Amazon Sued For Saying You've 'Bought' Movies That It Can Take Away From You

from the this-could-be-interesting dept

For well over a decade we’ve talked about the many problems that arise when copyright is compared to “property” — and people try to simply move over concepts from physical, tangible property into the world of digital. A key aspect of this: when you “purchase” something digital online, is it really a “purchase” or is it a “license” (especially a license that could be revoked)? If it was a true “purchase” then you should own it and the seller shouldn’t be able to take it back. But in practice, over and over and over again, we’ve seen stories of people having things they supposedly “bought” disappear. The situation is so crazy that we’ve referred to it as Schrödinger’s Download, in that many copyright holders and retailers would like the very same thing to be a “sale” some of the time, and a “license” some of the time (the “times” for each tend to be when it hurts the consumers the most). This has, at times, seeped into physical goods, where they’ve tried to add “license agreements” to physical products. Or, worse, when some copyright folks claimed that buying a DVD means you don’t actually own what you bought, but rather are merely “purchasing access” to the content, and that could be revoked.

Anyway, I’m amazed that we don’t see more lawsuits about this kind of thing — but one was recently filed in California. Someone named Amanda Caudel is suing Amazon for saying that you’ve “purchased” a video download, which Amazon might disappear from your library whenever it wants. As the lawsuit makes clear, Amazon directly says that you are buying the movie (as opposed to renting it). From the lawsuit filing itself:

And, they point out, in your account there’s a listing of “Your Video Purchases & Rentals.” But, the lawsuit claims, what you purchase doesn’t seem to behave like a real purchase:

Reasonable consumers will expect that the use of a ?Buy? button and the representation that their Video Content is a ?Purchase? means that the consumer has paid for full access to the Video Content and, like any bought product, that access cannot be revoked.

Unfortunately for consumers who chose the ?Buy? option, this is deceptive and untrue. Rather, the ugly truth is that Defendant secretly reserves the right to terminate the consumers? access and use of the Video Content at any time, and has done so on numerous occasions, leaving the consumer without the ability to enjoy their already-bought Video Content.

Defendant?s representations are misleading because they give the impression that the Video Content is purchased ? i.e. the person owns it – when in fact that is not true because Defendant or others may revoke access to the Video Content at any time and for any reason.

In so representing the ?Purchase? of Video Content as true ownership of the content, Defendant took advantage of the (1) cognitive shortcuts made at the point-of-sale, e.g. Rent v. Buy and (2) price of the Video Content, which is akin to an outright purchase versus a rental.

Though some consumers may get lucky and never lose access to any of their paid-for media, others may one day find that their Video Content is now completely inaccessible. Regardless, all consumers have overpaid for the Video Content because they are not in fact owners of the Video Content, despite have paid extra money to ?Buy? the product.

The plaintiff (or rather, her lawyers) are trying to make this a class action lawsuit, and are arguing that (among other things) this is false advertising. I am, not surprisingly, sympathetic to the plaintiff — and remain disappointed at how copyright and similar restrictions are being used to chip away at ownership and actual property rights. That said… I’m not that optimistic the case will get very far. In the past, companies have been able to wiggle out of similar claims, and I’m pretty sure that Amazon tries to push disputes like this to binding arbitration, meaning that the lawsuit may be dead on arrival.

Still, it’s yet another reminder of how copyright is chipping away at real property.

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Companies: amazon

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Comments on “Amazon Sued For Saying You've 'Bought' Movies That It Can Take Away From You”

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Samuel Abram (profile) says:

This is why I love Rifftrax

You know Rifftrax, the offshoot of Mystery Science Theater 3000? You don’t have to deal with this bullshit on their website. Once you purchase something there, it’s yours forever, DRM-free. Not only that, but if for some reason Rifftrax removes an item from their store and you purchased it before it was removed, it remains in your online library (if you want higher resolution, or something like that).

SO glad I don’t have to deal with these online stores anymore…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I agree with Mike on this.

You can’t just change the meaning of a word with a boat load of legal speak. You either purchased something, or you didn’t. Your either pregnant or your not. There is no "sort of" for either.

Just like changing the definition of "Assault Rifle" to fit the modern, mostly leftist narrative. Or inventing a new word "Assault Weapon (coined in 1989) for the same reason.

Or like when Obama changed the definition of "gender", and now Trump wants to change it too. Who gave the President of either political party the authority to change the definition of a word?

We can’t just start changing the definition of words. IMHO Regardless of if your using cleverly worded disclaimers or political narratives, it sets an extremely bad precedent.

