Apple responds to viral tweet over disappearing iTunes movies

Posted:
in iOS edited September 2018
Apple over the weekend responded to a viral tweet claiming it had removed purchased movies from a user's iTunes account with their consent, allegations that kicked spurred a flood of commentary regarding digital media rights.




The tweet in question outlined a fairly simple-sounding scenario in which a user said three movies he had purchased in iTunes had been removed from his account, meaning he was unable to play or re-download them. Apple support acknowledged that the movies were gone and attempted to rectify the issue by providing rental credits, far off the value of the missing films.

Me: Hey Apple, three movies I bought disappeared from my iTunes library.
Apple: Oh yes, those are not available anymore. Thank you for buying them. Here are two movie rentals on us!
Me: Wait... WHAT?? @tim_cook when did this become acceptable? pic.twitter.com/dHJ0wMSQH9

-- Anders G da Silva (@drandersgs)
The problem, and initial response from Apple, prompted speculation that Apple has the power to delete purchased media at will, but an investigation by CNET suggests there is more to the story.

For starters, the user in question had recently relocated from Australia to Canada, changing their active region in the iTunes Store. Some movies are not available in different regions, and if they are, they can be different versions of the film. For instance, production houses might change political or regional references, remove aspects of a film to satisfy ratings boards in more conservative countries, or change the name of a movie to something more relevant for a specific audience.

That seems to have been the issue in this particular situation.

In a statement provided to CNET, an Apple spokesperson said, "Any movies you've already downloaded can be enjoyed at any time and will not be deleted unless you've chosen to do so. If you change your country setting, some movies may not be available to re-download from the movie store if the version you purchased isn't also available in the new country. If needed, you can change your country setting back to your prior country to re-download those movies."

The statement suggests neither Apple nor the studio pulled these specific films. Instead, the titles likely have Canada-specific versions that are different than those offered in Australian. Anders is also seemingly unable to switch back to the Australian iTunes Store as it requires a local Paypal or billing address, which he no longer has. There are apparently workarounds here, but it seems unnecessarily difficult to pull off.

The crux of the matter is physical ownership versus digital ownership. To date, Apple has not revoked access to a film that someone has purchased (outside of these fringe scenarios). For those who want to play it safe, best practices would imply downloading and creating a physical copy of the movie. Store these on a hard drive, and should ever the day come that Apple or a studio ever remove access, you still have them available.

In this case, it appears Apple Support has now pledged a workaround to allow Anders to once more have access to his movies. He also has been a good sport about it, noting he "fell into a licensing crack, it seems."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 52
    Having a physical copy of the file does not mean you can play them. Apple has DRM embedded in its supposedly DRM free audio files and I have seen files purchased from iTunes become unplayable on any Apple device despite having purchased them long ago- or they were iTunes Match files downloaded from content I own.

    I have spent way too much time with Apple help over a number of these files and ended up purchasing them a second time just to be done with it and I doubt this is unique to me.

    Amazon has had this issue where purchased books disappeared from Kindles after the company had rights disputes with publishers.

    To be truthful, the only way to be sure you have audio files you cannot have revoked is to buy physical CDs and not rely in any way on anything from an Apple server. I have mostly stopped buying iTunes tracks and buy physical CDs from Amazon to rip for my own use in ALAC (formerly Apple Lossless) or buy them DRM free from HD Tracks and others.

