This problem goes so much deeper than the movies on Amazon Prime. The New York Times reported in 2009 that Amazon’s Kindle stores had removed certain editions of George Orwell’s books – “1984”, “Animal Farm” – from customers’ devices, ironically enough. (Amazon said the editions were offered for sale by a company that did not have the proper rights to the works.) And Nebraska farmers lost the right to repair their own tractors in 2017. A Guardian article explains that farmers wanted to pass a “right to repair” law because John Deere does not allow anyone other than its authorized repair personnel to do anything on a John Deere tractor. In one case, it meant that a man couldn’t turn off an alarm that went off every 10 minutes. Because the repair was too expensive, the man “faced the sound of the alarm intermittently for almost a year.”
Often we own the physical object, but not the software that makes that object usable. So whenever a “smart” version of a device is released, it’s a chance for a company to lease you the rights to your own refrigerator or whatever.
So the next time you think about watching a movie, consider whether you want the ease and space saving of digital access or the permanence of physical media. Don’t forget the commentary tracks either! It’s fun, isn’t it?