 6 months 99 of them have watched it and haven’t watched it *again* or data shows that the average re-viewing after six months is 1 in 100 customers, should Amazon continue to offer the movie? I say no. They’ve provided it for a reasonable period of time and offered the customer a chance to download it.

Why should the customer effectively rent Amazon’s storage, network infrastructure and other resources in perpetuity for $14.99?

The Real Michael says:

Re: But wait one moment...

Your entire argument fails. If Amazon is selling people streamed products knowing full and well that they’re only going to offer them for a limited timespan, why are they charging a premium and why aren’t they telling their consumers that the movies they purchase come with an expiration date? It’s not the consumers’ fault that Amazon is going along with this scheme to defraud the public yet you make it sound as if it were.

DanZee (profile) says:

Re: But wait one moment...

Let’s think about this. If Amazon were required to make every film ever offered available to stream in perpetuity, it would need to be able to provide a streaming service for every single film it intends to offer, and ever HAS offered, EVER! This, at the moment, is not feasible – for technological reasons, for licensing reasons (boo hiss).

If 100 customers purchase PIB, and after 6 months 99 of them have watched it and haven’t watched it *again* or data shows that the average re-viewing after six months is 1 in 100 customers, should Amazon continue to offer the movie? I say no. They’ve provided it for a reasonable period of time and offered the customer a chance to download it.

Well, the problem with your argument is that Amazon tells you you have bought the movie to enjoy at any time indefinitely, so whether it’s feasible or not, that’s what the contract is.

And it’s not technology unfeasible to offer this. YouTube is now having 40 hours of video being uploaded EVERY MINUTE! That’s the equivalent of 100 years of movies being uploaded every 50 hours.

And other responders have talked about the criminality of a studio taking your money and then deciding to pull the movie from Amazon. It’s theft, pure and simple.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: But wait one moment...

“This, at the moment, is not feasible – for technological reasons, for licensing reasons (boo hiss).”

Erm, it’s perfectly feasible for technological reasons. The licencing isn’t Amazon’s decision. There’s really nothing to stop them offering the product for a period of many years.

“I say no. They’ve provided it for a reasonable period of time and offered the customer a chance to download it.”

A.K.A. “f*ck the customer, we’ve made our profit”.

If they want to do this, they should make it clear to the customer that the product will expire, is therefore a licence and not a purchase, and give reasonable warning when the product is about to be pulled. Otherwise, you’re saying they should screw a customer out of both their money and their purchased product because they happen to be in a minority. Not good, especially when more reasonably competition exists.

“Why should the customer effectively rent Amazon’s storage, network infrastructure and other resources in perpetuity for $14.99?”

Why not, if that’s what they were promised up front. Do you think it really costs that much per movie to store it on Amazon’s servers? Also, what network infrastructure is the customer using when they’re not accessing the film?

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: But wait one moment...

> it would need to be able to provide a streaming service for
> every single film it intends to offer, and ever HAS offered,
> EVER! This, at the moment, is not feasible – for technological reasons,

Fail.

YouTube offers more total hours of stored video than there ever have been of movies and tv shows. Ever.

> Why should the customer effectively rent Amazon’s storage,
> network infrastructure and other resources in perpetuity for $14.99?

Yeah, and Google’s massive infrastructure for YouTube — for $0.00? And for years, YouTube didn’t even have ads to help pay for that infrastructure.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: But wait one moment...

> Let’s think about this.

I don’t need to “think about this”. I already do this and all it takes is some storage and a database. Amazon can handle all of the products they sell. They can manage dealing with all of the obscure things they sell and also handle the warehousing and shipping of them.

They can manage all of the obscure DVDs you can’t get on iTunes, or Netflix, or Amazon streaming. That’s on top of things like treadmills and CPU fans.

An oversized MythTV or Kaledescape server is childs play in comparison.

jfalpha says:

Re: But wait one moment...

“This, at the moment, is not feasible – for technological reasons, for licensing reasons (boo hiss). “

Hows do you explain the existence of youtube then? There are far more lengthy videos on youtube than there are movies on amazon. Have you seen amazons cloud storage fees? If thats what they’re offering customers than they must give themselves an even better deal to make the service profitable. It’s absolutely technologically feasible as disk space becomes cheaper and hopefully bandwidth, The only hiccup to offering such a service is licensing from studios.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just say no.

God, people have endless energy to rant about things they don’t like but can’t be bothered to simply go without for a trivial amount of time as a protest. If you simply refuse to play their game (and don’t torrent the silly things, either) they will bow to your collective will or they will go bankrupt. If a good percentage of folks would simply forego their precious electronic entertainment, even the big media companies will hurt, Wall Street will crush them for even one bad quarter, and you would see a wiser, gentler entertainment conglomerate. But most people,sadly, cannot be bothered to just go read a book for a couple weeks.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Just say no.

It may seem like there are a lot of whiners and complainers, but there aren’t enough of us to actually make a dent in their bottom line if we boycotted. Most people just don’t care about this issue.

The only way it could work is if you kept everyone from going to see the next Batman movie or whatever major film a big studio pushed. You’d have to make the film crash and burn, and let them know why.