PS. If I ever see the word "covfefe", coined by our incoherent President in any dictionary, I’m going to lose my shit. 🙂

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"You can’t just change the meaning of a word with a boat load of legal speak."

You americans should be used to that by now. I know several examples of US statesmen who described themselves as "conservative liberals" – which today gives the impression of severe schizophrenia.

Also "conservative" in itself apparently means "Fsck the founding fathers, philosophical principle and the law, I’m with Moses and Draco on this one!".

"Liberal" apparently means "Baby-eating godless pinko pagan and anti-american fanatic".

Ever since the 50’s when the GOP and the democrats switched their respective positions 180 degrees around the american vernacular has begun deviating from original english to the point where it’ll be a job and a half for the british to understand US TV without subtitles in the near future.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I agree as well, I just think the bigger problem is the fact that courts pretend that terms of service are legitimate agreements which makes any sort of consumer protections in this space a joke.

She can’t do anything about this because without knowing it she has already "agreed" a a slew of things that will prevent her from being able to do anything about it. She has already "agreed" that her purchases can be revoked, she has already "agreed" to handle all issues through binding arbitration. Likely a bunch of other crap that prevents her from doing anything about this.

If you pretend this is a legitimate agreement then you pretend she knew what she was paying for and you pretend she has not been wronged.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Logically I agree with the poster. Practically, there are problems.

First, redefinition of language is what the business practice of law is all about. No matter what the words used in law mean to a non-lawyer, lawyers redefine those words to maximize their power and profit margin.

Second, the comment about the history of the English language has a point. A living language is a moving target. Living languages evolve, they are the (not-copyrighted) product of the users. Except French of course, where the French Academy decrees the French language regardless of who does or does not use the "official" French language.

However, both these and other issues dance around the real problem. Language exists for communication between individuals and entities. When words are arbitrarily redefined to achieve some goal other than coherent, understandable communications then the potential for conflict becomes significantly more likely.

Unfortunately, conflict often takes unpleasant forms. Between individual conflict ranges from hard feelings to violence. With lawyers conflict means lawyer profit, but a far greater temptation to violence. Conflict between nations generally means some sort of war, physical, financial etc.

In the U. S., redefining language for profit is part of free speech. However, the ability to do profitable (to both sides) business in such an environment is diminished. In the short term one party in business can use such a tool profitably, however, the non-financial price is that the party is seen as acting in bad faith and future business transactions will be done in such a manner by both parties, as well as those who are sensible and familiar with the situation.

In Amazon’s case, currently they are at a high point, however, there is growing distrust and disenchantment with Amazon. Amazon will likely get away with this villainy but at the cost of further user distrust and a progressively larger migration to less deceitful platforms.

In the end when free speech is about redefining words to the point of deceit, then the tipping point is reached and the slope is all down hill.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"In the end when free speech is about redefining words to the point of deceit, then the tipping point is reached and the slope is all down hill."

We’ve been sliding down that slope for a long time. The most obvious guilty parties are; the public which allows politicians to get away with re-engineer important keywords as blunt argumental instruments…And judges who ought to have, as general rule, to slap a contempt charge on ANY lawyer trying to redefine words in court.

The entire world has these issues but the US, with it’s widespread voter apathy and a sizeable proportion of it’s GNP measurable in lawyers, is further down the slope than most…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Amazon steals the vids you bought

I just make it a practice not to purchase any digital media that I can’t format shift as I like. Things like Amazon Kindle Books — they provide me with the encryption key, and I use it right away. Same goes for Apple Movies and various other stuff.

I have no problem paying for streaming services (currently subscribed to three) and don’t expect that content to stick around. But when I purchase something, I make sure it can stay purchased, or you’re not getting me to buy it in the first place.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Amazon steals the vids you bought

Amazon provides the keys to the Kindle app on your computer. They don’t really mean for you to USE the keys, but they have to provide them to the computer for you to read the stuff. You use some software of which Amazon does not approve to extract said keys from the app. For example, you might use the stuff from

Of course, Amazon also provides you with the video keys, but those are trickier to extract in most cases, partly because Amazon and others try a lot harder to thwart you.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Does this person even have standing to sue over this as looking at the linked complaint she doesn’t seem to have had a purchase revoked?

The only evidence she includes is a random reddit post and an old consumerreports post and even that is weak – as the problem their seemed to be a problem with streaming to a TV but they could still access an already downloaded file.

I’m no fan of companies treating stuff as licenses/purchases when it benefits them, but this seems a stretch especially with no evidence and I’d find it hard to believe a court would rule against a purchase if one method of viewing content was removed, otherwise you could sue stores for selling Blu-Ray discs considering the DRM on them can revoke your rights (if you use a PC to play them at least as the software on PC won’t play Blu-Rays without periodic updates).

