If you’ve followed this site for a while, you’ll notice that I try to take a fair and balanced view about all consumer technology products — yes, I have an iPhone and iPad and on the whole, am I happy Apple customer — apps, movies, music etc. However, I also love my Blackberry Curve and Playbook and will be upgrading to both iPhone5 and BB10 devices in the near term.
When I feel the consumer isn’t getting the right end of the stick, I will investigate to the best of my ability until there is a resolution or clear explanation or simply highlight what is wrong and propose changes.
It is based on an interesting exchange I had with Apple’s iTunes Support team. However, the issue doesn’t appear to be Apple’s fault but does highlight something most iTunes buyers may not be aware of.
As we all know, there’s a push in today’s world towards the cloud. There is a myriad of consumer services available for cloud-storing and cloud-sharing services like Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, MediaFire, Amazon, Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive and Apple’s iCloud. In the corporate world, there are countless enterprise strategy decisions being made every day for cloud architecture and distributed frameworks to support efforts in disaster recovery, cost savings, or efficiency.
The cloud is front and centre and the mass consumer knows what cloud means today compared to twenty years back when that beautiful puffy image appeared on whiteboards as the gateway to the Internet. Times have changed and even my own lady is proud to have her own place “in the Cloud” as she looks at me in a mocking fashion. Thanks Apple for delivering us iCloud for the masses. ;-)
One of the benefits of cloud storage is that the responsibility of organizing and storing your digital life becomes “easy” compared to the physical, real-world act of buying external hard-drives in gigabyte and terabyte configurations and then MAINTAINING your digital life with active organization and filing. That’s the big sell for cloud services but the cloud comes with great danger - both in data loss and ownership.
My Exchange with iTunes Support
About a year ago, I purchased the remake of Yuma 3:10 with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. Being a Glenn Ford fan (yeah, a Canadian! And Superman’s father in the original!), I thought the remake of the classic was great! One day, I opted to buy the digital version of the movie. This digital purchase was done well before Steve Jobs announced iCloud in his last presentation for Apple.
In a pre-iCloud world, you were responsible for backing up your digital content to hard drives or USB keys. Messy! After iCloud, all my previously purchased music, movie, and television showed up in an amazing section called “Previously Purchased” in the iTunes client. In AppStore, re-downloading previously purchased apps was already a common practice for iPhone and iPad users. This would also include purchases from iBookstore.
But up until iCloud, music, movies and television content did not have the luxury of allowing customers to re-download so all iTunes customers were left with the task of managing, organizing and backing up their digital content.
Up until this month, everything appeared fine until I discovered Yuma 3:10 was not showing up in my Previously Purchased section (iCloud) within iTunes. I then proceeded to email iTunes Support for an explanation.
I will admit that Apple’s iTunes support is very fast and supportive. I wasn’t able to respond to Victoria immediately due to some commitments and she would check-in each day to tell me she was ready to help once I retrieved the information she required.
Rather than look through my extensive purchases within iTunes’ Account > Purchase History (BTW, a really good feature from Apple but what would be really great is a download or export of the data for easier review), I simply searched my GMAIL (Always use GMAIL for receipts or online purchases) to find the original invoice. I then sent a copy of the invoice back to iTunes support.
This is what followed:
Eych suggested my purchase might be hidden. For starters, I never even knew such a feature existed. I don’t understand the context of “hidden” purchase (might have been tied to Ping) but the support pages don’t describe the root benefit of hiding and unhiding purchases. Does anyone know?
Anyhow, my Yuma 3:10 was never a hidden purchase. So I sent back another note to iTunes Support to confirm to inform them.
What a surprise! The movie was “modified” by the content provider and is no longer available to me via iCloud (Previously Purchased). Wow.
I do thank Apple for offering me the rental credit but I do recall paying double the price for a digital copy of Yuma 3:10. But that’s not the point.
THERE IS A BIGGER PROBLEM.
What the heck is modified even mean to the lay customer? Remember, I PURCHASED this movie from the iTunes store and beyond having my own back-up (no longer retrievable due to an HD crash - ugh), I have no recourse. Can we say b*llsh*t at this point?
I wrote iTunes Support expressing my shock and lack of understanding over this aspect of digital content rights.
It appears this has nothing to do with Apple but rests solely with content owners! Could Apple be responsible for not arranging the proper agreements during content negotiations? I don’t know as I don’t have the granular details.
Then we wonder why Kim DotCom is a thorn in the backside of the mediaopoly in Hollywood. Hollywood and content owners are up to their game once more and the consumer isn’t part of the equation. Just read that last email very carefully. I am surprised that there’s no recourse here besides a rental credit.
ITunes Support also confirmed they could not offer me a purchase credit for the same purchase value as a result of this incident.
THE FINE PRINT:
It means that your digital content purchases are NOT SAFE in iCloud! It means that even if you have purchased your movie from iTunes, and you keep the movies in iCloud, they are not secure. It also means that if a content provider re-modifies the content, after your purchase, you appear lose your rights to it and must buy again if you have no backups.
Can anyone tell me what is wrong with this picture? I have one thing to say. Go to hell Hollywood. The entire reason I opted for digital content was for the convenience of having it stored with Apple’s iCloud so that I can review and retrieve this content from 5 Apple authorized devices at — home, work, friends, or family or somewhere while on business travel. Guess not.
Problem: I thought iCloud could be my domain for “safe storage”.
So as it stands, if you have an entire library of digital movie content sitting in iCloud, back it up as you run the risk of it being removed from the iTunes Store or having it re-modified by content providers. Do any of us remember reading this fine print anywhere?
I do thank Apple for informing me about this issue but to be honest, this issue is such a big one that I feel many consumers could be in a position to lose their right to purchased iTunes movie content simply because they felt iCloud was “safe storage” and as such, do not back-up their purchased digital content to local/personal storage.
Clearly, the content providers are in the wrong here because any logical person would understand that when someone purchases content, they assume they “technically” own it and will have access to it without fail like any physical media.
Suddenly, DVD and BluRay sound hot again. This is another strike against DRM, digital and cloud-storage.