    Tim wants to rent you everything- just like Adobe, Autodesk and Microsoft.
    edited September 2018 boboliciousboboliciousmike54claire1igohmmmdecoderingjony0
  • Reply 2 of 52
    You'd better download the movie. I tend to rely on Apple to always have the movie available, but they might not. If Apple loses the right to sell the movie, and removes it from their library, you will not be able to "stream" it. It just isn't there, and there is no way to download it, even though you purchased it. This happened to me a few years ago with Avatar. In a different kind of situation all together, I purchased a movie from Apple. Apple tends to get around to actually charing me sometimes days later. When they charged me, there was a problem with my credit card. It is my online credit card that I use for services and what not. I have to fill the account with money periodically. Apple went to make a charge for the movie and there was not enough money in the account. Interestingly enough, I could not play any music or movies that I had already purchased. iTunes would just demand that get them the money. I couldn't even download free apps. Luckily I could just transfer money to the account and fix it. I do not think it fair that I be blocked from content I already purchased due to a problem with a current purchase though. This happened also when I used PayPal for a purchase.
    cornchipigohmmm
  • Reply 3 of 52
    Just download the movie and store it on some offline storage. Storage is cheap, download is expensive. On the Mac right click on the movie and choose “Show in Finder” in iTunes (on Windows I remember that as “Show in Windows Explorer”)... From the storage media copy it to your iPhone or iPad by drag & drop in iTunes, no need to download again...
    edited September 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 52
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,938member
    Typical knee jerk reaction. It's ALWAYS Apple's fault!. Instead of "buying" digital content it might be better to be advertised as an unlimited "rental" agreement. Perhaps AI should do an investigative deep dive on the issue of digital content ownership. The DCMA is one huge bag of hurt when it comes to who has the rights to what. I have "purchased" a number of movies from iTunes, Vudu, and Prime but I have no idea what I actually bought. Streaming rights only? Do I "own" anything other than a license? Can the copyright owner remove a movie from the service I purchased it from? If I have a physical media copy of a movie I don't think I can be prevented from playing it a compatible device. Or can I?

    What if Walmart decides to shut Vudu down? Do I lose the movies I purchased? do I have a right to a physical media version in it's place? I'm sure the lawyers have this all spelled out in the fine print somewhere.
    edited September 2018 mike54claire1StrangeDayslolliverigohmmmhammeroftruthjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 52
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,748member
    davgreg said:
    Having a physical copy of the file does not mean you can play them. Apple has DRM embedded in its supposedly DRM free audio files and I have seen files purchased from iTunes become unplayable on any Apple device despite having purchased them long ago- or they were iTunes Match files downloaded from content I own.

    I have spent way too much time with Apple help over a number of these files and ended up purchasing them a second time just to be done with it and I doubt this is unique to me.

    Amazon has had this issue where purchased books disappeared from Kindles after the company had rights disputes with publishers.

    To be truthful, the only way to be sure you have audio files you cannot have revoked is to buy physical CDs and not rely in any way on anything from an Apple server. I have mostly stopped buying iTunes tracks and buy physical CDs from Amazon to rip for my own use in ALAC (formerly Apple Lossless) or buy them DRM free from HD Tracks and others.

    Tim wants to rent you everything- just like Adobe, Autodesk and Microsoft.
    What a load of BS. If "Tim" wanted you to rent everything they'd have nothing but rentals.
    edited September 2018 backstabclaire1wlymStrangeDaysracerhomie3lolliverjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 52
    The reason to buy digital version is to avoid physical copy and able to watch/listen wherever I want. Still need to make a physical copy to watch/listen wherever I want?!

    Glad I am never big on digital purchase. I bought few hundred dollar worth of albums and audio books from iTunes before I switch to Spotify. No movie from iTunes.
    Guess I will not buy any digital media follow this story for a long time.



  • Reply 7 of 52
    lkrupp said:
    Typical knee jerk reaction. It's ALWAYS Apple's fault!. Instead of "buying" digital content it might be better to be advertised as an unlimited "rental" agreement. Perhaps AI should do an investigative deep dive on the issue of digital content ownership. The DCMA is one huge bag of hurt when it comes to who has the rights to what. I have "purchased" a number of movies from iTunes, Vudu, and Prime but I have no idea what I actually bought. Streaming rights only? Do I "own" anything other than a license? Can the copyright owner remove a movie from the service I purchased it from? If I have a physical media copy of a movie I don't think I can be prevented from playing it a compatible device. Or can I?

    What if Walmart decides to shut Vudu down? Do I lose the movies I purchased? do I have a right to a physical media version in it's place? I'm sure the lawyers have this all spelled out in the fine print somewhere.
    If Vudu did shut down, you actually would lose all your movies. You technically don't own digital movies. Like you said, you are basically paying for an unlimited rental license. It's the same thing with iTunes. If Apple went out of business, you would lose your movies as well. It's all in the fine print on the iTunes Store. I assume most people don't realize they don't actually own the digital movies they purchase from iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, etc. That's one of the drawbacks from digital purchases. I still always buy physical media over digital. The majority of my iTunes and Vudu movie collection are from redeeming digital copies from movies I buy. 
    edited September 2018 igohmmmhammeroftruth
  • Reply 8 of 52
    This is such a non-story.
    He did not download the movie, changed regions, and due to licensing restrictions in the new region, he can't download it now.  And that's Apples fault somehow?
    The only reason this story has any legs is due to internet fueled paranoia that somehow Apple is reaching into your computer to delete files.