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
crade (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s a false advertising claim, the damage is from having been duped into spending money and getting something (access that can be revoked) other than what she was told she was getting (purchase). What she got just isn’t as good as what she thought she was paying for regardless of whether her access has been already revoked or not.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

If only Congress wasn’t in the pocket of the industry we could get laws that make sense.

Its a sale its a license… that debate is b/c their contractual obligations mean they can pay out different amounts to the artists while charging us the same inflated prices.

If they weren’t able to demand we all give up our rights to the content we purchased & allow them to control the where how when of when we can use it, they might have to try harder to please consumers.

Its a mostly uneeded industry trying to nickel and dime everyone to keep a grip on their market that should have gone the way of the dodo long ago.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"How is China not capitalistic (which they’ve been since Deng Xiaoping)…"

China has been a red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist nation since they first built their empire. I’d argue that they never stopped being one, because even their current flag has one star set aside for the "righteous capitalists".

The only major switch they’ve made over the last few centuries is replacing the figurehead of an emperor with the figurehead of a party chairman.
And even there you could argue that not a switch anymore, since chairman Xi Jin Ping has a lifetime tenure now.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"Is it possible to have a free market in a dictatorship?"

Yes indeed. Your market can be as free as it likes.
The people less so.

In China, for instance, there are two rules; Never question the government in public. Never embarrass the government. Other than that the sky’s the limit.
With every chinese entrepreneur venerating those two rules the same way a US citizen venerates the constitution the market becomes as free as it is in the US.

Arguably a bit more so since China hasn’t entrenched the monopolies of its major players yet, as has happened in the US, and that Chinese infrastructure regulation does open the field to newcomers in a way the US can not match at all.

The style of government is far less of a factor determining the freedom of the economy than the governing ideology. Communism and extreme capitalism, for instance, both turn the core marketplace into a wasteland controlled by the iron fists of monopoly corporations (which may or may not also be the state). With no competition realistically possible, the free market can’t exist.

That One Guy (profile) says:

List it what it is and let people make informed decisions

It would be interesting to see how sales were impacted if ‘Purchase’ was swapped out for the more honest ‘License’ and people were made aware upfront just what the terms were for their ‘purchase’ rather than having that buried in the TOS, as I imagine that the argument in the lawsuit is spot on in that when people see ‘buy/purchase’ they are not thinking that they are paying money for something that can be taken from them at any time, any more than they’d expect a store to have the ability to show up at their house and take back a physical copy of a movie.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And someplace

It’s funny how people dis capitalism, as if there’s some other utopian economic system that we’re all missing out on.
GREED is the death of all economic systems. I don’t bow to the alter of capitalism, socialism, or any of these other "ism’s", but as long as mankind is involved, there is no perfect socio-economic system.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: And someplace

There are options which no one will investigate since they are religiously bound to their -isms, for sure. Conversely, any system could probably work with the safeguards built in which keep power from being concentrated anywhere. The freedom to mix and match, and innovate, when things are no longer working for a society, would be helpful in countering issues such as greed. Note also that greed is a learned cultural behavior, and one can "accumulate" other things than money or power over others for individuals who have a need for "greatness".

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: And someplace

Most gov. forms can Work, as long as there are a few restrictions..
I could make Fascism work..
Capitalism is based on taking advantage of ANOTHER system.
The Failings, tend to be Grand if not restricted, and we have seen A few over the last 20-30 years.
We even made restrictions to Curb the problems, Because they happened BEFORE..(we make laws after the fact)
The rules started changing in the 1970’s..and it just gets worse, as we didnt/dont Enforce the regs we have/had.

PART of capitalism is Failure, and Dying as a corp…and others take it place…THIS HASNT HAPPENED.. And its come out of our pockets.
Est. Value of USA corps, is worth over 100 times the amount of money in the world. But how can you do that? you shouldnt and you cant. They are over valued, and Stocks have been issued based on that Value. Which means that if ANY one of the top corps fails, they will take TONS of money with them. AND LLC will protect them.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 And someplace

well, it was working pretty good until we dropped the taxes from 90%..
Then the Gov. started Cutting taxes on them even MORE.
Then we cut the pollution regulations because we Thought it would bring back manufacturing into the USA.
Then we let them Ship out Materials to other countries that are sent Back, as products, insted of Creating goods and services Here.
Then we Kicked the IRS in the gut and never upgrade/update it..
Then we let them create Different types of Stocks for the market, including types that Dont give ownership to the Stock Buyers.
Then we Dont require Goods to be transferred from 1 to another, after a trade, it can sit in 1 spot, never move, be used, or have a function besides Sitting in a Building, being traded back and forth, with nothing Moving..

