Apple facing court action over its digital movie terms and conditions

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Apple may not be allowed to advertised iTunes Store movies as available to ‘buy’ if a new court action is successful.

Now this is interesting. With physical media, there’s always a line of blurb at the start or end that explains the licence you’re buying when you purchase a disc. That blurb basically says you don’t ‘own’ the film – even if the advertising tells you that you do – and as such in theory it can be taken away. The practicalities of such a move make that moot: a film studio is hardly going to come knocking at your door asking for your DVD of Taken 2 back (although at least they’d get a ‘I’m here to take Taken’ line out of it).

With digital film purchases though, there have already been examples of movies that people have bought and think they own having access to the films revoked. Not through any fault of their own, either. Because of the machinations of deals being done and decisions made oftentimes not even in the same country.

Now, this all looks like it’s going to be tested in court.

A case in federal court taking place in California is seeing Apple having to defend the idea that consumers never really ‘buy’ films from Apple and its iTunes store, given that the firm weaves into its terms and conditions that it has the right to terminate access to purchases films and TV shows. The case Apple is answering argues that it has done on several occasions too.

Apple, then, has tried to get this case dismissed, and as US district judge John Mendez has explained, “Apple contends that ‘[n]o reasonable consumer would believe’ that purchased content would remain on the iTunes platform indefinitely”. However, he has also denied Apple’s attempt to get the case dismissed, concluding “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”.

Bottom line: Apple has failed in its attempt to get the case killed. This one is still going.

The case – a putative class action – has a long way to go, but if successful, it’s quite feasible that Apple will have to change the way it at least advertises movies and TV shows. That it won’t be able to say consumers can ‘buy’ them.

We wait and see with real interest how this case pans out. There’s more on it at The Hollywood Reporter too, who notes that Amazon and its Prime Video service is also facing a similar upcoming case.

Image: BigStock


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