    stompyclaire1teejay2012StrangeDayslolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 52
    It’s not just movies. It’s music as well. Albums that I had “purchased “ have disappeared. If I had been alerted I would have downloaded it. An example was the album by Yusuf Islam   (Cat Stevens) roadslinger. No longer in the Apple catalog. 
  • Reply 10 of 52
    loopless said:
    This is such a non-story.
    He did not download the movie, changed regions, and due to licensing restrictions in the new region, he can't download it now.  And that's Apples fault somehow?
    The only reason this story has any legs is due to internet fueled paranoia that somehow Apple is reaching into your computer to delete files.

    In todays society, it's always someone else's fault. 
    macseekerstompyclaire1teejay2012lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 52
    davendaven Posts: 514member
    I download many of the movies I purchased so I can watch them while I'm camping and don't have Internet service.
    macpluspluswatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 52
    I think AppleInsider should have incldued a link to their article on using the "Movies Anywhere service".
    https://appleinsider.com/articles/17/10/20/how-to-transfer-dvd-and-blu-ray-movies-to-itunes-using-vudu-and-movies-anywhere

    I frequently move between 4 countries and have iTunes accounts in each and a library of movies, music and apps that spans all 4 accounts.  It's a bit messy - but I'm impressed Apple/iTunes actually manages it - surely 99.9% of users don't use these features, but the facilities are there and work well.

    For someone who 'moves permanently' from one region to another though - I can see how that is much more difficult and not really supported.  But the same would have been true if the movie was purchased on DVD.  Here in OZ the disc would have been Region 4, and a 'standard' DVD player in Canada would be locked to Region 1 and wouldn't play the DVD.  So in that sense - iTunes is no different to a DVD.  The differences are:
    1) it's really easy to get an "unlocked" dvd player
    2) worse case scenario you can take your Oz DVD player with you to watch your Aussie films


    ronnlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 52
    claire1claire1 Posts: 497unconfirmed, member
    WHAT A DUMB ASS.

    I try (very) hard not to call people names but this guy's an idiot. He literally receives an email about one thing, posts it on Twitter and says something COMPLETELY different. I bet the iKnockoff users are having a field day twisting the truth as always with this one. 

    How was this Apple's and Tim Cooks fault? These people.....
    macplusplusStrangeDayslolliverhammeroftruthwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 52
    claire1claire1 Posts: 497unconfirmed, member
    Also replying toi a few people here:

    Re: Downloads
    Problem with this option is 4K. A lot of us now have 4K content and cannot download it to our Apple TVs, Macs etc.
    Yes I know you cannot see the 4K difference on an iPhone but I watch all my movies on big screens, as many of us do.

    Re: Physical media
    Guys, physical media has it's bad points too. Storage space, living with a thief who's also a family member, misplacing a disc, accidentally leaving it in your hot car, having your house robbed, bag robbed, someone accidentally sitting on a disc, and those lovely unavoidable scratches. I stopped buying physical media when no one respected my DVD library and getting my entire gaming library stolen. Started collecting cheap iTunes movies and never looked back (4.99 for 4K!) Today I have more movies than I could ever imagine owning all a tiny Apple TV box! And I don't get people asking "yo can I borrow that movie?"

    Re: Disappearing content
    There should be a law preventing take-backs. 2 of my movies disappeared when the damn studio decided to release a different version and discontinue the old version. For example I had Donnie Darko and it was replaced with "Donnie Darko Anniversary Edition" and my version was not available for months. Luckily they brought it back for us who purchased it but it's not available on iTunes to buy(like Disney vault movies).
    My point is, purchases should "freeze" once bought and not be able to be removed etc. even when changing regions.
    lolliverentropysarthurbamac_128watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 52
    This type of reaction is so typical of not only the millennial mindset, but a culture that cries foul before they allow adequate time for a resolution. And if they’re at fault, they have no healthy shame or remorse about it. They simply shrug it off. Troubling times, these are. 
    lolliverentropysclaire1
  • Reply 16 of 52
    davgreg said:
    Having a physical copy of the file does not mean you can play them. Apple has DRM embedded in its supposedly DRM free audio files and I have seen files purchased from iTunes become unplayable on any Apple device despite having purchased them long ago- or they were iTunes Match files downloaded from content I own.

