Google Taking Back All Videos You Rented or Bought From Them

As of next Wednesday, you will no longer be able to view any videos you rented or purchased from Google Video. We’ll assume this only directly affects, like, the six of you out there who tried out their service, but it’s still a striking example of how badly consumers are treated when they “buy” DRM-shackled media online. According to boingboing.net, Google’s giving their abandoned customers credits that they have to spend (within 60 days) via Google Checkout.

We’re sorry that Google’s video retail experience turn out profitably for them, but this sure sounds like a load of “do some evil” to us. As Cory Doctorow puts it:

The terms that Google sold its video on were similar to those laid down by other downloadable video “stores,” like Amazon Unbox. These stores claim to “sell” you things, but you can never truly 0wn the things they sell — they are your theoretical property only, liable to confiscation at any time.

Google Video robs customers of the videos they “own” [BoingBoing.net]

(Photo: Getty)

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  1. Falconfire says:

    maybe finally now, with a extremely public example of the dangers of DRM, the government will step in and shackle the RIAA and MPAA for good…

    well I hope but kinda doubt.

  2. FairUse4WM, anyone?

  3. MickeyMoo says:

    But didn’t they refund the full purchase price? (kind of like getting the videos on a free rental?) It still sucks but slightly less since you can use the google check-out credits on a fair amount of online stores (buy.com for one)

  4. ptkdude says:

    You could rent and buy videos from Google?

  5. humphrmi says:

    I love how Google redefines evil, so that they never do it.

  6. davere says:

    This is pretty messed up. If you own, it, who cares if Google no longer sells videos, you should still be allowed to access your content.

    I’m glad that such a public company pulled this stunt. Maybe it will open some eyes.

  7. LionelEHutz says:

    Wow, and these morons wonder why people use P2P.

  8. Lordstrom says:

    Shouldn’t all this be illegal? I smell class action lawsuit.

    By all 6 people.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Another reason to use a credit card for online purchases that makes it easy to dispute and issue charge-backs.

  10. notebook says:

    … You could rent/and/or/buy videos from google?
    News to me.

  11. Bulldog9908 says:

    Maybe Defend Fair Use’s “Abuse of the Week” should be Google forcible un-selling videos they claimed to have sold to their customers.

    defendfairuse.org is backed by Google, among others. They protest abuses of fair use by other companies, but this is a clear case of “do what we say, not what we do.”

    Way to go Google.

  12. Trai_Dep says:

    Wait. So Google is refunding every dollar they took in? Even tho the whole thing was a loss? That’s pretty non-evil, all things considered.

    DRM sux tho – if even Google can choke on this, it’s a textbook example of why no one should buy crippled media.

  13. Ola says:

    Me, I try to avoid giving Google my money.

  14. rmuser says:

    There’s a silver lining to this: They’ve demonstrated that there’s really no good reason for people not to pirate content in the first place, when this is what happens when you try to pay for it instead. These practices absolutely justify illegal downloading.

  15. theretailguy says:

    It is an ok gesture that they give credit for the full purchase price, but the time limit is a slap in the face.

    Here is your money back, now hurry up and use it before it self destructs.

    Again, a great example of why companies should not treat their customers like criminals.

  16. chucklebuck says:

    What if this is secretly a plan by Google to shutter a rarely used service (affecting few people) in a publicly crappy way in order to expose the limits and consumer-unfriendliness of DRM-ed media to a larger, more mainstream audience, in advance of them trying to work out a more consumer friendly DRM-free video marketplace?

    OK, I guess that’s probably wishful thinking.

  17. beyond says:

    They refunded everyone’s money. I don’t see why this is evil Google. Try getting your money back from MS when they ditched their customers in favor of new DRM.

  18. Elijah-M says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the terms of the contracts Google signed with the film studios played a major role in determining their actions here. Google never truly owned any of the stuff they were selling either.

