The New World Order of streaming videos has downsides, and among them is the fact that streaming services such as Amazon Instant Video will frequently add to a licensing agreement the ability for a studio to pull its content at any time. Thus, we have an instance in which a Christmas movie, purchased last year, is not available to view this holiday season, as reported Sunday by Boing Boing.
It's a tough lesson, but one that's been learned before. Buyers of digital content need to remember that don't own said content, but instead license it.
However, whether or not that's the reason behind this fiasco isn't clear. According to Boing Boing, the film "Disney Prep and Landing 2" was removed from a reader's library, as well as being removed from the site entirely. According to the reader, Bill,
[Last] December I bought some favorite Christmas specials for my kids with the idea they could watch them every year. Went tonight to watch one ("Disney Prep and Landing 2" if you're curious) and it was gone from our library and couldn't be found on the site at all. Amazon has explained to me that Disney can pull their content at any time and "at this time they've pulled that show for exclusivity on their own channel." In other words, Amazon sold me a Christmas special my kids can't watch during the run up to Christmas. It'll be available in July though!
However, The Guardian reported that rather than it being a conscious effort by Disney and Amazon.com, it was a mistake.
Amazon.com told the Guardian that the removal was "a temporary issue with some of our catalog data" which it said has been fixed, adding that "customers should never lose access to their Amazon Instant Video purchases."
It's impossible to find the "Disney Prep and Landing 2" on the Amazon.com site, so it appears that portion of the ban is still in place.
Whether or not the issue has been fixed, it remains true that in many cases the digital content you own is not yours to keep. For example, in 2009, Amazon.com deleted e-book copies of George Orwell's "1984" from customer's libraries without any notice. The company refunded the purchase price to users, telling them them that the book was "no longer available."
What actually happened was that a publisher which did not have the rights to the e-books began selling digital copies without permission. This new event appears to be the first time that Amazon.com has removed access to content which was licensed properly, and which end users had purchased legitimately.