Digital Media - do consumers 'own' purchased content?
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A case is being pushed involving Amazon concerning the purchase of digital films and TV shows. This is so confusing at times, VUDU had to change any purchase references from "YOU NOW OWN' to 'YOU HAVE PURCHASED' to avoid conveying consumers own anything.

Amazon Argues Users Don't Actually Own Purchased Prime Video Content

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When an Amazon Prime Video user buys content on the platform, what they're really paying for is a limited license for “on-demand viewing over an indefinite period of time” and they're warned of that in the company's terms of use. That's the company's argument for why a lawsuit over hypothetical future deletions of content should be dismissed.

 

In April, Amanda Caudel sued Amazon for unfair competition and false advertising. She claims the company "secretly reserves the right" to end consumers' access to content purchased through its Prime Video service. She filed her putative class action on behalf of herself and any California residents who purchased video content from the service from April 25, 2016, to present.

 

On Monday, Amazon filed a motion to dismiss her complaint arguing that she lacks standing to sue because she hasn't been injured — and noting that she's purchased 13 titles on Prime since filing her complaint.

 

"Plaintiff claims that Defendant Amazon’s Prime Video service, which allows consumers to purchase video content for streaming or download, misleads consumers because sometimes that video content might later become unavailable if a third-party rights’ holder revokes or modifies Amazon’s license," writes attorney David Biderman in the motion, which is posted below. "The Complaint points vaguely to online commentary about this alleged potential harm but does not identify any Prime Video purchase unavailable to Plaintiff herself. In fact, all of the Prime Video content that Plaintiff has ever purchased remains available."

 

Further, Amazon argues, the site's required user agreements explain that some content may later become unavailable.

 

"The most relevant agreement here — the Prime Video Terms of Use — is presented to consumers every time they buy digital content on Amazon Prime Video," writes Biderman. "These Terms of Use expressly state that purchasers obtain only a limited license to view video content and that purchased content may become unavailable due to provider license restriction or other reasons."

 

Amazon argues it doesn't matter whether Caudel actually bothered to read the fine print.

 

"An individual does not need to read an agreement in order to be bound by it," writes Biderman. "A merchant term of service agreement in an online consumer transaction is valid and enforceable when the consumer had reasonable notice of the terms of service."

John Campea also did a spot on this how Amazon, FandangoNow, Google Play, Microsoft, VUDU all are just resellers. The studios are the ones with these ownership terms.

 

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1 hour ago, theCapraAegagrus said:

You never own digital net/cloud-accessed content.

But is not that clear cut when it comes to how these sale venues post some content for sale without reading their full T&C section.

When a price is posted for a given product, it isn't shown as RENTAL ONLY. If you look at VUDU, it clearly distinguishes between RENT and BUY.

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3 minutes ago, Bosco685 said:

But is not that clear cut when it comes to how these sale venues post some content for sale without reading their full T&C section.

When a price is posted for a given product, it isn't shown as RENTAL ONLY. If you look at VUDU, it clearly distinguishes between RENT and BUY.

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Oh, I understand. It should be common-sense that the "Buy" doesn't guarantee product will always be available to access.

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1 hour ago, theCapraAegagrus said:

Edit: You do own digital content on your hard drives.

Maybe. Dependent on DRM applied to that content on your hard-drive. I plead to being an ignorant consumer related to the actual rights afforded me when buying digital content on Amazon. Was fairly shocked to learn my entire library could possibly go poof. As stated, "Physical content is king". This will change my purchasing habits.

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2 minutes ago, RedRaven said:

Maybe. Dependent on DRM applied to that content on your hard-drive. I plead to being an ignorant consumer related to the actual rights afforded me when buying digital content on Amazon. Was fairly shocked to learn my entire library could possibly go poof. As stated, "Physical content is king". This will change my purchasing habits.

Possibly not applicable to all content I "own", but my understanding is that the digital property is mine, however I am not allowed to distribute/copy it legally without consent from the content's creator.

There's a lot of mumbo-jumbo I am neither aware of nor understand.

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10 minutes ago, RedRaven said:

I was imagining a scenario where you download digital content to a device which has DRM; for example Audible books. Consider a scenario where the DRM is put into a permanent lock mode based on a licensing issue with audible.

