Over the weekend I reported on how Discovery Channel TV show purchases will be deleted from Playstation libraries on December 31st. This was due to what is apparently a licensing dispute between the two companies. This move has raised critical questions about the true nature of digital ownership and the legal rights of consumers in such scenarios.
In my latest video we dive further into this topic as I fear it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
The terms of service for many digital platforms, including PlayStation, often state that they can discontinue access to purchased content at any time, without prior notice or liability. Here’s language I found in Sony’s TOS for their now closed TV and movie store:
“Unless as otherwise stated in this Agreement, SCEA, at its sole discretion, may indefinitely suspend, or discontinue any and all online access to content at any time, including for maintenance service or upgrades, without prior notice or liability.”
This clause, buried in the fine print, leaves consumers with little to no legal recourse. The situation becomes even more complicated when considering the obsolescence of certain platforms and devices, which further complicates access to purchased digital content.
At the heart of this issue lies DRM, technology designed to control the use of digital content and prevent copying. Because DRM requires server infrastructure to support, many companies could decide to turn off the servers in an effort to save cost on their legacy devices. This leads to a situation where consumers, despite having “purchased” digital content, can lose access to that content without any form of compensation.
While the future looks gloomy there are some DRM-free brightspots in both gaming and music:
Platforms like GOG.com (compensated affiliate link) have shown a different path by offering DRM-free content. This approach allows consumers to truly “own” the digital files they purchase, free from the constraints of DRM. GOG allows consumers to download and keep their purchased content without the need for continuous online verification.
The music industry provides another example of successful DRM-free distribution. Initially, digital music was sold with DRM, tying consumers to specific platforms. However, over time, companies like Apple began selling DRM-free songs, allowing consumers to play their purchased music on any device. This shift was a significant win for consumer rights and set a precedent that the TV and movie industry could potentially follow.
The current state of the TV and movie industry, with its reliance on DRM, poses a significant risk to consumer rights and the long-term viability of the industry. The record industry’s experience with DRM shows that a DRM-free approach is more consumer-friendly and ultimately more profitable. Consumers now have the choice to purchase music and have it able to play on just about anything, and/or subscribe to a streaming service.
I believe Apple could take the lead here and consider adopting DRM-free purchases for their TV shows and movies. Apple after all now owns a TV and movie studio in addition to a platform to sell it to their billions of users. This change could not only protect consumer rights but also potentially lead to a healthier, more consumer-centric industry.
As consumers, it’s essential to be aware of these issues and advocate for our rights in the digital age. The shift towards DRM-free content in the music industry was a significant step forward, and it’s time for other digital content to follow suit. By understanding our rights and voicing our concerns, we can influence the industry to adopt more consumer-friendly practices, ensuring that our digital purchases are truly ours to keep.
How can you help? Why not send Tim Cook an email at email@example.com. Here’s what I sent him the other day:
Dear Mr. Cook:
Apple revolutionized the music industry by offering the first viable digital music store, followed by leading the industry to remove restrictive DRM from purchases. These innovations were not only consumer-friendly but also demonstrated Apple’s ability to lead and influence the market positively. The RIAA, who once thought DRM-free media would destroy their industry, is now thriving.
Today, I wish to propose Apple offer DRM free purchase options for movies and TV shows. While the studios will likely not agree to this currently, Apple is uniquely positioned to set the example by offering Apple Studios productions for purchase without DRM.
By providing DRM-free purchasing options for Apple’s original content, you could once again position Apple as a trailblazer, advocating for consumer rights and leading by example. This move would not only offer unmatched flexibility and freedom for users but also potentially encourage other content providers to reconsider their stance on anti-consumer DRM restrictions.
Just this week consumers who purchased content on Sony Playstations from the Discovery channel learned that their purchases are going to be removed from their digital libraries with no refund offered. This is largely due to DRM being tied to only the Sony platform.
Your leadership can make the difference for both consumers and the industry. Apple is really the only company that can do it!
Sadly until something changes I fear we’re going to see many more consumers losing access to their purchases as technologies continue to evolve.