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Apple iTunes & Amazon Prime Video facing lawsuits over 'buy' button

30 Apr 2021 | Rasmus Larsen |

Apple is facing a class action lawsuit for telling users that they 'buy' digital movies and TV shows on the iTunes store. Amazon Prime Video is facing a similar lawsuit.

'Buy' implies ownership

Are you really buying digital movies and TV shows, or is it really a long-term rental? A group of consumers in the US feel misled by iTunes because Apple reserves the right to revoke access to movies. That is according to reports from CourtHouseNews and other outlets. - "Though some consumers may get lucky and never lose access to any of their paid for media, others may one day find that their digital content is now gone forever," the consumers say in the lawsuit. "Regardless, all consumers have overpaid for the digital content because they are not in fact owners of the digital content as represented by defendant." - "Just like Best Buy cannot come into a person’s home to repossess the movie DVD that such person purchased from it, defendant should not be able to remove, or permit the removal by others of, digital content from its customers." Amazon is facing a separate but similar lawsuit over its use of a 'buy' button on Prime Video purchases.

Blade Runner 2049 on iTunes

Apple's defense

Earlier this month, judge John Mendez denied Apple's attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, ruling that it can proceed to a federal courtroom, although he cleared the company of the false advertising and unfair competition claims. In its defense, Apple did not dispute the notion that access to a movie can be restricted if it loses distribution rights. Apple emphasized that users can download movies onto a hard drive where they will remain even if iTunes loses distribution rights. The download option is tied to the Apple TV app (née iTunes) and the movie will remain copyright protected. Movies can be downloaded in up to 1080p HD - not 4K HDR or Dolby Atmos. The download option does not work on devices like the Apple TV box or Smart TVs either. Apple also referred to the report from Forbes, which is the lawsuit references, as misleading. It was later revealed that the customer had requested iTunes to change his region from Australia to Canada, after which access was restricted to some movies because the Canadian store lacked the rights. And another detail; if a VOD service loses distribution rights, it loses the rights to offer the movie to new users. However, the title will typically remain available for streaming and download to users who have already acquired access.

Lawsuit can proceed

Apple also countered by saying that the customers' complaints were speculative because the plaintiffs never actually lost access to any purchased content. This notion was not disputed by the other party but the judge did not buy the premise. - "Apple contends that 'o reasonable consumer would believe' that purchased content would remain on the iTunes platform indefinitely," wrote judge John Mendez. "But in common usage, the term 'buy' means to acquire possession over something. It seems plausible, at least at the motion to dismiss stage, that reasonable consumers would expect their access couldn’t be revoked." - "Plaintiff alleges here that he would not have been willing to pay as much for the content, if anything, if he had not been misled by Apple’s misrepresentations about his ability to indefinitely access that content. This economic injury is concrete and actual, not speculative as Apple contends." - Source: CourtHouseNews, Hollywood Reporter

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