Remember when you decided to buy, rather than rent, that movie online? We have some bad news for you – you didn’t.

Biologist Anders Gonçalves da Silva was surprised this week to find three movies he had purchased through iTunes simply disappeared one day from his library. So he contacted Apple to find out what had happened.

And Apple told him it no longer had the license rights for those movies so they had been removed. To which he of course responded: Ah, but I didn’t rent them, I actually bought them through your “buy” option.

At which point da Silva learnt a valuable lesson about the realities of digital purchases and modern licensing rules: While he had bought the movies, what he had actually paid for was the ability to download the movie to his hard drive.

“Please be informed that the iTunes/App Store is a store front that give content providers a platform or a place to sell their items,” the company informed him. “We can only offer what has been made available to us. Since the content provider has removed these movies… I am unable to provide you the copy of the movies.”

Sure, he could stream it whenever he wanted since he had bought it, but once those licensing rights were up, if he hadn’t downloaded the movie, it was gone – forever.

[…]

And it’s not fair to single out just Apple either: pretty much every provider of digital content has the same rules. Amazon got in hot water a few years ago when its deal with Disney expired and customers discovered that their expensive movie purchases vanished over night. In 2009 thee was a similar ruckus when it pulled George Orwell’s classic 1984 from Kindles without notice.

Source: You know all those movies you bought from Apple? Um, well, think different: You didn’t • The Register