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.