Apple has issued a statement to CNET in the case of a customer’s disappearing iTunes movies, saying that it does not delete bought movies and hinting that the incidence has to do with the user changing his iTunes region.
The Apple iTunes case
Twitter lit up this week after Anders da Silva, an iTunes customer, shared two emails from Apple customer support, documenting how iTunes had deleted three of his movies and refused to refund him.
Apple has not yet responded to FlatpanelsHD’s request for comment but it has issued a statement to CNET. The company strongly hints that the movies vanished as a result of the customer changing his iTunes region from Australia to Canada. Apple also emphasized that it does not delete customers’ movies – at least not downloaded versions of movies.
- "Any movies you've already downloaded can be enjoyed at any time and will not be deleted unless you've chosen to do so. If you change your country setting, some movies may not be available to re-download from the movie store if the version you purchased isn't also available in the new country. If needed, you can change your country setting back to your prior country to re-download those movies," Apple said in a statement to CNET.
Anders da Silva confirms to CNET that he did in fact move from Australia to Canada and that he therefore updated his region, billing information and home address on iTunes. The missing titles are Cars, Cars 2, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, and while all three are available in both the Australian and Canadian iTunes store, apparently the versions differ. He added that all of his other movies remain available after he changed region.
So why does the iTunes region play a role? That has to do with content rights and the fact that studios offer different versions of the same movies, depending on the region (due to PG rating, censorship etc.).
- "I have other purchases made while in Australia, and using the same Australian iTunes account, that are working perfectly fine," Anders da Silva told CNET. "I fell into a licensing crack, it seems."
As FlatpanelsHD explained in our previous article, bought movies from iTunes generally remain available in the buyer’s library – for streaming and download – even after iTunes stops selling the title. For example: In parts of Europe, Apple has stopped selling the extended versions of The Lords of the Rings but these movies remain available in users’ libraries. The missing link here was that Anders da Silva had changed his iTunes region.
Some digital roadblocks remain
In an ideal world, customers should of course be able to move freely between countries and retain all digital purchases but we all know Hollywood’s troubled history of region-locking DVD and Blu-ray discs. Things are getting better but it will it take time.
CNET speculates that Anders da Silva still has access to the Australian version of the three movies but that in order to get access he will have to change his iTunes region, after which he could download the movies for safekeeping. He tried but ultimately hit a roadblock because iTunes requires him to fill out a local billing address. He would also have to forfeit his Canadian subscriptions and store credits.
Apple suggests that iTunes users should download a copy of their movies as this will ensure that they remain available “at any time”. However, one roadblock is the fact that it is not currently possible to download a 4K HDR version of an iTunes movie.
Another solution would be for Apple to allow customers to "download" - or save - copies of movies to their iCloud digital locker.
While Apple’s statement is a little light on details, CNET’s version of the events certainly sounds plausible. Part of what made this story blow up in the first place was the unsympathetic emails that Anders da Silva received in response to his concerns. That could have been avoided but there are also digital roadblocks that remain in effect.