I misunderstood what you typed. When I read DRM, I was thinking of disclaimers that discourage copyright infringement. Can't recall the correct acronym they use. I wasn't thinking of actual DRM.

Edited by theCapraAegagrus
Corrected English.
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35 minutes ago, theCapraAegagrus said:

Oh, I understand. It should be common-sense that the "Buy" doesn't guarantee product will always be available to access.

That could be seen as an oversimplification of a tricky situation. If a consumer buys something, they believe it is their product now.

But that's the scary situation with all of these providers. When it got announced UltraViolet was shutting down (the glue linking them all together), there was a lot of confusion how this would impact purchased products. Movies Anywhere (Disney) stepping into the void was a huge help. Though some studios refused to sign up with MA (Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount) and some content disappeared.

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Just now, Bosco685 said:

That could be seen as an oversimplification of a tricky situation. If a consumer buys something, they believe it is their product now.

But that's the scary situation with all of these providers. When it got announced UltraViolet was shutting down (the glue linking them all together), there was a lot of confusion how this would impact purchased products. Movies Anywhere (Disney) stepping into the void was a huge help. Though some studios refused to sign up with MA (Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount) and some content disappeared.

I agree.

This is a conundrum when you start dealing in things with no physical presence.

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PlayStation Store Germany has announced in its recent legal notice that Studiocanal content won’t be available to see soon. From August 31, 2022, users can’t view any of the production and distribution company’s related content that they have in their library and have paid for. This is most probably due to a license agreement with the parent company coming to an end.

 

Hence, it doesn’t matter if you have purchased the movie or television show, you won’t be able to view it from September. No Studiocanal asset will be present on the PlayStation Store Germany and everything will be removed. We see the only harm of digital purchases in this situation, as you can’t permanently keep your purchases.

 

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A bit tangential to this discussion, but I've noted on Apple Music the occasional song I've "bought" and downloaded to my phone will suddenly be "unavailable in your country."  I have assumed this was some kind of distribution rights kerfuffle, and it's not a huge deal but you know I did pay for those songs.  I'm sure there's some fine print somewhere that allows them to renege on the deal without warning or compensation.

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Posted (edited)

You don’t truly own any digital movies, music, ebooks, audiobooks etc. etc. despite purchasing them. I have hundreds of novels downloaded to my Kindle Oasis and over time I realized that some books simply disappeared while others were edited without my knowledge. This was disheartening to me due to the investment I made in my digital library so I decided to brick that Kindle. I took it offline and its in permanent airplane mode. I haven’t lost a single book since. While connected they have the ability to reach out and take what they want when rights change. My Kindle was cheap enough for me to brick compared to the cost of all the content that was stored on it.

Edited by ▫️
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I never buy digital content for this specific reason. I'll rent off Amazon or whatever if I want to watch something bad enough but I'll never buy it, all I'd be doing is paying more to access something multiple times through that provider and if they choose to pull it that access is gone. If I want something bad enough to keep I'll buy a physical copy, they're few and far between these days though.

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I guess it just depends on your situation since physical copies have limitations. I have built up a large collection on iTunes from their weekly $4.99 sales. I have been traveling for work for over 20 years and so buying digitally makes sense for my family. And me of course since I have access to my library on the go. For instance, I purchased Unforgiven last night on iTunes for $4.99. I am sharing my purchases on a Family plan. My family (including my father) are located in different countries and states. But they all automatically had access to that film the moment I bought it. The other benefit is that HD movie releases in my purchased library are being upgraded to 4K copies at no additional cost when those movies get a 4K release. Physical media may be king but are you going to keep buying upgrades for your favorite films? From DVD to Blu-ray and now we have Ultra HD Blu-ray for 4K.

I also have a list of my collection so I’ve been tracking to see if anything gets pulled. What I’ve learned is this. I’ve never lost a single iTunes movie despite hearing reports of others having lost them from their collections. Usually, its because they have moved and are trying to access their purchased films in a different countries iTunes Store. A VPN fixes that.  Interestingly enough, I have seen movies pulled from the iTunes Store that I purchased. They are no longer available to buy. But its still there in my cloud purchase and I am able to download and watch it. Years later. Does that mean it will be there in another ten years from now, who knows?

I have both physical media and digital as there are clearly benefits to both. Most of my physical media are simply not available for digital purchase. 80’s movies like The Manhattan Project and To Live and Die in LA along with many others.

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