99% of the people are just going to go see it anyway.

Vidiot (profile) says:

Revelation

I won’t drop my Prime membership over this, because the potential for disappearing titles was pretty much implicit in the service… especially if you’ve browsed for content that you KNOW is available, but is clearly not offered on Prime for idiotic licensing reasons. Instead, I browse Amazon Prime’s free offerings (which are substantial), and watch whatever is available in the here and now. No bogus license/purchases, thank you.

But here’s what I just learned:
“You may download and store your own copy of Purchased Digital Content on a Compatible Device authorized for such download so that you can view that Purchased Digital Content if it becomes unavailable for further download or streaming from the Service.”

Really? I can download and store my Prime movies? And the IP Police won’t raid my home in the dead of night? Apparently, if I’m caught ripping streams, all I need to do is wave the TOS in their helmeted faces…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: DVDs

I concur, but just give it some time and eventually they’ll figure out how to make physicals erase themselves.

I have some DVDs that have self-destructed over the years. Early DVD manufacturers used a solvent in the paint they applied to the DVD during pressing that actually damaged the DVD over time. Most modern DVDs don’t have this problem, but I’ve had to send several back to the manufacturer to replace because the solvent had burned through the data layer of the DVD and made it unplayable. Luckily, they still will replace those without making you pay the stupid “scratched DVD” price, but you usually have to hunt through their website for a contact email address and send them an email before they send you the packet to send back the DVD for replacement. And one manufacturer sent a DVD back with a letter explaining that they do not send replacements for DVDs over 10 years old because of this problem and I needed to purchase a new copy from the store which won’t die in 10 years.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Clueless prattle from non-parents.

> Hav you ever seen what kids can do to whatever they can get their hands on, especially when said hand holds a jam sandwich.

Yes.

All you have to do is tell them that they aren’t getting another one if they destroy the one they currently have.

Works wonders actually.

Children are little humans, not animals.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: DVDs

Except of course, that any program which can make an ISO of a retail DVD is illegal, as is its use or creation. Any Program which can then create a working DVD Copy that works in a modern player without tripping DRM sensors is also illegal

Only Pirates working to reverse engineer the encyption can create those programs.

So the whole “get a DVD because then you don’t have to deal with this shit” argument breaks down when you need to suggest piracy to handle complaints about the issues with physical media.

Coogan (profile) says:

Unfortunately, this kind of crap allows the studios to hide behind their distributors (Amazon, in this case) when something like this happens. Disney demands restrictions in order for Amazon to have access their library, Disney makes the call as to when a video is or isn’t available and under what conditions, and when the consumer gets bit, Amazon ends up being the target of the consumer’s ire.

Instead of “Video Currently Unavailable”, Amazon or any other distributor should point the finger at the studios. In this case, the message should read “As the owner of this movie, Disney has placed restrictions on how and when this movie can be viewed. As a licensee of this content, Amazon is legally obligated to abide by the terms and conditions of our contract with Disney. We regret that you have been put in this situation, and will contact you via email when your movie is available to be viewed again. Thank you.”

Shame can be a powerful weapon.

Sure, it may be a little long-winded, but I know when stuff like this happens to me, I want clarity as to what’s going on, not some ambiguous message.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This is an excellent idea. When YouTube did it they had a collective fit, but Youtube still does it and you know what, it seems to work to shame them.

As an Amazon customer, but not an Amazon Prime one, I think I’ll send them an email advocating for that idea.

And you know what, nothing will make Amazon look better than doing that AND also being more upfront about customer’s “purchases” regarding such Instant Video content. Namely, putting such a disclaimer up front and easily understood terms for the customers to read.

“Hey, we have Instant Streaming. It’s included in Amazon Prime. HOWEVER, due to the insane restrictions that the movie and television studios place on us, there’s a chance what you want to see won’t be available to see when you want to see it. We’d really like to let you see it, but it gets taken away from us by the movie and television studios. If you have a problem with this feel free to contact them and rip them a new one. We’d do something about it, but honestly they won’t listen to us anyway. And even if they did, they’d just take other movies/shows hostage til we agreed to do things the way they want us to. So we, and by default you, still lose.”

A message like that would be interesting to see, and decidedly more honest than anything else they could put up.

Yogi says:

Just say no

That’s all that is needed: the sheeple just have to stop buying DRMed goods. It’s that simple and everyone can do it, and then the corporate copyright thieves – including Amazon in this case – will accept the inevitable. It will be like the collapse of the Berlin Wall – it was there for decades, invincible and evil, and then it was gone, like the wind.

Zakida Paul says:

Amazon seem to be about to lose a lot of customers between things like this and their moronic decision to introduce a 1 click system for music downloads (I LIKED THE BASKET BECAUSE IT HELPED ME KEEP TRACK OF WHAT I WAS SPENDING). They have lost me for music downloads as I have skipped over to 7Digital and I was considering a Prime membership but they can forget that idea now.

P. says:

Could make money hand over fist....

