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A Lesson in Digital Rights

Do I Own Digital Music, Movies, Books and Games Hosted Elsewhere? The answer, in the end, is not really. Something I really never thought about until recently, thanks to a video from Switched to Linux and an article in which a person lost their account access to a service. Which also meant thousands of dollars of music and movies purchased digitally that contained digital rights management (DRM).

There are two lessons learned here and both are this person's fault, but I am also at fault for my past purchasing behavior over the last decade. I have three music libraries, the biggest one is the music I rent through Spotify. If I stop paying Spotify the monthly fee I lose access to them all, but it gives me access to everything they have available and I have discovered a lot of bands because of it. It is all hosted on their servers.

My other two libraries are the physical CDs I own and then the Free Lossless Audio Codec (.flac) library of files I ripped them into instead of handling them when I want to listen to them. I have total control over the CDs and the files, including backing them up just in case.

Over the last fifteen years I've hardly purchased any CDs until recently. I own a lot of DVDs of movies, tv shows, and documentaries of which I also have ripped to Matroska Video File (.mkv). I don't have to handle DVDs every time I want to watch one. Those are also backed up digitally to a second drive just in case too. In both instances, who wants to have to rip it all again if something happens to one of the libraries? Certainly not me, that took months of work. This goes for digital photos and home movies too. It is important to have backups of your digital collections that provide entertainment and even more so your personal data.

Although I have DVDs of video games from my Xbox 360, once I purchased an Xbox One X so began my digital purchasing of games of which until recently I have not purchased a single DVD game in probably 10 years now. Thinking about this and the video from Switched to Linux, I know I have purchased close to two hundred Xbox One X games. Yes, I have a problem, I know this, but even more so if for any reason Microsoft decides to come out with another console that uses another network. I am at the mercy of Microsoft as every game is hosted on their servers. Sure I install them locally on the console, but I only have so much room. I own the games and yet I have no control over having them. If a game is pulled I lose it. If I need to reinstall it and it is no longer provided, I lose it. The same goes for any books purchased on an Amazon Kindle or elsewhere. Sure it is convenient but your purchase could be remove or lost easily if locked out of your account.

I recently purchased a Nintendo Switch and have resisted the advertisements to purchase games digitally. Currently, any games on the Nintendo Switch are ones I own the cartridges outright which puts me in total control of their existence and my access to them in the future. Nintendo is famous for shutting down a network once a new console comes out, there go your digital purchases.

We have all become so willing to give up true ownership of music, movies, and video games for the sake of convenience and instant access. This all works great until it doesn't. If you lose your internet access, you lose your music, movies, and games. If you get locked out of an account for any reason, the same will happen. I too have been at fault for relying on a server or service to be available forever even when I am actually purchasing something. Unless it is something I can hold in my hand it is something I truly do not own. With this, I am making a commitment to not purchase anything digitally going forward. Anything like games, movies, or music that I actually like enough to want to own, I will purchase the actual CD or DVD. You would be better off if you did too.

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