And there could be MORE, such as NOT subsidizing Any corp, and restricting LLC to small business, not to the corps.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Rekrul says:

If Amazon allowed people to actually buy content rather than just paying for a license, I would actually buy some things from them. They have a goofy TV show from a few years ago called Level Up that can’t be found anywhere else. And yes, I’ve looked and it doesn’t seem to exist on any pirate sites. When the show originally aired, pirates put up the first season (complete with station logos, popup ads, etc), but skipped the season finale and all of the second season. Since then, Amazon is the only place I’ve been able to find it. However, I’m not going to pay money for something that I can’t keep. If they offered it in downloadable, DRM-free formats, I would pay just to have pristine copies of the entire series.

I know that pirates have ripped stuff from Amazon, but I don’t know how to do that and my efforts at screen recording haven’t been very successful. I mean, outside of pointing a camera at my monitor, which gives crap results.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

this took about 10 seconds..there allot more, but this might fix it.,

Android is interesting as….You can run a version Under Windows..

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

this took about 10 seconds..there allot more, but this might fix it.,

Thanks. I’m always skeptical of programs that claim to easily download videos from such services because I know that they actively try to block such programs. Back when HULU was free, I tried a bunch of different programs that claimed to be able to download their videos and none of them worked.

Have you tried any of the downloaders yourself?

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

And I loved the old, NEWSGROUPS, section of the internet, IF’ you can pay for the access and NOT the edited version. you can find anything.

Great, can you point me to an NZB for season 2 of Level Up (2012)? HD web copies preferred, but I’ll take HDTV copies as well. I’ll take a torrent too, if it still has seeds.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

And of course, looking more closely at the Amazon pages for this show, I see that the price for the HD versions is significantly higher than the price they show you in the search results. It claims that prices for season one start at $14.99, but if you want the HD version, it’s $27.99! The other seasons are $5 higher than the SD price. I was under the impression that the total price was $49.97, which is already pretty high, but now I see that the HD version will cost $72.97! At a time when I can buy a physical box set of an actual 4-5 season show for $30.

Not only that, they split the official first season in two so that they could double-dip. Frigging scam artists.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t think this lawsuit will get anywhere. Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past hundred years, you don’t own the digital content you pay for on any streaming service. Everybody knows that the digital content (video streaming) that you purchase, you’re only paying for a "license" to access that content. This is why I never purchase any digital content that is hosted on some server connected to the internet.

Morons would think otherwise. If you "owned" the VOD content you purchase, you would be able to download a copy for yourself. Streaming and VOD content is what the entertainment has been shepherding everyone towards because they don’t want you selling the content you purchase to someone else.

While I do purchase Blu-rays, I also download digital content from sites that exists online. The entertainment industry wants to do away with physical media but considering that not a lot of movies and music fans buy digital content, they’re stuck.

Anonymous Coward says:

I long ago gave up on buying digital. Go back to the days of Rio, when it was offering digital downloads or for that matter Microsoft’s venture into buying digital music. Both decided to close their service.

So either you burned all your music to cd or you lost all access to those items you supposedly purchased when they closed the authorizing servers.

Either way, the ability to access your purchases on line, from any device that worked with the service, was gone.

Now if I buy, it will be something physical that I keep in my possession or I won’t buy at all. As far as I am concerned digital offers no longer are worth it and haven’t been for a long time.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

uRspqF7L (profile) says:

useless as usual

this lawsuit will be tossed because the plaintiffs lack standing. a suit requires actual or imminent harm. no harm has been demonstrated here or even alleged.

a side note is what Mike claims to be "really" concerned about–the difference between intellectual and "real" property–gets at the bad presumptions on which all his thought is based.

the problem isn’t that intellectual property isn’t "real’: the problem is that "real" property actually isn’t any more real than intellectual property either. both are legal fictions. both have uses in the world.

Mike is desperate to allow Google and others to steal from copyright owners, while making sure owners of oil, land, and other assets get to continue to profit head over heels. Even he sees, though he can’t acknowledge, that there is a deep contradiction there.

wonderful to read all the top-shelf legal knowledge in the comments here, by so many people who have clearly never set foot in a courtroom or law school. because information wants to be free! who cares if it’s remotely accurate information or not

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: useless as usual

Mike is desperate to allow Google and others to steal from copyright owners, while making sure owners of oil, land, and other assets get to continue to profit head over heels.

