September 2006 Archives

Amazon Unbox

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Amazon.com launched a new service recently: Unbox Video. It's about time movie download services come about. But this post is not about the available movies, prices or video quality. I wouldn't be able to comment on that anyway, not living in the US.

More intersting, at least for me, are the "Unbox Video: Terms of Use." These say that to view the movies the Unbox Video Player must be installed on an "Authorized Device." " The Software may operate on your Authorized Device continuously for a variety of reasons..." and "The Software also will access the Internet in order to perform a number of functions including as described below:"

a. Software Upgrades. The Software automatically checks for upgrades, but the Software will not automatically upgrade without your consent, except as provided herein. If you do not consent to an upgrade that we make subject to your consent, the Digital Content may no longer be viewed on your Authorized Device. You must keep the Software on your Authorized Device current in order to continue to use the Service. We may automatically upgrade the Software when we believe such upgrade is appropriate to comply with law, enforce this Agreement, or protect the rights, safety or property of Amazon, our content providers, users, or others.

That's where I stopped reading. These terms sound awfully familiar to the EULA that accompanied the Sony "Rootkit" CDs, though. Seems to me like these terms come directly from the media companies. But this post is not about complaining about these, either.

So what is this post about? It seems to me that the Simple Rules of Sale have changed fundamantally. Previously, if I likes something I looked at the price and decided if it would be worth it or not. If I buy it, I "own" it. At least that's how it felt for me.

These days another factor gets even more important: The terms. Not that is wasn't important before, but it had less impact. There were far fewer things that could "go wrong." Probably because computers were not connected. Or I'm just getting old. Now, I have to check the terms in detail to see what the program does, if it phones home and if so what it tells about me. It seems like that I am not buying a copy any more but just the license, and it's my duty to prove it's valid. The terms or software may change and if I don't agree any license is gone.

I, for one, will pay attention to any licensing terms more closely, and what I'll get - if I want it or not - for my money. And, of course, be suspicious if the license comes from one of the big players. ;-)

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