Amazon is arguing in court that their users don't actually "own" the digital content purchased on Amazon Prime Video. When one buys a movie or TV series to watch on the streaming service, what they're actually paying for is a "limited license" to view the video content. This means that while purchasers can watch the content indefinitely, Amazon has the right to remove them at any time "due to provider license restrictions or other reasons." Although largely unnoticed by most who sign up, this information is tucked into the Prime Video Terms of Use.

One person who did notice the fine print is Amanda Caudel, a woman who filed a lawsuit against Amazon in April for unfair competition and false advertising. According to the suit, Caudel claims that the company "secretly reserves the right" to remove access to content purchased by Amazon Prime Video users. The putative class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of herself along with any other California residents who had purchased video content from Amazon between April 25, 2016, to now.

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This week, Amazon responded by filing a motion for the court to dismiss Caudel's lawsuit. Along with noting that Caudel has purchased 13 titles on Prime since filing her complaint, attorney David Biderman argues that the lawsuit lacks merit as Amazon hasn't removed any of Caudel's purchased content, making the complaint purely hypothetical.

"Plaintiff claims that Defendant Amazon's Prime Video service, which allows consumers to purchase video content for streaming or download, misleads consumers because sometimes that video content might later become unavailable if a third-party rights' holder revokes or modifies Amazon's license," David Biderman writes in the motion. "The Complaint points vaguely to online commentary about this alleged potential harm but does not identify any Prime Video purchase unavailable to Plaintiff herself. In fact, all of the Prime Video content that Plaintiff has ever purchased remains available."

Biderman also stresses that people don't need to read the fine print in order to be legally bound by it. The terms of the agreement are right there for anyone to read before signing up or purchasing content, and the argument here is that it's up to the consumers to read it before agreeing to anything. "A merchant term of service agreement in an online consumer transaction is valid and enforceable when the consumer had reasonable notice of the terms of service," Biderman says.

What happens next will be up for the legal system to determine. Ultimately, Amazon might come out ahead in court, but the attention on the case will most likely cause many to realize they don't necessarily "own" the movies and TV shows they buy on Amazon Prime Video. Although purchasing content digitally can oftentimes be a lot more convenient, buying physical media appears to be the best way to ensure you'll always be able it. We'll see if this leads to more Blu-ray and DVD sales from Prime users as opposed to buying more digital content. This news comes to us from The Hollywood Reporter.

Jeremy Dick at Movieweb
Jeremy Dick