Larry Magid: What Happens When Something You Bought In ‘The Cloud’ Goes Away?

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— An online gaming distribution website may have angered some of its users by removing portions of a game from their libraries.

Steam, the gaming company, had previously pulled the plug on a game called ‘Order for War’ but then went ahead and deleted parts of the game that let users play against each other.

This raises the question of how much we really own things we have but is stored in the cloud. Is there a way to protect something you’ve bought?

In a broader context, what happened was they shut down a server and made the changes. The single-player function continued to operate, but the game didn’t function as it normally had.

Apparently some code was pulled from the users’ devices and it’s not the first time this happened. A far more serious thing happened a number of years ago with Amazon where they pulled a book from people’s Kindles.

In that instance it was a book, which I can’t remember the title of, that they thought they had the license for, but it turned out they didn’t.

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It brings up the broader question: Do we own our digital content? For example, I bought ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ I paid the full price for it. I have it for life, but what if something happens to Amazon and they decide, for whatever reason, to take it away from me?

I don’t have a physical copy, but I’ve paid for the right to watch it.

It’s a bit of a legal grey area shrouding the realm of cloud computing. When we bought records, tapes and CDs we owned them and they were in our possession. Someone would have physically had to have taken them away in order for it to be missing from your library.

With digital content it seems like it would be much easier to delete content from your library with a simple push of a button rather than a physical theft, but in dealing with reputable companies, I’m not too worried about Amazon taking away my right to watch movies. I guess I’d also be wary of companies that potentially might fold.

More from Larry Magid
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