iTunes Terms of Service Update for Movie Rentals

As one would expect, iTunes’s new movie rental service brings along with it an update to the iTunes Store Terms of Service. I ran a diff on the previous and new versions, and other than a few minor changes to account for the concept of renting (e.g. “products purchased through the Service” is now “products transacted through the Service”), the only significant changes are specifically pertaining to movie rentals.

Here they are, with commentary, from the new Movie Rentals section of the terms:

(aa) Movies are viewable only on your Mac or Windows computer (using iTunes 7.6 or later), iPhone, video-enabled iPod (iPod touch, iPod nano (3rd generation), or iPod classic), or on TVs using your Apple TV. Movies in high definition resolution (HD) are viewable only on TVs using your Apple TV and must be downloaded directly to your Apple TV. Movies are viewable only on one device at a time.

Interesting, perhaps, that HD movies are only available for Apple TV — the standard DVD-quality rentals are available for your computer and iPods, too. I would think that a 30-inch Cinema Display would be a reasonable target for HD movies, so I’m not sure why this limitation exists. Perhaps because HD movies are so large that it would be cumbersome to have users moving them across their home network from computer to Apple TV and vice-versa? Not a huge deal, though, overall.

Update: A few smart DF readers have emailed to suggest it’s about piracy concerns — the studios may want to limit the high-def movies to the Apple TV because it has the HDCP DRM-enabled output.

(bb) You must be connected to the Service when moving or streaming movies. Once a movie is moved, it is no longer viewable on the sending device. You may only move movies to another device from your Mac or Windows computer. Movies downloaded directly to your Apple TV may not be moved.

So, again, an interesting limitation: if you rent a movie from your Mac, you can move it to your Apple TV, but if you rent it from Apple TV, it can’t be moved.

(cc) You have thirty (30) days after downloading a movie to begin viewing. Once you begin viewing, you have twenty-four (24) hours to view the movie (the “Viewing Period”). You may view the movie an unlimited number of times during the Viewing Period. Movies are not viewable after the thirty (30) day period. Stopping, pausing or restarting a movie does not extend the available time for viewing.

The 30-day period is fine, but the 24-hour viewing window is far too miserly. Everything else about these movie rentals seems terrific — the DVD and HD quality options, the prices, the shopping UI on the Apple TV — but 24 hours after you hit play the first time just doesn’t seem fair.

Say you start playing a movie at 10 pm. Halfway though, you stop. Maybe you’re falling asleep. Maybe you’ve got a baby upstairs who wakes up crying. (When our son was born, I don’t think my wife and I finished a feature film in one night for an entire year.) You go to bed, and now you’re sort of stuck: you’ve got to finish the movie the next night before 10 pm or your carriage turns back into a pumpkin.

I just don’t get why it’s so miserly. What skin would it be off the studios’ or Apple’s back if they gave you 48 or 72 hours? I can’t see how the rental playing window length could possibly have any bearing on piracy implications. Who cares if a two- or three-day window would allow you to watch the entire movie multiple times? That’s something you’ve always been able to do with VHS and DVD rentals.

I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker, but this 24-hour window is the only real sour spot in the whole deal.

(dd) If you move a movie to an iPod or iPhone and then use the Service to restore the iPod or iPhone before you finish watching it, the movie will be deleted and will not be recoverable. This also applies to choosing Settings > Reset > Erase all content and settings on iPod touch and iPhone.

Interesting, but not surprising given the “you can only move the rented movie to one device at a time” rule.

(ee) Broadband Internet connection required.

Well, duh, I suppose.