One of the stories in our “Morning Roundup” today touched upon Amazon yanking a Christmas special that a customer had previously purchased because Disney wanted it available only on its TV channel during the holidays. The version of the story we linked was the early report, but since a number of sites have followed up and gotten a response from Amazon, it’s worth revisiting.

Ars Technica and AllThingsD report receiving word from Amazon that the customer had been “misinformed” by the customer service representative. The Amazon PR representative explained:

What you are referring to was a temporary issue with some of our catalog data and it has been fixed. Customers should never lose access to their Amazon Instant Video purchases. If they have any issues accessing purchased videos, they should contact customer service.

Reading between the lines, my suspicion is that Amazon meant to flip the switch on making it available for free streaming to Amazon Prime customers, but they actually flipped too many switches and removed it from the people who had specifically paid money to buy just that episode as well. Since it was called to their attention, they have fixed it.

And it seems the exact same thing happened back in October to Disney movies purchased via the iTunes store, with the exact same results—Disney and Apple worked together to restore customer access to the previously-purchased movies. It stands to reason that Disney wouldn’t really be a Grinch and steal back its Christmas stuff, just because that would be an excellent way to make sure nobody ever bought any Disney digital media ever again, and they’re not that stupid.

Yes, Amazon and other digital media providers have the power to take back or render unusable stuff that you’ve already purchased. But I suspect Amazon learned its lesson after the Orwell debacle. Maybe the lesson we should take away from this is that, yes, you don’t truly “own” your digital purchases, but the greater risk than companies taking them away from you on purpose is them taking them away from you by accident.


  1. I’m going to have to disagree with your interpretation.

    The fact of the matter is their system is set up to yank the previously purchased content.
    It wasn’t an accident; this is how their system was set up.

    Just because Disney said my bad and restored the content doesn’t change the fact that they yanked the content in the first place. They’ve done it twice now, and that previous time included removing the files from Amazon as well.

    They should not get a pass just because they put it back.

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