Last week, I learned that users from some European countries are going to lose access to Studiocanal films they may have bought from the PlayStation Store. Sony’s message to users of those countries was: "As of August 31, 2022, due to our evolving licensing agreements with content providers, you will no longer be able to view your previously purchased Studio Canal content and it will be removed from your video library. We greatly appreciate your continued support."
From what I understand, Studiocanal’s catalogue is pretty big and includes titles dating all the way to the 90’s. Some of the movies are Terminator 2, Shaun of the Dead, Free Willy, Cliffhanger and Mulholland Drive, Universal Soldier, The Ninth Gate, Billy Elliot, The Pianist, Dogville, United 93, A Serius Man, The Last Exorcism, Paddington, Cold Pursuit, and many more.
This kind of scenario is something I had been thinking about for a while: you don’t really own many of your digital purchases. If you buy a game digitally, and it requires some form of authentication so you can play, you are basically renting the game at full price. Likewise, a digital game that was available in an online store might just be deleted for whatever reason. Blizzard games require a constant internet connection, you can’t access your games if, for whatever reason, servers are down, and they can even ban you from your own game that you supposedly purchased. Keep in mind some of their games can also be played as single-player games. Another case is what happened to PT, the “Playable Teaser” for “Silent Hills”, which was completely removed from the PlayStation store (including access to the download by those who had acquired the game already). Now, only those who still have PT in their PlayStations can play it.
On top of that, what happens if the company just closes its doors? What happens to your Steam Catalog if Valve just shuts down? You’ll have to buy a lot of storage to download and keep those games before Steam closes, and hope those games are DRM-Free or else you won’t have Steam server authentication to run the games.
Unfortunately, convenience has made people purchase digital media instead of physical media. Many don’t buy CDs anymore, they just buy their music from whatever digital music store (like iTunes), and they don’t buy their DVDs or Blurays anymore, they purchase digital downloads. Convenience has made us happy to pay full price for what is basically a rental.
On the other hand, the whole digital distribution model is what has made it easier for content creators to share their products. You no longer need to deal with gatekeepers who get to decide if your movie/game/music is distributed or not. You can reach users directly, and that is an amazing thing. However, content creators also need to keep in mind the fact that buyers should be able to own the stuff they pay for.
While I am really upset about the whole Studiocanal situation, I think it’s something that needed to happen for two main reasons. First, so that general users realize that, sometimes, they don’t really own the stuff they buy. And second, so that content creators realize their creations are not safe when the distribution is managed by the platform.