In a stark reminder of how mercurial digital ownership can be, PlayStation announced that it will be removing hundreds of Discovery shows due to licensing arrangements. Sony stopped selling and renting TV shows and movies through the PlayStation Store in August 2021, but users who previously purchased content still have access to their video libraries. But as of December 31, 2023, all Discovery content will be removed from those libraries.
“As of December 31st, 2023, due to our content licensing arrangements with content providers, you will no longer be able to watch any of your previously purchased Discovery content and the content will be removed from your video library,” Sony explained.
Just to clarify, no matter how long you’ve “owned” those shows or how much you paid for them, you will lose access to them for good at the end of the month.
It’s unclear how many users this will affect, but it’s yet another point in favor of those who prefer physical media over digital downloads. Losing the ability to purchase or re-download content is fairly common, but it’s not often that content providers tear purchased content away from users altogether. For instance, Nintendo shut down the Wii U and 3DS digital stores earlier this year, but it’s still possible to download and play previously purchased games.
Understandably, PS4 and PS5 owners aren’t exactly thrilled about this development:
In case you’re wondering whether or not this is even legal, here’s a relevant quote from a recent article by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about digital ownership:
Companies that offer digital products – such as books, music, movies, and games – will often say that consumers can “buy” those products when they’re really getting only a limited, revocable license to enjoy them. Yes, some people may appreciate this distinction, but others have been surprised when their access to such products suddenly disappears.
So when every season of Deadliest Catch “suddenly disappears” from your library on December 31st, just remember that you only bought a license to watch it.
As online services that have become nearly ubiquitous start to shutter in the coming years, this is going to become an increasingly common occurrence. What happens to all your PC games if Steam ever shuts down? Or what if Apple decides it’s no longer lucrative to rent and sell movies and shows? There’s nothing stopping most of these companies from wiping your content library from existence overnight. And your only recourse is to buy it again somewhere else.