Posted Wed Sep 12, 2018 at 10:45 AM PDT by Steven Cohen
A user's recent iTunes experience is shining a light on the dark side of digital "ownership."
Do users truly own the digital copies they buy on services like iTunes? Well, not when content providers can simply decide to yank movies from your library whenever they choose. And that's exactly what happened to iTunes user Anders G da Silva.
As recounted in a thread on his Twitter account (embedded in full below), da Silva recently loaded up his iTunes library only to notice that three of his purchased titles were now missing. After contacting customer support, da Silva was told that the content provider had removed those titles from the Canadian iTunes store. And while that's bad enough, the only compensation Apple offered in response was two free rentals.
When da Silva understandably requested for his movies to be added back to his iTunes library or for Apple to issue an actual refund, the company informed him that iTunes was merely a "store front" for content providers to sell their titles. As such, they couldn't keep offering any movies that a studio had removed. Likewise, refunds can only be granted within a certain time frame, and da Silva's purchases were apparently no longer covered under Apple's refund policy. The company's solution to da Silva's continued and totally justified frustration: two more free rentals!
Though not terribly surprising, situations like this only serve to further illuminate the difference between physical media and digital media "ownership." If a content provider no longer wants to offer a physical disc online or in an actual brick-and-mortar store (or perhaps is no longer able to due to a rights issue), they of course have the option to pull remaining copies from retail locations and the ability to stop sending any new stock. But that doesn't mean that they also have the right to sneak into the home of a customer who already bought the movie and take the disc back. And that's essentially what this iTunes policy is allowing in the digital realm.
While iTunes does state that "previous purchases may be unavailable if they are no longer on the iTunes Store" on its website, removing previously bought copies from a user's library without issuing a refund just seems wrong. On the bright side, at least there will be no confusion about the free rentals Apple granted as compensation. It's understood that those are supposed to disappear in a couple of days.
Here's Anders G da Silva's complete Twitter thread on the matter with Apple's responses in full:
Part 2:— Anders G da Silva (@drandersgs) September 11, 2018
Me: I am not really interested in the rentals. I want my movies back or my money back.
Apple: I totally get how you feel...
Me: Condescending, but go one...
Apple: You see, we are just a store front.
Me: Store front?
Apple: Yeah, we take your money, but we are not responsible for what is sold. And,— Anders G da Silva (@drandersgs) September 11, 2018
we certainly do NOT guarantee you get to keep anything you buy in our store front.
We only guarantee that we get to keep your money.
Me: I see... So, that "Buy" button is meaningless? It should maybe be called: "Feelin Lucky?"— Anders G da Silva (@drandersgs) September 11, 2018
Apple: I see you are unhappy. Have two more rentals on us.
This reminds me of a story I used to hear growing up in— Anders G da Silva (@drandersgs) September 11, 2018
Brazil. A person goes to a store, sees a stereo they really like. They buy it. They
get a box that looks like there is a stereo inside.
They get home only to find the box only contains a few stones. The modern twist is that, here,— Anders G da Silva (@drandersgs) September 11, 2018
the person goes back to the store to ask for the stereo they bought. The store manager says sorry, can't help you.
We are just a front. So they cannot be held responsible for what the manufacturer puts— Anders G da Silva (@drandersgs) September 11, 2018
in the box. I see you are unhappy. I'll do you a sweet deal. Rent the stereo from us free of
You can keep it for 30 days. But, once you plug it in, you have to return it in— Anders G da Silva (@drandersgs) September 11, 2018
Time to dust off the old DVD player, I guess. For all their faults, at least DVDs
Thank you to everyone that has retweeted.
Source: @drandersgs (Twitter)
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