Rentals Are In, Ownership Is Out

May 23, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

We thought the age of rentals was over and we bid farewell to Blockbuster with a nostalgic wave. We were so wrong and it started with SaaS or software as a service. It should also be streaming as a service. The concept sounds good: updated services, tech support, and/or an endless library of entertainment that includes movies, TV shows, music, books, and videogames. The problem is the fees keep getting higher, the tech support doesn’t speak English, the software has bugs, and you don’t own the entertainment.

You don’t own your favorite shows, movies, music, videogames, and books anymore unless you buy physical copies or move the digital downloads off the hosting platform. Australians were scratching their heads over the ownership of their digital media recently The Guardian reported: “‘My Whole Library Is Wiped Out’: What It Means To Own Movies And TV In The Age Of Streaming Services.”

Telstra TV Box Office informed customers that the company would shutter in June and they would lose their purchased media unless they paid another fee to switch everything to Fetch. Customers expected to watch their purchased digital media indefinitely, but they were actually buying into a hosting platform. The problem stems from the entertainment version of SaaS: digital rights management.

People buy digital files but they don’t read the associated terms and conditions. The terms and conditions are long, legalese documents that no one reads. They do clearly state, however, why the digital rights management expectations are. Shaanan Chaney of Melbourne University said it’s unfair for customers to read those documents, but the companies aren’t liable:

“ ‘Such provisions are fairly standard among tech companies. Customers can rent or buy films via Amazon Prime, and the company’s terms of service states the content ‘will generally continue to be available to you for download or streaming … but may become unavailable … Amazon will not be liable to you’.”

Apple iTunes has a similar clause in their terms and conditions, but they suggest customers download their media and backing them up. Digital rights management is important, but it’s run by large corporations that don’t care about consumers (and often creators). Companies do deserve to be paid and run their organizations as they wish, but they should respect their customers (and creators).

Buying physical copies is still a good idea. Life is a subscription and no way to cancel

Whitney Grace, May 23, 2024


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