Purchasing digital copies of usually physical goods is so easy and convenient these days, most of us don’t give a second thought about it. We don’t have to carry books around, deal with fragile DVDs, or fumble around for cartridges whenever we want to switch games. But depending on where you bought said digital content, buying might not exactly mean what you think it means. That was the bitter truth that a Canadian iTunes user learned when Apple quietly removed content he already bought because the items were no longer being sold on its digital content store.
Anders G da Silva took to Twitter to reveal his exchange with an iTunes Store customer support representative over the sudden disappearance of his purchased videos. The only explanation he was given was that the content provider of those videos pulled out the movies from the iTunes Store. In exchange, he was being given credits to rent, not buy, other movies.
da Silva contested the action and even the “reparation”, explaining that he already bought those movies and they should remain, regardless of the content provider. Customer support explained that iTunes is only a storefront and has no control over that aspect of the business. It also increased the offered rental credits.
This situation, however, isn’t completely new and has, in fact, been at the heart of the whole DRM situation, especially with music and games. It’s the question of who really owns the content you “buy”. The words “buy” and “purchase” do imply that you are buying them and they are yours, but digital distribution has turned that definition on its head.
In this particular instance, what you really buy from Apple, Amazon, and even Google are effectively licenses to access the digital content. You don’t own the content and neither does Apple. If a publisher decides to pull out their products for one reason or another, you’re practically screwed.