A young Canadian man named Anders G da Silva just learned this the hard way. He posted this on Twitter a couple days ago:
Three movies he thought he’d “purchased” from iTunes suddenly disappeared from his library. He discovered, to his surprise, that the “content provider” (read: studio) decided to make them no longer available. So his access to movies that he’d paid for was revoked and Apple told him he was shit out of luck.
Think about what that means. If Disney decides they want to put one of their animated classics back in the vault they can do it and your digital copy in the cloud will be gone. Even if you paid for it. If some future George Lucas decides he doesn’t want you to be able to see the original version of his movie, preferring you only have access to his new improved version, he can do it. Your digital copy will be gone. Episodes of your favorite TV series can be pulled. Music you’ve paid for can go away. Kindle books purchased on Amazon have been taken away.
Think about it: If some guy from a publisher walked into your apartment, took your favorite books off your shelf, and left you a credit for some other book… wouldn’t you be pissed?
If some record company suit walked into your house, took your favorite 180 gram Mondo Vinyl records, and left you a $10 coupon… wouldn’t you be angry?
This is the same damn thing! You’re paying for content… and someone is taking it away from you at their own convenience.
If your copy only exists in the cloud, you don’t actually have it in your possession. And the studio can choose to take it away from you whenever they want.
Some of you are old enough to remember the early years of DVD. At that time, some of the studios tried to foist a scheme on everyone called Divx, which would have forced people who’d purchased a movie disc to pay a rental fee to the studio every time you put that disc in your own DVD player. At that time, back in 1997-98, movie fans rose up as one and said: “NO!”
Divx died… and good riddance to it.
But here’s the simple truth: If physical discs go away, and your only option as a movie fan is to purchase movies digitally, Divx is essentially back for good and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Studios will be able to charge you whatever they want to for their content, no matter how unreasonable the price. They can choose to make titles rental only. They can choose to take your titles away from you. Even titles you’ve already “purchased”. You will have no power to stop them.
But if you buy a disc instead, you’ve always got a back up copy. If the Internet goes down, if the studio decides to put that film “back in the vault”, if the director decides to change it… whatever. You’ve still got that movie, you can still watch it whenever you want. And in much better quality than any stream. Plus discs often come with a Digital code too, so you get the best of both worlds.
Kids, do yourselves a favor. Those of us who are a little bit older have been down this road before and we’re trying to look out for you. We’re trying to have your back, to make sure you don’t get screwed.
Digital downloads and streaming are great for rentals and great for portability. We like them too.
But if you really care about the content you’re buying, and getting the best deal for your money, get it on disc.
Some day, you will be glad you did.
If you DO buy digital? Make damn sure you actually download it and have a copy of the file on your own hard drive somewhere.
Otherwise, you might one day discover that someone’s taken it away from you.
And you’ll be shit out of luck.