    To accuse Google of revoking ownership is a bit harsh, considering that they refunded the full purchase price of everything they sold. That’s more like buying the stuff back, albeit forcibly.

  19. dbeahn says:

    So the choice the public is given is:

    a) BUY it and don’t own it.
    or
    b) STEAL it and own it completely.

    While choice “B” has some ethical concerns, choice “A” has even MORE ethical concerns, but on the other side of the virtual counter. Of course, the people on that side get to keep their content and your money, and to them, that’s no concern at all. “Ethics? What are these “ethics” of which you speak of?”

  20. humphrmi says:

    @trai_dep: I didn’t read that they were refunding anything. I read store credits, that you have to spend within 60 days, with them. A refund involves me having cash to buy replacement videos somewhere else.

  21. snowferret says:

    For shame Google!

  22. Trai_Dep says:

    @humphrmi: Humph, I’m a parsnicky guy at times (sodomized by inept greedy companies gets me especially so).

    But considering it wasn’t Google’s call to DRM the files, considering they could reasonably not refund vids already viewed, getting store credits that are good anywhere for two months – for a division being shuttered – seems pretty atypical.

    I can see wanting hard, cold cash. But me, I’d be okay w/ what they’re doing. Especially refunding every dime they ever made. That’s sort of shocking, to me.

  23. Moosehawk says:

    I don’t think many of the movies there were real expensive anyway. I remember seeing you could watch old pokemon episodes for $.99.

    Don’t ask me why I was looking at that.

  24. Skeptic says:

    But didn’t they refund the full purchase price? (kind of like getting the videos on a free rental?) It still sucks but slightly less since you can use the google check-out credits on a fair amount of online stores (buy.com for one)”

    Actually, they are not refunding the full purchase price. They are giving you a credit that can only be used with Google Checkout and that expires in 60 days, at which point Google just keeps your money.

    It wouldn’t matter even if they did actually refund your money instead of just pretending to refund your money by offering credit to promote Google Checkout. Would you also defend Best Buy if they came to your house and confiscated your now out of print DVDs and gave you a credit with Best Buy that expires in 60 days. That is exactly what is happening, but thanks to electronic media they don’t have to send the Jackbooted Best Buy thugs to your house, instead they use your computer to the exact same thing.

    The Google videos were available for rental or purchase. People purchased videos and Google is now confiscating them. This is just more proof that consumers shouldn’t purchase DRM’d media. If a “don’t be evil” company like Google can’t resist being evil, then who knows what a company like MS will do.

    But considering it wasn’t Google’s call to DRM the files

    Actually it was. Google video allowed people and companies to post videos and charge money for them. It was Google’s decision to structure the streaming/DRM system the way they did. Granted, fewer companies might have sold videos through Google if they had set the system up differently but it was Google’s decision.

    (WTF with the line spacing on this site??)

  25. Trai_Dep says:

    So if I buy 5 CDs with a Google credit, it doesn’t count? For $60 worth of vids I viewed on Google video already? I’m struggling to see how this is a bad thing for Google to have done, given the circumstances. It only has economic value if they mail me three twenties that I’d then use to buy 5 CDs?

    So Paramount wanted to have Google host Mission: Impossible (TV series) in .mov (.avi, whatever) format, no DRM. But Google insisted they use a DRM version instead? Or was it the studios said, “No DRM, no distribution rights.”

    I’m trying to be openminded but it’s unclear how valid your complaints are. You seem unreasonably biased against Google, again, given the circumstances.

  26. TNT says:

    If Comcast or Time Warner Cable had pulled this stunt, there would be a zillion posts about the evil beyond evil that the cable companies do.

    But this is Google… most seem to want to blame someone else for Google’s flawed business judgment. The mistake wasn’t DRM protected content (well… actually, I wouldn’t buy it, but..), the mistake was buying from a Google company that went under.

