When you pay for something which isn't really yours, PlayStation and Warner TV

Everything digital is becoming a licenced type product, there one doesn’t actually own the content but pays fee for using it. This includes things like software (in computers to a car), videos on streaming services, firmware in devices and the list goes on.

Recently Sony announced that access to Warner TV through its PlayStation would be withdrawn and any content within Warner TV deleted, without compensation or refund. This means if a consumer paid for a movie to be included in their library, it will be no longer available to be watched. Gone are the days of owning something (and having it in your hands). We now buy licences which are temporary and can be revoked at the strike of the keyboard by company executives:

And Sony isn’t alone:



And this is a good reason to buy “hard copies” of your purchased or streaming stuff. I first noticed this deleting business when I began reading kindle ebooks. In the early days, i downloaded a LOT of freebies (many of which were dross but some were not…) and amongst those was a commercial (ie not a self-pub) book. I no longer have access to it. Bad luck, they say. The same has applied at times to commercial books I have bought. And again… bad luck!


… and stay well away from suppliers like Amazon that lock the e-things you buy from them into their proprietary ecosystem.

Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to Amazon for ebooks. Many are DRM-free, even if you must pay for them. See, eg, Guide to DRM-Free Living: Literature | defectivebydesign.org.

In 2012 I was struggling to find space for my print-book collection. Friends’ glowing reports of Kindle encouraged me to get one and begin accumulating an ebook library via Amazon.

It wasn’t long before I began to chafe at Amazon-Kindle’s major limitations, which included

  1. Severely lacking library-management functions, whether online or via the Kindle devices and apps. One could not view, sort, or search on any standard metadata other than title and author.
  2. Severely limited search function. The only accessible metadata was title, author, date purchased, and ranking (!?); searching couldn’t be restricted to any of those; and there was no concept of a “regular expression”. Given a phrase, even in quotes, it’d search separately for each of the words. Want to find books by Joe Bloggs? Be prepared to sift through all books ever published that have Joe or Bloggs in the title or author’s name …
  3. Ebook files entirely encrypted, with even the filenames just random strings of characters, and only readable with Kindle (app or device). So no metadata, not even book title, is visible outside of the Amazon-Kindle environment.
  4. No accounting for taste, but I just didn’t like the Kindle.

It quickly became impossible to access and track my growing ebook library in any organised fashion. Eg, I couldn’t easily check whether I already had a particular volume of a series, let alone easily find all available volumes in a series on the Amazon website.

So, after investigating options, I installed the free open-source Calibre eBook Management on my Windows laptop, imported as much as possible of my ebook library into it, and began buying ebooks from anywhere but Amazon. I bought an 8" Android tablet to use as a reader instead of the Kindle, and am still using that.

I now have almost 800 ebooks in Calibre, which has all the library management functions one would expect, including a sophisticated search that can access any metadata, and can even search the content. I even created a database of my 300+ print books in Calibre by importing metadata from an app that could scan barcodes and look up the metadata online.

These days I often buy commercial ebooks from Booktopia, which usually has the ones I want and usually charges about the same as Amazon for them. The ones with DRM do have to be ‘fulfilled’ by Adobe Digital Editions or Kobo, but can then be imported into and managed by Calibre.

I can access my Calibre library via ebook reader apps on the Android tablet. I much prefer the tablet to a Kindle as a reading environment, but if I did want to use a Kindle with Calibre, I could. It can communicate directly with most e-reader devices and apps to deliver and update books, either wirelessly or by connecting the device to the PC.


Calibre is hands down the best ebook manager available. Been using it since it was in 0.x versions and have now reached a point where I can no longer update to new versions because buying a new Mac Mini is too much of a financial challenge. I don’t feel limited though, it still manages the >2000 epubs I have.

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Unfortunately, this is not always possible and increasingly less so. Since the rise of streaming services the new music of many artists is no longer being published as CDs but simply as digital downloads and the same is true for Blu-ray/DVD movies, so one either has to live with the conditions of the licence or make illegal copies. And as the OP mentions the move towards things we licence as opposed to things we own infiltrates many unexpected aspects of life such as software in our cars that is essential for them to function. There is no suggestion as yet that such software might be intentionally disabled by the manufacturer or an essential upgrade might become a chargeable item, but (without attempting to trawl through the legalese gobbledegook of licence agreements) I’m reasonably confident the possibility of such a move is hanging over our heads. It would certainly be a move in the interests of the consumer to make withdrawal of such products and services an illegal act unless there is good reason (e.g. the software is vulnerable to malicious attack and cannot be updated, etc). It seems a reasonable expectation of the consumer that an item they have paid for remains available to them (until it begins to malfunction or deteriorate as one might expect of physical items). Alternatively, such items should clearly state at time of financial transaction that the purchase is for xxx minimum fixed period, just as rental items do. It would be wonderful to have some legal experts work something into the ACL for such protections.


Adobe Flash comes to mind - though that was disabled for very good (security) reasons.

Then there are trains.

While tractor owners have recently won the right to repair their own machinery in the US. Of course this only applies to that jurisdiction - Australians have to fight for their own rights.


I get a USB and download all my purchases to that so I have a copy ready to go when I need it and then if they decide to remove my items for whatever reason I haven’t lost it.

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