Is he? I don’t remember him ever talking about those issues at all, so I have no idea what he’d say. I surely wouldn’t characterize his silence as "desperate".

I, for one, would certainly be open to some changes in the legal scheme of "ownership" for land and other limited, non-human-created resources.


the problem isn’t that intellectual property isn’t "real’

You know goddamned well what "not real" is supposed to mean in this context, and you know goddamned well that it has nothing to do with the reality of ownership. It’s about the reality of the assets.

Land, oil, and Beanie Babies are physical objects (or at least physical locations) that can naturally be used only by a limited number of people in a limited number of ways. Music and movies are not. There’s no REAL physical thing involved.

wonderful to read all the top-shelf legal knowledge in the comments here

… and here we have the usual idiot’s refuge in the law.

For the most part, in these discussions people don’t claim any particular knowledge of what the law does say. They claim to have opinions about what the law should say. They are at least as entitled to their opinions on that as anybody else. The only thing that courtrooms and law schools do for you on that score is to blind you to possibilities outside of what’s done right this minute.

In fact, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a copyright lawyer or other copyright maximalist throw around distorted first-semester economics in support of tenuously related political positions, without any real knowledge of even theoretical economics that actually try to account for any of the many complexities involved, without even any knowledge of what those complexities are, and definitely with no reference to any actual data, I could buy Disney.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: useless as usual

"the problem isn’t that intellectual property isn’t "real’: the problem is that "real" property actually isn’t any more real than intellectual property either. both are legal fictions. both have uses in the world. "

Ah, the old copyright maximalist rant that "You can’t own physical property". You never fail to disappoint, Bobmail.

"Mike is desperate to allow Google and others to steal from copyright owners…"

And there we have the old "copying is theft" argument, right on cue. How long have you guys been desperately pushing that one? Thirty years?
I’ll give you a hint – recycling the old arguments which have failed you guys so hard in the past isn’t going to win you the debate today either.

"…wonderful to read all the top-shelf legal knowledge in the comments here, by so many people who have clearly never set foot in a courtroom or law school."

Says the guy who calls the concept of physical property "legal fiction" and believes copying information is "theft", proving he doesn’t even know the basics of law a pre-schooler is able to understand. I’m curious just how many times a judge has to ban that re-definition of "theft" in a courtroom before you copyright cult trolls finally realized that angle is dead?

Oh, and Baghdad Bob? You still aren’t fooling anyone with your hastily established sock puppet. Your tells remain pretty damn obvious.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: useless as usual

I dunno, this one seems like an offshoot – or offspring – between some of the similarities between antidirt and John Smith, but I doubt it’s the actual thing. The actual thing needs more rants on Section 230, Rose McGowan, and the like totes really real lawsuit he intends to nuke this website with like yesterday which has been two years in the planning stages, if only those durn pirates didn’t take away his mailing list!

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Personally, I never view anything I haven’t "bought". I always pay.

But I never "buy" anything that I can’t get a DRM-free copy of, whether because it didn’t have DRM to begin with, because I can strip the DRM, or because I can grab a "pirate" copy. And I always make sure I have that DRM-free copy in hand before I view the stuff.

If none of those non-DRM options are available, I just don’t consume the media, period. None of the shit these people sell is remotely important enough for me to spend money on it if I’m not guaranteed permanent access, on whatever devices and with whatever methods I may use now or in the future.

Which means that if these dipshits successfully shut down all "piracy", they’re going to lose all sales to me. I’ll just go do something else with my time.

And I don’t think I’m even close to being alone.

Mike says:

Amazon Lawsuit

I cannot see this person winning the suit. When you “purchase” something on these services, you are agreeing to the Terms & Conditions which clearly state that you do not really own anything. You are more or less just agreeing to pay for access to something so long as it remains available on whatever service. My recommendation is to buy your favorites on Blu-ray or DVD and make your own digital copies since the encryption is easily broken using free tools. That way you truly own it, can use it the way you want and it isn’t locked down by DRM. I have a feeling Amazon will use its Terms & Conditions being agreed to as its defense or the fact that these restrictions are put in place by the movie studios/MPAA. Maybe the solution here is to sell non-DRM-locked content like music companies are doing.

jil says:

Amazon took over 7 titles from me

I have had the same issue with Amazon. After repeated calls and hours through the phone gauntlet I never got any help or response. They act perplexed and confused as if it’s never happened before. You can’t fight huge, in bed with slimy politicians, corporations. This is the new America and there is no such thing as accountability. Good Luck

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