    I’m sure Google knew full well what would happen if the the Google Video line failed. They surely didn’t bother to warn the customers, even when it became obvious Google Video had no future. I’m not sure if that’s truly evil, but it’s knocking on the door.

  27. Trai_Dep says:

    So, if Comcast can’t deliver their signal for a day, they’ll refund your whole month (but you must buy something online), even though the other 29 days they delivered? Or, if they leave a market, they’ll refund every penny (again, online) you ever gave them?

    If they had this attitude, they’d probably rate #1 here.

    They don’t. Google does.

    They’re not perfect (they hang on to data too long) but given what they had to work with, this isn’t evil. Save “evil” for the guys that deserve it (Hi, Sam Walton!)

  28. Anemos says:

    Well then it isnt realy a sale at all. its a loan where the company have complete control. I have been reading consumerist for almost a year now, and have seen things like this posted several times. Unfortunately, i was going to say almost exactly what Trai_dep posted.

  29. badgeman46 says:

    SEE YOU IN COURT GOOGLE! Its called Theft By Deception. You are decieved into believing you own the merchandise, but they confiscate it anyway. I will haul their ass into small claims court, in which they will not show up. I shall make lots of money.

  30. Elijah-M says:

    @badgeman46: I’d read the end user license agreement (that thing you clicked “yes” to when you signed up for the service) first. Good luck with that.

  31. Skeptic says:

    So if I buy 5 CDs with a Google credit, it doesn’t count? For $60 worth of vids I viewed on Google video already? I’m struggling to see how this is a bad thing for Google to have done, given the circumstances

    Given what circumstances? They could have just arrange d to let you keep watching the videos you purchased outright (not rented) from Google.

    Google didn’t have to confiscate the videos they already sold to people. They choose to do so because it is convenient for Google. Period.

    BY ELIJAH-M AT 09:06 PM

    @badgeman46: I’d read the end user license agreement (that thing you clicked “yes” to when you signed up for the service) first. Good luck with that.

    I’d say that BADGEMAN46 is right.

    The Federal Trade Commission generally holds that what the big print says the small print may not taketh away.

    Google used, and still uses the word, “Purchase” when revering to the videos they sold. It is beyond the normal use of the word “Purchase” to include arbitrary repossession of a purchased good, especially in exchange for less than the purchase price (the non-cash credit is not as liquid as cash and expires in 60 days, it not a refund).

    To those who would say the customer got use of the video, I would say that is both irrelevant and not necessarily so, the purchaser may have been waiting to watch the video–and why not? After all, they purchased it under the reasonable presumption that they could watch it at any time in the future and as often as they wish.

  32. badgeman46 says:

    elijah-m. The law is very clear. Lets say you purchased a car. The car company cannot say “we aren’t selling cars anymore, so we are re-posessing yours.” That might seem like a rediculous comparison, but that is exactly what has happened in this case.

    Everyone who buys DRM, or anything that you do not have a tangiable hard copy of is a sucker.

  33. Trai_Dep says:

    Agree.

    But DRM isn’t what Google wanted to do. The studios forced it upon them, or else Google wouldn’t have been able to offer vids. I’m sure strenuously.

    I find myself repeating myself, so I’ll exit this, parroting, Google was dealt a crappy hand by the studios, then did the best they could for consumers. An effort that RIAA, cell companies, etc. wouldn’t have done.

    Direct your hate at those that are to blame – that’s all I sayin’

  34. Lazlo Nibble says:

    @trai_dep: If Google offered content for “purchase” without clearly and unequivocally stating beforehand that that the content’s actual legal owner could come along later and unilaterally demand its repossession, then Google is the wrongdoer, not the MPAA, RIAA, cable companies or anyone else. And wishing deep down in their heart of hearts that they really could have sold what they claimed to be selling doesn’t make it okay.

  35. SugarRob says:

    If anyone is still reading this thread, it appears google has realized the errors of their “refund.”

    [googleblog.blogspot.com]