digital movies

There was once a magical time when physical media reigned supreme. VHS gave way to DVD and DVD gave way to Blu-ray, and everyone was happy to plunk down some hard-earned cash to take their favorite movies home.

Then came the onset of digital, and things changed fast. Now, a majority of casual movie watchers are more than happy to own things digitally. But here’s the twist: you don’t really own your digital movies. Even if you pay for them. Because Apple can go ahead and delete whatever is in your library whenever they want.

I’m a firm believer in physical media, even here in the year 2018 – I prefer to own physical Blu-rays of films rather than make the jump to 100% digital content (please, hold your applause). I know that’s not the norm, though – plenty of folks are a-okay with collecting their films in a digital format, be it through iTunes, MoviesAnywhere, Vudu, and so on. But ScreenCrush has called attention to the fact that even if you pay for your digital content, you don’t necessarily own it.

A Twitter user recently received a rude awakening when they learned that Apple had gone ahead and deleted three iTunes movie purchases. To add insult to injury, Apple confirmed that there was no way to reverse this.

As the letter above points out, “iTunes/App Store is a store front that gives content provider(s) a platform or place to sell their items. We can only offer what has been made available to us via the studios or distributor.” In other words, if the distributor decides to pull something off iTunes, Apple can go ahead and delete it from your library – even if you’ve purchased it. Because you’re not buying the movie itself – you’re buying a license to watch it.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: stick with physical media. Distributors aren’t going to come sneaking into your house to steal a Blu-ray off your shelf – once you purchase it, it’s yours. Of course, there are arguments against this. Digital is certainly more convenient, at least in theory. Your titles are available at the press of a button, and you don’t have to get up off your butt and pop a disc into a player. You could also argue that stuff you buy today may someday be obsolete. After all, there was a time when VHS was king – now, it’s extinct. And then you have the sad fact that some studios would be more than happy to phase out their physical discs all together. Producing DVDs and Blu-rays is pricey, and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to put something on digital. That’s why so many studios release their home video releases to digital first now – they’re hoping people will purchase the digital copy and ignore the physical.

While physical media may decrease over time, I don’t think it will ever go away. Boutique labels like Shout Factory, Criterion, Arrow Video and more will always thrive for cinephiles who insist on physical media. I personally will remain a physical media fan until the the end of days. You can have my Blu-rays when you can pry them out of my cold dead hands.

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