You Don't Own What You've Bought: Apple Disappears Purchased Movies

from the bad-apple dept

Once again, copyright and the digitization of everything means you no longer "own" what you've "bought." I thought we'd covered all this a decade ago when Kindle owners discovered that, even though they'd "purchased" copies of the ebook of George Orwell's 1984, their books had been memory holed, thanks to Amazon losing a license. After there was an uproar, Amazon changed its system and promised such things would never happen again. You would think that other online stores selling digital items would remember this and design their systems not to do this -- especially some of the largest.

Enter Apple and its infamous iTunes store. On Twitter, Anders G da Silva has posted a thread detailing how three of the movies he "purchased" have now disappeared and how little Apple seems to care about this:

My guess is that with this tweet getting lots and lots of attention, Apple will eventually back down and "fix" the situation. But it shouldn't take going viral for you to not have the stuff you bought disappear thanks to a change in licensing. Indeed, it does seem like Apple telling users that they are "buying" content that might later disappear due to changes in licensing agreements could potentially be a deceptive practice that could lead to FTC or possibly state consumer protection claims:

Last year we had a podcast about a new book by two copyright professors about the "end of ownership" due to excessive copyright usage, and this is just yet another unfortunate example of what has happened when we lock everything up. You don't own what you've bought.

And, yes, it is not endorsing or advocating for piracy to note that this is one of the reasons why people pirate. Content that people pirate doesn't magically disappear when licenses change and giant multinational companies decide to reach into your library and memory hole your purchases. Don't want people to pirate so much? Stop doing this kind of anti-consumer bullshit.


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2018 @ 11:44am

    Re: Re: having trouble blaming Apple

    Apple is (partly) to blame because their messaging strongly suggests that the customer is buying a license in perpetuity, that the content will remain available for approved use for as long as Apple has the technical means to provide it, and that the list of approved uses will not shrink later. In general, none of those suggestions are actually guaranteed in law or contract. We've seen numerous services decide to stop offering access to old licensed content (and not provide a pro-rated refund, a last chance use-it-or-lose-it unencumbered download, or other means for the customer to retain use of the work) because it was inconvenient or ceased to align with their business plan, not because it was technically infeasible. We've seen services reduce the list of approved uses after the payment was finalized. We've seen services suffer extended outages where a licensed work was unavailable, but a physical work would have continued operating normally.

    Copyright law may be the vehicle through which the service (in this case, Apple) is compelled to take these anti-customer actions. However, it does not compel them to encourage their customers to believe their purchase is as good as buying a physical instance of the work (record, CD, DVD, etc.). That marketing misrepresentation (even if "corrected" by fine print) is entirely the decision of the service provider. That is why Apple deserves some blame: for failing to make users readily aware of how limited their rights truly are.

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