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What Happens to Your Digital Property When a Company Goes Out of Business?

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A handful of digital services will be terminated this year, and you probably bought digital copies of games or movies from them. You've purchased this digital property, but there's a chance that you're not able to keep it.

The number of times that users have been unable to access is digital. We aren't discussing something theoretical, either; This is something that happened in the future and will continue to happen in the future.

Probably Lose Some Digital Property This Year

It's fair to assume that ton of digital services will shut down in 201

9; that's just the way things work. But the big three that we know about are the Wii Shop Channel, the Ultraviolet movie streaming service, and the Google+ social network. At some point or other, these were pretty popular services, and their termination could be from the digital property for which you paid.

The Wii Shop Channel was a service that sold digital copies of video games and most people used it to buy classic Nintendo games. The service was discontinued this past month (January 2019), and the only way to save your purchases was to download them on your Wii console — you couldn't transfer those purchases to new Nintendo consoles.

lets you purchase movies. Some DVDs come with codes that you can use to read a digital copy of the movie on Ultraviolet. This is mostly a movie streaming service, but you can use it to download movies if you put in a little bit of work. Sadly, Ultraviolet is shutting down on July 31, 2019. If you want to save your Ultraviolet purchases, the company suggests transferring licenses to a competitor's service, like Movies Anywhere. These are probably just trying to get the remaining Ultraviolet users, but if it were for them, you'd lose all of your Ultraviolet purchases.

Google+ is shutting down on April 2, 2019, and Google is going to clear all of the data from the Google+ servers. But you have the opportunity to save your data (a digital property) before Google kills the service. This is really a property that has just been bought, but it is worthy of personal and public archives, and this data will probably come as a source of mild frustration for archivists in the future.

Looking at this list, you'll notice an annoying trend. These services, which are either failing or being discontinued, are really doing anything to preserve your digital property. They put that responsibility on the customer.

It's child or understandable for Ultraviolet and Google+. Ultraviolet can afford to be a solution, and Google+ was a flop from the get-go. But why is Nintendo operating like this? You are not going to boot your old Wii to play on Super Mario Bros. 3, so you can just transfer it to one of the other four digital platforms that sell Super Mario Bros. 3?

For that, you can blame DRM

Most Digital Property Is Controlled By DRM

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is an anti-piracy measure that prevents you from producing or using illegal copies of downloaded material. It's a digital form of the anti-piracy signals on VHS tapes. Usually, a file that is locked with DRM can be opened by a specific user on a specific software platform.

Steam games, iTunes purchases, and Wii Shop Channel games are all considered DRM protected content.

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Cunaplus / Shutterstock [19659003] DRM makes it extremely difficult to transfer old files to new hardware. The Wii Shop Channel is an obvious example, and in the case of iTunes purchases, a common complaint is that users can figure out how to transfer their library to a new computer.

Streaming services like Ultraviolet and Amazon Video technically utilize a form of DRM to prevent piracy. When you purchase a movie on these services, you really are purchasing a streaming license that is connected to your account, not an actual copy of the movie. Some social media services also have forms of DRM for security purposes. You can download another user's data, and you can download your data unless you know your password.

Right from the get-go, there are some obvious drawbacks to this format. If Apple goes out of business and iTunes shuts down, will you be able to open the files that you purchased? If you have a movie on one platform, then you should not be allowed to open that file using whatever you like

Distributors Are Forced To Use DRM

Before we complain too much about DRM, you should know that distributors have no choice but to use it. The companies that own your favorite music, books, and movies are deeply concerned about any form of piracy, and they haven't forgotten how Napster rattled CD sales.

Licensing companies also want to continue the 20th-century trend of reselling media in new formats. When cassettes got big, people replaced the albums that they already had on vinyl with cassettes. People replaced their cassettes with CDs, and they replaced their CDs with digital files. With the invention of digital files, you think that re-packaging music would be a thing of the past. But people kept getting screwed over by DRM protection, and it wasn't uncommon for someone to buy a digital album.

A lot of people criticized iTunes for its DRM policy in the late 2000s, and it was such a big issue that in 2007, Steve Jobs published and open letter explaining why iTunes uses DRM. The letter, titled "Thoughts On Music," meant to explain how Apple was forced to use DRM by the "big four" music licensing companies, Sony BMG, Warner, and EMI.

 hexagons with icons related to DRM

When Apple approached the "big four" licensing companies to build the iTunes library, the companies were extremely cautious and they contractually required Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied. sell music, they had to sign very strict contracts. These contracts were so strict that Apple's “DRM system [was] compromised” and music from iTunes became “playable on unauthorized devices,” then the licensing companies could “withdraw their entire music catalog” from iTunes with less than a month's notice. 19659004] Music licensing companies forced to use DRM in their products, and in some cases these DRM measures technically prevent consumers from actually using the media that they have paid for. This idea extends to all forms of digital property, including video games and movies.

You Don't Own Your Digital Property; You Rent It

Here's where things get a little bit awful. Your ability to own your digital property is not just theoretical. According to the licensing agreements that you sign with almost any digital distributor, you're “licensed” to use your digital purchases – you own them.

The Amazon Kindle license agreement makes this extremely clear. The states that content "is licensed, not sold," and Amazon "reserves the right to modify, suspend, or discontinue" their service "at any time" without "liability." So, you don't own your Kindle purchases, and Amazon can take them away from you at any time without giving you a refund.

This is a very popular among content distributors. A more relevant example might be the Wii U license agreement, in which Nintendo states that "software is licensed, not sold, to you." Nintendo takes this a step further by claiming that, if they feel the need to terminate your licensing agreement, then "you will immediately cease all use" or Wii U software. Is that… a threat?

Other services, like Amazon Music, Steam, Sony's PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live have similar clauses in their user agreement. Using this kind of clear language is a good way to shut down any lawsuits, and if you can imagine, it's common practice among digital distributors.

Yes, the "Buy Now" button on every Kindle product page is misleading. It's frustrating. Even more frustrating is their video service where Amazon opensly presents both rent and buy options. We suppose "Rent" and "Rent Indefinitely, But You Definitely Don't Own It" buttons aren't as enticing.

At this point, "digital property probably isn't the right word for what we're trying to do to describe. This is more like a furniture loan or a gym membership, "digital rentals" may be a better term.

Businesses' Obligated To Protect Your Purchases

This all comes back to a big scary question. What happens to your digital property when a company or service is terminated? From what we've seen, companies take responsibility on purchasers to download content before a service shuts down, even if DRM prevents them from using the digital property in the future.

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Let's pull the band-aid off right now. Businesses don't care about you; they care about your money. If business is collapsing, they have little incentive to guarantee your digital property. Even if some angelic distributor decided to offer you lifelong access to DRM-free copies of your purchases when it went out of business, it would probably be slapped with a handful of lawsuits for violating licensing contracts. vague notion that everything will be okay, but it's not very promising. A few years ago, Reddit post about Steam's DRM policy got a lot of attention. A user asked Steam Support if it would have access to its games upon the (theoretical) discontinuation of the Steam network. The support tech assured that "are in place" to allow purchasers to access their content forever. But these games are protected by forms of DRM, and the Steam user licensing agreement itself states that content and services are licensed, not sold.

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