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​The Deception of “Buying” Digital Movies

Published: 4th of October 2022

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Most people know internet movie streaming as something where you pay a monthly fee for temporary access to movies and TV shows. A simple concert. However, some services (Such as Prime Video and iTunes) give you an option to “buy” a movie, instead of simply renting it.

As an example; lets look at the Prime Video sales page for the movie “Hercules”.

There are three main options to watch “Hercules” with different price points and different conditions for viewing the movie.

Amazon Prime Video store page for the movie Hercules

  1. The first option has you subscribing specifically for MGM movies for an additional price of £4.49 per month (on top of paying £8.99 per month for Amazon Prime).

  2. The second option is renting the movie for 48 hours (after pressing play within the first 30 days) for £3.49.

  3. The third option is to “Buy” the movie for £9.99.

If you for some reason love “Hercules” than buying the movie for £9.99 might sound ideal but there is just one problem….

That “Buy” button is a scam.

You are not buying the content in the common definition that people would expect, were you own a copy of that media. If you look at Section 4 (Digital Content) Subsection i (Availability of Purchased Digital Content) of the Prime Video Terms of Use, you will find the following paragraph;

“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 or for other reasons, and Amazon will not be liable to you if Purchased Digital Content becomes unavailable for further download or streaming.”

You are not provided any ownership of the content you have bought. Only that the content you “bought” will be “generally” available. Amazon is allowed to “sell” you a movie where they don’t have perpetual and irrevocable license to the movie they are selling. Leading to movies purchased being taken away from customers when the copyright pulls the rights from Amazon. The same situation applies to other internet storefronts that claim to sell digital movies and TV shows, such as iTunes.

The only exception I know of is GOG, who sell DRM-free movies but those are aimed at gamers and there are only a dozen or so movies available.

Consumer Rights in the Internet Age

If you buy a DVD or a Blue-Ray at a retail store, you are able to play that disk for as long as that disk physically works (often over 20 years). There are very few if any countries that would allow a shop to send around bailiffs to seize DVDs already bought years past, because the distributor no-longer has the rights to distribute the content.

If a retailer dared attempt such seizure of people’s Property, there would mass outrage. The media would shout about the retailer being thief’s, questions would be raised in parliament and the business would most likely face legal problems.

Or what if a movie studio wanting to wipe the memory of a controversial movie they released, told DVDs manufacturers to blacklist all copies of the movie? With account-based DRM, they can simply delete all copies from the people who honesty purchased a “copy” of the movie.

Why should people lose rights to content they purchased, just because it was bought in a digital form?

This is another case where big tech has been allowed to crush the rights of the average person. In corporation with the Hollywood copyright cartel. Who will cry about how copyright is needed to promote creativity while removing that “creativity” to write-off the investment on their taxes by effectively stealing movies from people who were told they had bought them.

Actively being rewarded for walking over the rights of the public while being effectively paid to do so by those same people in lost taxes.

What a awful deal for consumers. All the costs of a purchase without any of the rights.

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