    I have spent way too much time with Apple help over a number of these files and ended up purchasing them a second time just to be done with it and I doubt this is unique to me.

    Amazon has had this issue where purchased books disappeared from Kindles after the company had rights disputes with publishers.

    To be truthful, the only way to be sure you have audio files you cannot have revoked is to buy physical CDs and not rely in any way on anything from an Apple server. I have mostly stopped buying iTunes tracks and buy physical CDs from Amazon to rip for my own use in ALAC (formerly Apple Lossless) or buy them DRM free from HD Tracks and others.

    Tim wants to rent you everything- just like Adobe, Autodesk and Microsoft.
    Cook has little to do with the digital rights model used by Hollywood.

    But cool conspiracy story, bro. 
    edited September 2018 lolliverclaire1watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 52
    davgreg said:
    To be truthful, the only way to be sure you have audio files you cannot have revoked is to buy physical CDs and not rely in any way on anything from an Apple server.
    That’s not “the only way”.
    edited September 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 52
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,561member
    davgreg said:
    Having a physical copy of the file does not mean you can play them. Apple has DRM embedded in its supposedly DRM free audio files 

    Unlikely.

    I have played Apple music files on non-Apple equipment despite having purchased the tracks on iTunes.

    In the early days of iTunes however, the tracks did have DRM attached, so it sounds as if you have left over tracks from the dark times that could not be replaced by iTunes Match.

    Apple Music (the rental service) has DRM (I assume, or else you could keep playing them after you leave the service).

    iTunes tracks purchased do not have DRM.
    edited September 2018 lolliverigohmmmclaire1
  • Reply 19 of 52
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,561member
    arthurba said:
    I think AppleInsider should have incldued a link to their article on using the "Movies Anywhere service".
    https://appleinsider.com/articles/17/10/20/how-to-transfer-dvd-and-blu-ray-movies-to-itunes-using-vudu-and-movies-anywhere

    I frequently move between 4 countries and have iTunes accounts in each and a library of movies, music and apps that spans all 4 accounts.  It's a bit messy - but I'm impressed Apple/iTunes actually manages it - surely 99.9% of users don't use these features, but the facilities are there and work well.

    For someone who 'moves permanently' from one region to another though - I can see how that is much more difficult and not really supported.  But the same would have been true if the movie was purchased on DVD.  Here in OZ the disc would have been Region 4, and a 'standard' DVD player in Canada would be locked to Region 1 and wouldn't play the DVD.  So in that sense - iTunes is no different to a DVD.  The differences are:
    1) it's really easy to get an "unlocked" dvd player
    2) worse case scenario you can take your Oz DVD player with you to watch your Aussie films



    Yup, this is the internet equivalent of region-locked DVD players.

    The problem is not Apple, it's the media distributors who won't allow you to play the stuff you've bought. 

    lolliverarthurba
  • Reply 20 of 52
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,561member
    lkrupp said:
    Typical knee jerk reaction. It's ALWAYS Apple's fault!. Instead of "buying" digital content it might be better to be advertised as an unlimited "rental" agreement. Perhaps AI should do an investigative deep dive on the issue of digital content ownership. The DCMA is one huge bag of hurt when it comes to who has the rights to what. I have "purchased" a number of movies from iTunes, Vudu, and Prime but I have no idea what I actually bought. Streaming rights only? Do I "own" anything other than a license? Can the copyright owner remove a movie from the service I purchased it from? If I have a physical media copy of a movie I don't think I can be prevented from playing it a compatible device. Or can I?

    What if Walmart decides to shut Vudu down? Do I lose the movies I purchased? do I have a right to a physical media version in it's place? I'm sure the lawyers have this all spelled out in the fine print somewhere.

    Whenever you have bought films, music or software from the internet or on physical media, you have never owned anything except a limited license to use it. If you check the license for any games you've bought, you don't even have the right to resell the media disks. If you can't resell it then you never owned it.

    As someone has already pointed out, media players are region-locked, so a Blue-Ray disk you bought in the India won't play in the UK, unless you buy a cracked Blue-Ray player (they're easy enough to get hold of).

    mwhitepakitt
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