Digital Movies - Do You Own Them?

Three things about me that you probably didn't know:

1. I really enjoy watching movies, especially older ones.

2. I am, unapologetically, an Apple fanboy.

3. I love a bargain.

Combine those three things, and you'll understand why I was excited to learn that the iTunes Store is currently featuring several 10 film collections for $19.99. Using my old-school mental math, that comes out to a little under two dollars a movie!

Most of the bundles are divided up into decades (although they have a few movies in the wrong decade) and there are some pretty great flicks here. All of them are in HD, and some have been remastered to 4K. Here's an example... one of the collections is named "Iconic Films of the 80s" and contains:

  • The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
  • Airplane!
  • Footloose (1984)
  • Urban Cowboy
  • Clue
  • Pretty in Pink
  • Some Kind of Wonderful
  • Terms of Endearment
  • Crocodile Dundee
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off
80s Film Collection

Sounds great, right? But there's always someone who wants to rain on my parade, and more than one person has told me that I don't "own" what I buy on iTunes. Or do I?

Well, according to the fine print on Apple's site (you know, the stuff you scroll through before you click "agree"), "Apple and its licensors reserve the right to change, suspend, remove or disable access to any iTunes products, content or other materials comprising a part of the iTunes service at any time without notice." You'll find similar notices in the fine print for other digital content providers like Amazon, Google, Vudu, etc.

So while I do own the rights to view the movies and shows I've purchased (and share them with my family), they could take them away at any time - and I wouldn't get a refund. You're paying for a license, in effect. But it is possible that you'll hold a license to a digital asset that's no longer available. Over the years, I've seen older paid apps slowly disappear from my iPhones. I try not to sweat that, since they're usually ones that I haven't used in years.

Sure, I can download them to my device - but the 10 movie collection I mentioned above takes up a little over 40GB of space! My iPad has 128GB of memory; my iPhone has 256. Needless to say, I stream all of the movies and shows I own on iTunes instead of downloading them. Broadband internet is a beautiful thing.

For the convenience of not having to swap out and store DVDs and Blu-rays, that's a risk I'm willing to take - especially when the movies are less than two dollars apiece (I usually buy them when they're on sale for $5). I guess you could say I "trust the cloud", especially when it comes to Apple. I don't think the iTunes store is going away anytime soon, so I feel quite confident that my movies (and TV shows) will be accessible for a long time to come. 

Unless there's a zombie apocalypse, and I doubt I'd have much time to watch movies then anyway.

What do you think? Is it worth the risk, or am I nuts to "trust the cloud"?

Scot Chestnut


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