- A man’s Twitter thread complaining that Apple deleted his movies from iTunes has gone viral.
- The thread seemed to indicate that people who buy films or music for permanent download potentially don’t get to keep those files forever.
- But the problem is more complicated than it looks, and was probably caused by the fact the man in question moved countries, and then got caught in a licensing trap.
- Apple said it doesn’t delete films from people’s libraries.
Apple has responded to a man who went viral on Twitter, claiming the company had deleted his iTunes movies.
Anders Goncalves da Silva posted a thread last week (which has been shared nearly 20,000 times) in which he outlined an exchange with Apple’s customer support.
He claimed he had bought three films which subsequently disappeared from his iTunes library. When he contacted Apple to ask about their disappearance, the company said the films were no longer available in his resident country of Canada, and offered him some free rentals instead.
Me: Hey Apple, three movies I bought disappeared from my iTunes library.
Apple: Oh yes, those are not available anymore. Thank you for buying them. Here are two movie rentals on us!
Me: Wait… WHAT?? @tim_cook when did this become acceptable? pic.twitter.com/dHJ0wMSQH9
— Anders Goncalves da Silva (@drandersgs) September 10, 2018
Da Silva’s frustration at his vanishing films seems to have resonated. His post was shared so many times that it even caught the attention of FTC commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter.
— Rebecca Kelly Slaughter (@RKSlaughterFTC) September 13, 2018
What makes this incident so mysterious is that Apple shouldn’t be able to remotely delete films that have been downloaded to customers’ devices. Business Insider contacted da Silva for a little more information.
The issue seems to stem from the fact that da Silva moved countries, emigrating from Australia to Canada nine months ago. He bought the three films – “Cars,” “Cars 2,” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” – for around $US25 while still living in Australia.
Here’s what he says happened after he moved to Canada, and his son wanted to watch “Cars” one day:
“I could not find it anywhere on our Apple TV. I could see it on my phone, so I gave that to him while I investigated. I noticed it was not in any of my other devices. I looked through my purchase history and saw that I hadn’t dreamt buying them – having a toddler can cause that. I emailed Apple, they apologised and activated downloads on my iTunes account.
“I could not find that anywhere, but on my phone. I started the downloads and went to sleep. From what I could tell they were progressing fine. Next morning, they were not on my phone, and Cars had disappeared from there too. You look on the forums, and you see people talking about hidden movies, I checked my account. Nothing hidden. Apple emailed me back to check in that the downloads had happened OK. I explained what happened, and that is when I was told they were no longer available.”
Apple customer support’s initial explanation was that the “content provider” of the movies had removed the three films from the Canadian iTunes store, meaning da Silva couldn’t re-download them in his new home country.
Apple makes it reasonably clear in its terms and conditions that different countries have different rights environments. Just because you bought a film in Apple’s Australian iTunes store doesn’t mean that same film is available in Canada.
But CNET did its own deep dive into da Silva’s problem and, confusingly, found that all three films are in fact still available in both Australia and Canada’s iTunes stores. The issue, the publication speculated, might be that they may all be slightly different versions.
Da Silva, in his exchange with Business Insider, said the whole saga was pretty frustrating.
“My view is that when I purchase something from a vendor I made an agreement with the vendor, and we both undertook the transaction in good faith,” he said. “The vendor trusted me to pay them in valid currency, and I trusted them to give me a product that works as advertised. If there is a problem, I go back to the vendor.
“Whatever agreement the vendor has with the supplier is between them, and is not my problem. If the vendor had told me from the onset (and not buried in the small print) that they had an agreement with the supplier that the product would cease to exist at some point in the future, I may have reconsidered my purchase. It comes down to an issue of transparency.”
Apple suggests that people can redownload their movies…
Apple eventually responded to da Silva’s complaint. The company suggested that, despite what its earlier customer support rep had said, da Silva probably still does have access to his movies. He would simply need to change back to Australia’s iTunes store.
A spokesman said: “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.”
….but it’s complicated
As CNET found, changing iTunes region was tougher than you might expect. Switching your region settings means you lose any iTunes credit that you have. You also need a local billing address which, if you’re no longer living in the country, isn’t possible. So while da Silva may be able to re-download his films by jumping through lots of hoops, it’s not easy.
Da Silva told Business Insider that he didn’t plan to take the issue up with any consumer protection agencies, but that he might return to physical DVDs.
“At this point, I do not expect Apple to do anything to make amends,” he said. “Even if they did, given so many others in the same boat, it would seem unfair that I got the movies back, while others did not. And, even if I did get the movies back, there is no guarantee they won’t disappear again!
“So, it seems pointless, and I have resigned myself to continue watching the movies I still do have in my iTunes library for as long as they remain available, and to dust off my old DVD player. My local library has a collection of DVDs, and there are plenty of second-hand shops selling them too. I’ll support the local businesses. Ultimately, I would just like others to know so that perhaps they can make an informed choice.”
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