Apple Responds To The Case Of The Disappearing Digital Purchases

Digital media was dealt a blow last week when an unsuspecting iTunes customer discovered that his Apple digital purchases had disappeared from his library. The experience snowballed into all-around internet outrage as movie lovers discovered that they had no right to these movies that they supposedly "purchased" — they could be erased from their iTunes library without warning.

Five days after the story went viral, Apple has finally issued a response. And you can be certain we'll read the fine print on this one.

Last week we learned that any digital movie purchases from Apple are not as permanent as we originally thought. Apple is only a "store front that gives content provider(s) a platform or place to sell their items," which essentially means that you're not buying the movie itself, you're buying a license to watch it. There are some workarounds around this issue: you could download the film to your computer the old-fashioned way. But if you don't have a back-up on your hard drive and the distributor decides to pull something off iTunes, you're out $20.

After five days of silence on the issue, Apple issued a statement in response to the outrage over disappearing iTunes purchases:

"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."

There's a lot to unpack in this relatively brief statement. First: "Any movies that you've already downloaded...will not be deleted unless you've chosen to do so" is a workaround that we were already made aware of — and it's a rather impractical approach for users who have hundreds or maybe thousands of purchases in their iTunes libraries. It doesn't respond to the biggest issue that many users are having with Apple: that their purchases could be erased from the cloud without warning.

The second part "If you change your country setting..." refers specifically to the problems of Twitter user Anders G da Silva, who first made the issue go viral with his tweet thread about losing three Apple digital purchases when he emigrated from Australia to Canada. The case of changing country IP's is something we're familiar with when it comes to streaming services like Netflix or Amazon — different titles are available in different countries — but not Apple. Again, users don't expect movies that they bought with their cold, hard-earned cash to disappear once they move countries.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn't provide any solutions to this issue that we didn't already know. But one thing we do know: physical media won't go disappearing on us.