By now, most of us are aware that videos come and go from Amazon’s streaming offerings; that a movie available on Prime this month may be gone the next. There are even caveats in the Amazon terms of service that videos you purchase from Amazon may vanish from your online library — and there’s nothing you can do about it. What you don’t expect is for half of a video you buy to suddenly disappear without explanation.
For months, Consumerist reader Rick and his 3-year-old enjoyed the digital double feature of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Horton Hears a Who!. When watched online, the two classic animated Dr. Seuss tales were part of the same single stream; Grinch comes first, immediately followed by Horton, and some bonus features for a total running time of about 80 minutes.
Then last week, they went to watch the video only to have it end abruptly after the Grinch credits rolled:
Additionally, as you might notice in the looped GIF above, the Amazon screen that shows up after the video ends is only for the Grinch, not for the double feature that had actually been purchased.
Rick likened it to buying a full CD off iTunes only to have Apple decide at some later date to remove half the songs, “Or if you bought a short story collection on Amazon Kindle, and half of the stories were removed.”
His attempts to get a solution from Amazon were frustrating. On Twitter, the company’s response bots told him to call customer service, where no one could explain what was going on.
“He says that it could be a ‘technicality’ or that it’s possible that the content may have changed, but that it should not have changed for me since I already purchased it,” writes Rick.
Customer service first promised to have someone call him back within a few hours. That subsequently changed to “within a couple of days.”
We were finally able to get someone at Amazon HQ to look into Rick’s case, and we’re happy to report that his video has been restored and Rick got a $10 credit from the site.
“Horton and the bonus features are back, and the video is back to the 1 hour, 18 minutes that it should be,” he tells Consumerist. “The toddler will be thrilled.”
So What Happened?
This is the big mystery. In emails to Consumerist, a rep for Amazon would only say that the problem “was something that needed to be corrected on our end for that specific title.” We’ve asked if it was a technical issue or a licensing mix-up of some sort, but have yet to hear a response.
A technical glitch is possible but seems unlikely, given that the title of the video also reverted to just the Grinch.
As for the possibility of a licensing issue, there is some confusion at Amazon. The company rep tells Consumerist that once a video is purchased, it will remain forever in that user’s digital library, but that’s not what the fine print says.
The Amazon video terms of service says that while purchased video content “will generally continue to be available to you,” there is the potential it might become unavailable for “content provider licensing restrictions.” In such a case, “Amazon will not be liable to you if Purchased Digital Content becomes unavailable for further download or streaming.”
Amazon does allow users to download purchased videos, but not onto computers — only onto compatible phones and tablets. Downloading onto your phone may result in just getting the standard definition version of the video, so if you later want to watch it on your TV, be prepared for blurry ugliness. Additionally, that downloaded content is still protected by Amazon’s rights management software, meaning the only way to watch it would be through the Amazon apps on those devices.
So downloading is a way to make sure you always have access to the video you purchase, but it’s also incredibly limited.