That Amazon Video You Bought? You May Not Actually Be Able To Watch It

Thanks for the $14.99. Enjoy this blank screen.

Imagine if you bought a DVD of a movie and then one day when you go to play it, you get a message saying “Sorry, but the studio has decided you can’t watch this movie for the foreseeable future.” It sounds ridiculous, but that’s what can happen to customers who try to stream the movies they buy from Amazon.

Consumerist reader Rebecca found this out the hard way, when she purchased Puss In Boots for $14.99 from Amazon, believing that, per Amazon’s marketing, she would be able to watch the movie when she wanted and for as many times as she wanted.

Well, that would be true if she only wanted to watch the animated flick on her Kindle Fire or other device that allows her to actually download the movie. Unfortunately, she and her daughter preferred to stream the movie straight through their TV.

And all was going well for a few weeks until Rebecca went to stream Puss In Boots and instead saw a message stating that the film was no longer available for viewing.

So she contacted Amazon and got the following response:

Due to licensing restrictions, videos can become temporarily unavailable for viewing or downloading. The video will automatically be made available again once that restriction ends.

Availability of videos for purchase, re-download, or access from a backup copy is determined by the owners of the content. On very rare occasions, a video you previously purchased may become unavailable.

This restriction isn’t mentioned on the purchase page of the movie, nor is the customer given any such warning during the buying process. It’s not even directly mentioned on the “Amazon Instant Video Usage Rules” page, which states:

Viewing Period: Indefinite — you may watch and re-watch your purchased videos as often as you want and as long as you want (subject to the limitations described in the Amazon Instant Video Terms of Use).

So you then have to go that page and scour through more than 2,000 words to find:

Purchased Digital Content will generally continue to be available to you for download or streaming from the Service, as applicable, but may become unavailable due to potential content provider licensing restrictions and for other reasons, and Amazon will not be liable to you if Purchased Digital Content becomes unavailable for further download or streaming. You may download and store your own copy of Purchased Digital Content on a Compatible Device authorized for such download so that you can view that Purchased Digital Content if it becomes unavailable for further download or streaming from the Service.

Given that streaming video is quickly becoming the popular option for watching a movie, be warned that the people actually responsible for streaming that video to you may pull the plug at any time.

We’ve written Amazon to ask why they do not make this restriction more clear during the purchasing process. If the company replies — we’re not holding our breath on this one — we will update.