Courts Debate Whether You Own What You Buy

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Being stuck at home, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, means it's a good thing buying media online is so easy and universal. If you need a book, a movie, or an entire TV series to binge, you can buy it from a number of vendors and have it available instantly. It saves a lot of space, for one thing — but it may not save you money, in the long haul.

Amazon Prime has been slapped with a lawsuit by a disgruntled customer who lost access to content through its Prime Video service, despite having paid full price for the media. This wasn't due to a server error or bad formatting or even the inability to play the media anymore; instead, Amazon itself lost access to the media when a third party revoked its license. The plaintiff claims that Amazon misled her into thinking she'd have permanent access to her purchase, regardless of Amazon's licensing practices — just like she would if she'd bought a DVD, VHS, or other physical media.

Amazon says its terms of use dispute that characterization, but this court battle is just the latest in a long line of questions about digital media and cultural content. If you've ever worried that you'll one day lose access to a Netflix Original because it's impossible to find on DVD or Blu-ray, you've pondered some of the same big questions that American courts are now wrestling with. Physical media won't ever really go away, but cases like this one might make you think twice about dismissing it out of hand.