You Don't Own What You 'Bought': Disney And Amazon Play The Role Of The Grinch In Taking Back Purchased Film

from the ownership...-wazzat? dept

We've discussed many times before how, in the digital age, you no longer really seem to own what you've "bought." Instead, you're getting a temporary license, and at times that means that the copyright holder and partners can remove it. In a story making the rounds this week, it appears that Amazon pulled the film Prep and Landing 2 just in time for Christmas! The issue came up when Bill Jackson settled down to watch the video -- which he "bought" last year -- with his two kids, aged two and eight. It didn't work and he contacted Amazon to find out what was up. Despite the fact that when he paid the $3, he was told it was to allow him to "watch and re-watch as often as you like" Amazon told him that Disney had asked them to pull it, and they did so:
Amazon has explained to me that Disney can pull their content at any time and 'at this time they've pulled that show for exclusivity on their own channel.' In other words, Amazon sold me a Christmas special my kids can't watch during the run up to Christmas. It'll be available in July though!"
Amazon did give him a $25 credit as an apology, and then when the story started making news, Amazon changed its story claiming it was something else:
Amazon blamed the removal on "a temporary issue with some of our catalog data" which it says has been fixed, adding that "customers should never lose access to their Amazon Instant Video purchases."
"Should" never lose access is quite different from "will" never lose access. Just the fact that Amazon has the power to take back what you've bought should be a pretty big concern for those who think that they're actually buying what they've been told. As some have noted, Amazon's terms of service appear to give it the right to do exactly what the original version described:
Availability of Purchased Digital Content. 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.
While it is true that buyers can download copies and this only impacted the streaming versions, it still seems rather troubling that people who thought they were buying something found out that they weren't. This is one of the many reasons why people are so concerned about these kinds of offerings. They know that you're no longer really "buying" anything, but getting a (very) limited license.

Filed Under: buying, copyright, licensing, movies, prep and landing 2, streaming
Companies: amazon, disney


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  1. icon
    Reality Check (profile), 17 Dec 2013 @ 10:19am

    Re:

    I've had one significant issue with Steam.

    I used to be a huge fan, then one day I logged in and received a big message telling me I was permanently banned.

    I created an inquiry with their help desk and they were completely condescending and rude. They implied that I had hacked some players accounts and that they might press criminal charges.

    I kept pressing the issue, trying to at least find out what I was actually accused of. They were inconsistent with their reasons, but consistently acted like I was a criminal dirtbag, and said that I would never be un-banned.

    After a few months of re-opening the case and asking for an actual explanation, and quoting their own previous replies (and EULA) back to them to contradict their latest replies, they rescinded the ban with no explanation.

    The ban wasn't from playing all my purchased games, but it was a ban from some of the multi-player and trading functionality.
    The things that really burned me were:
    A blinking red icon every time I logged into Steam, reminding me that they considered me a criminal.
    I had done nothing wrong, and deserved at least an explanation.
    Once I had asked for an explanation, the nasty way they responded.

    I might buy a steam game in the future, but I haven't bought one for over a year now. And I used to recommend them to everyone.

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