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Is Apple deleting your movies? Not really, it seems

The internet was all afire late last week when it appeared that Apple was deleting movies purchased and downloaded through iTunes. Stories everywhere – including at – carried the news.

But it doesn’t seem to be the case after all.

The entire story grew out of a tweet from a man who moved from Australia to Canada and found that three of his movies had disappeared when he dutifully changed his country settings. Everybody thought he lost the movies because the difference in rights from nation to nation.

He tweeted originally because he was angry Apple didn’t offer to restore the movies, instead giving him credit for three movie rentals.

The real story

Apple reached out to CNET over the weekend and explained that the issue was that there are different versions of movies in different regions. The movies in question – “Cars,” “Cars 2” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” – could have been saved had the man downloaded them before he changed his location.

That’s a good detail to know, since its buried in the fine print of your agreement. Since he waited to try to get the movies until after he switched regions, he lost them.

A statement from Apple clarified:

“Any movies you’ve already downloaded can be enjoyed at any time and will not be deleted unless you’ve chosen to do so. If you change your country setting, some movies may not be available to re-download from the movie store if the version you purchased isn’t also available in the new country. If needed, you can change your country setting back to your prior country to re-download those movies.”

The man was sent a work-around to give him a chance to redownload the three movies that disappeared.

The full story?

It’s not clear this is all that happened to the original tweeter.

Some commenters on the CNET story said the same thing happened to them without changing regions. It wasn’t clear how they lost their movies. They were also offered movie rental or music download credits instead of replacements for lost media.

Others said it was the original tweeter’s fault for not reading the terms of service, but let’s be honest that nobody really reads all those words. Who knew that you needed to download movies before you changed regions?

Breaking it all down

It’s important to remember that unless you actually own a physical copy of a movie, such as on a Blu Ray, or have downloaded a digital copy, you do not necessarily “own” it. So, if it were to change in video quality or be deleted altogether, there is not really much you can do.

Our advice is to download any movie you buy on iTunes, and any other providers, as a backup in case the provider deletes it. Save it in the cloud if you want, but you’re better off getting actual copies.

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