I would buy so many movies if they would just ACCEPT technology. I *dream* of the day where I see:

Purchase Ironman (at most 50% of DVD price)
+ $1 for HD
+ $2 for 3D-HD
+ $1 for Additional Language & Subtitle (per language)
+ $1 for Director’s Commentary
+ $1 for Cast and Crew Commentary
+ $1 for Effects Commentary

Select format: MP4, MKV, (etc, All not locked in anyway).

I want to keep a copy of the movie in the cloud, but also be able to download for my tablet for long trips.

If you buy the physical media, you should ALWAYS get the basic download (+ HD if you buy the Bluray) included.

I’ve tried the “Disc + Digital Download” but the soft copy is always in a format I don’t want, in a quality I don’t want, and without options I want, plus more hoops to jump through just to get it, and so locked down, it’s hard to transport between devices. Ugg.

Mr. Applegate says:

This is exactly why I refuse...

…to ‘buy’ (actually it is license) digital content that I can not download (in the format of my choosing) and control (no DRM).

I am probably the movie and music industries worst nightmare. I am perfectly content do without, and keep my money. Of course the longer I do that, the less apt I am to join the ranks of those willing to shell out dollars for their content at anytime in the future regardless of the terms.

At least those who pirate are still interested in what they have to offer, just not under the terms and conditions and price point the industry chooses to offer it at.

I have joined the ranks of those who are not willing to purchase what they offer. In fact I most often will not accept it for free.

Anonymous Coward says:

im surprised you’ve just worked this out, this is a story as usual about nothing..

if you or the consumer cannot working out that anytime means “within the window of your hiring time” is an idiot !!.

we’ve had this for years, everyone knows how it works, you order a movie, and you can watch it anytime say, within the next 2 weeks. it is downloaded to your box and it is available within that time frame..

just like the old days when you hired a video, you were not bound to start that movie at 8:30 but you could watch it anytime within the hire time before you had to return it.

and masnick thinks this is new, who is not keeping up with technology !!! ???

Roland says:

moral of the story: possession

Possession is 9/10 of the law. Grab that stream, don’t trust any corporation. And keep good backups. “Streaming is becoming the preferred option for movies and music”–not for me, it isn’t. Trust the cloud and you’re a fool. If they can do it to Dotcom, they can do it to you, and the law is an ass (Voltaire). That’s the way it is, because MBAs and lawyers are in charge. Want Hope&Change? Don’t hold your breath.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

And this is why I haven't bought a Kindle

…nor a Nook. The idea that they can yank my content on a whim any time they want to just doesn’t sit well with me. If I buy a book reader, I’ll be populating it with DRM-free books (and I won’t buy any content from Amazon, lest they decide on a whim that they don’t have rights to The Art of War and yank it from my device.

In the end, I’d prefer a reader that doesn’t have a direct line to and control by an abusive content provider.

Anonymous Coward says:

They don't get it.

They are doing it to themselves. At every turn they seem to make me feel more and more the fool for paying hard earned money for this stuff.

I spend over half my time away for work, in hotels and on offshore oil rigs. Both locations are excluded from the license in the warning on some of the DVDs I have bought recently. Dragging DVDs with me while traveling is problematic, it’s so much easier if I rip them to my hard drive before I go away, but I’m not supposed to break the encryption to do that. I held out for a long time, but now I started downloading. I’m a criminal in their eyes anyway, and there’s no restrictions either, so it only makes sense.

And don’t forget that all my hard earned money I have been paying them has helped them lobby for ruining the internet.

Thank you entertainment industry, for working so hard to get me to stop paying you.

Anonymous Coward says:

For a part of the world that boasts having the best customer service you sure do put up with and enable a lot of bad services!

These endless licensing games will only ever allow for mediocre services (even if the studios provide it themselves) because most people that do see value in these services or physical sales continue to support there own poor service.

At some point, people like Rebecca have to ask themselves: what’s the point of the convenience of streaming if what she wants, and knows is easily possible, isn’t provided – even after paying every known service!

Rebecca should focus on not giving the big media businesses another sale until she gets what she wants as a customer. I do this because I dont want to support any business that either directly or indirectly opposes my internet freedom.

Alternate Solution:
1. goto utorrent.com – install non-intrusive app to download files from other people online.
2. goto thepiratebay.se – Search website for “Puss in boots”, 1-click to kick off utorrent app to begin download

Daid10000008 says:

If you don't get to keep it forever, it is not a sale. It is a rent.

They misled the buyers. I was one of them. It says on the item listing that it can be downloaded or streamed in the format section of the item.

Maybe I’m a noob, but I assumed download meant to my computer, which is what I was using at the time to purchase it.

After the purchase and numerous unsuccessful attempts to find a download button anywhere. I dug deep in to their license agreement to find it was not available for download to a PC. Are you kidding me? I can’t download software that I purchased to my PC? It is a movie. It isn’t like it is some new format that can only be played on a particular device.

The general public expects that a movie that is purchased is forever to watch at their whim. Anything less is only a rent.

They have changed the generally accepted “rules” of what a purchase is versus renting something and buried it deep inside their text in an effort to hide the truth.

They intentionally misled the public and they should pay for it. I will personally not spend any more money with that group and I will advise as many people as possible to stay away.

Nor will I trust them for any future “improvements” to their system.

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