With the rise of digital content distribution and consumption platforms like Netflix, Steam, and Spotify, the concept of content ownership is becoming a thing of the past. When you “buy” a song or movie from a service like iTunes, you’re entering into a long-term rental agreement of sorts — you gain a license to access the content at will, but it can be revoked at any time.
Some California consumers have taken issue with this concept, and are forcing Apple to stand trial over it — well, sort of. The plaintiffs in this Sacramento case don’t necessarily have a problem with licensing content in general; they just don’t like that Apple tells its iTunes customers that their purchased content has been “bought.”
The very word “buy,” lead plaintiffs allege, suggests a customer has acquired permanent, irrevocable ownership over their copy of a TV show or movie. The plaintiffs’ case centers on the idea that customers might not have chosen to buy a given piece of content, or at least not have paid full price, had they known that they were only licensing it.
Apple’s lawyers tried to get the case dismissed, of course. The company claimed that there was no injured party here since the possibility of having your access to content revoked at a later date is “speculative” and not concrete.
However, as noted above, the plaintiffs are not concerned with future content revocation — only the allegedly misleading claim that users can permanently buy content.
If you’re here today, reading TechSpot, there’s a good chance you already have at least a vague idea of how content licensing works in the modern age, and know full well that the internet’s many “buy” buttons do not always promise full ownership.
However, not every consumer will understand that. Since a “reasonable consumer” could easily make that mistake, the judge is inclined to let the case move forward, with some adjustments.
It remains to be seen whether Apple will buckle under the pressure and attempt to settle with the plaintiffs, or push this case forward to a full jury trial. In either scenario, we’re looking forward to seeing what happens.