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I was thinking about this sort of thing and I'm still wondering how long it'll be until the next George Lucas decides they want to pull a Special Edition and re-do a movie they released... but it was something only available on streaming/DRM-based stores.
Imagine the director of The Umbrella Academy is filming season 2 and decides that they hate the ending of season 1, so they re-film it. They convince netflix to swap out the copy of episode 10 with the new one.
Now, if you're a fan who really liked the original episode and want to watch that one instead of the new one, how do you do that? No DVDs/Blu-Rays. You can't download it, you can only stream it. And the servers will only give you the 10-new episode, not 10-orig.
It's like if George Lucas could have released the Special Editions and snuck into all your houses and stole your VHS copies of Star Wars at the same time.
I'm just wondering how long it'll be until someone does this, if they haven't already.
I'm sure there's already shows/movies that you just cannot get legally, at all, because they were only licensed to platform X which is now gone.
But you could also change them.
and here's the thing: even if you believe that Netflix or Amazon or whoever would never do that and they're nice people who never want to Lucas their films, consider the case of lawsuits.
They could easily get sued over something they put in a film.
Maybe it turns out that something they said in Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes was libelous and they get found guilty.
and they're gonna have to pay some amount of money and stop selling that version of the documentary, and they'd have to re-edit it and re-release it if they want to continue making money off it.
which is nothing new, of course. the same thing happened to VHS or DVD films.
except when the maker of a DVD gets into some kind of legal trouble and has to cease distributing it, all they can do is pull copies from stores (and probably not all of them at that)
with a streaming/DRM platform they can pull the ALREADY SOLD copies!

And this has happened. Not with films that I know of, but there have been books yanked from the Kindle store, that vanished from the purchasers' devices.
and what's probably worse is that they don't even have to be as obvious as pulling the film, at least in the streaming case.
They can just quietly switch out which one gets downloaded, and nobody needs to know.
Just imagine how much worse mass delusions like the mandela effect are going to get once companies start doing this, as well as intentional scams like Roxie, the girl shark on Street Sharks.
If you can't trust that the version of the show you're watching today is the one you watched yesterday, you can't really disagree with statements like "there was a girl shark in street sharks" by simply watching the episodes and confirming she's not in there.
she's not in there today. maybe she was in there yesterday.
and of course, this has already happened.
Netflix has apparently changed Bird Box after release. (thanks to @cloudthethings for mentioning this)
independent.co.uk/arts-entertain…
and the thing is, piracy. there's always pirates, pirating content.
but in cases like this it may be the only way to preserve original copies, since you cannot legally save a copy of a netflix/amazon film.
which is NOTHING NEW.
Film piracy is the only reason we have any surviving copies of the 1922 german expressionist film Nosferatu.
A very important film to the history of cinema with lots of influence on the next century of film, and very single legal copy was destroyed.
it's only because there were unauthorized pirate copies circulating around america that it survived destruction when the makers were sued and lost.
if it had been a netflix film, it would 100% be gone today.
so Frank Cifaldi had a neat talk at GDC about how weird the market for games is, like how you can easily watch Uncle Buck, an OK film from 1989, on about 900 platforms.
But if you want to play the top 10 games from 1989? oh dear. Maybe some are on virtual console?
and it was all in a spirit of "the games industry needs to move to be more like movies: our back catalog should be easily accessible to paying customers".

but I fear that the opposite is going to happen. Buying movies is going to get just as shit as games already are.
and the games industry loves that. It's way easier to sell people on buying ShooterMan '19 when Shooterman '04 isn't for sale and you have to get an old console and an old TV and an old CRT to play it.
Which is the worst part of remote attestation like this:
I 100% do not believe this is only ever going to get used in cases like the kindle one (where the seller didn't have legal authorization to distribute them) or the Netflix one (where they had to edit after offense)
It's going to get used for things like "we decided we didn't like this film anymore" or "we want to sell you on the remake by making the original disappear"
like, think about Disney. Disney made a film in 1946 that they would rather you forget called Song of the South.
Now it's debatable if the film is as terrible as Disney seems to be implying, but hey. You can always find an old VHS copy.
But Disney is setting up their own streaming service. They'll release movies right to it.
If one of them ends up being their Song of the South 2, they will make it vanish.
Or in 1997 they made Flubber, which is a remake of the 1961 film The Absent-Minded Professor. Maybe some marketing genius decides that the best way to get people excited about the new movie is by making the old one disappear.
which is just the thing, you might say "oh, no, it's obviously going to make more money to have both available" but can you be sure that's the case every single time? that someone won't decide that the new thing would do better without the internal competition of the old thing?
because game companies already think about this. They think about shutting down servers for old games because the new one won't sell as well if it has to compete against the old one.
and so far that mainly affects always-online games like MMORPGs...
but more and more games are released on DRM platforms like steam, uplay, or the epic launcher. and just because you don't think they WILL do these things doesn't mean they CAN'T, and whether it's a good idea (or a profitable idea) could always change for them in the future.
there's an idea in military planning that you go on capability, not intent.
Valve may be a great company who has nothing but good feelings towards the entire gaming public.

But they could also make every legal copy of Half Life 2 evaporate tomorrow.
and we are normalizing that kind of situation. Books, Movies, Games, TV shows, Music... it's all moving towards a streaming model now. And that's just going to make it easier and easier for some company to destroy their legacy through malice or incompetence
I need to not rant endlessly about this, but all I can say is God Bless The Pirates but you should worry about how you'd keep access to things you can watch, play, or listen to.
Media is a huge part of our lives. And parts of your childhood (or just past in general) will vanish.
Like, I have games I played a lot as a kid, they're very nostalgic to me, and it's only because of pirated copies, very used disks from ebay, and modern emulators that I'm able to play them at all today. If I was a kid now, my favorite games 20 years from now could be gone.
I've got movies I loved as a kid, on VHS tapes that I watched so many times that they started to wear thin at points. My sister watched Beauty and the Beast every day for an entire summer. And 20 years from now, today's films and shows could be gone.
And there's music I only have because I still have the CDs from back then, because they're local, foreign, or obscure bands that are from companies that have long since gone under, from bands that broke up, from storefronts I had to import from through google translate.
and if I was listening to them today, would I still be able to listen to them in 20 years?
I have an album with my dad's guitar work on it that gets zero hits on google. It was from an actual band, that produced multiple albums! And it's gone.
Some day he'll be gone too and I might have to say to my children "Well, I could play you some of Grandad's music, but it all went away when Spotify merged into HitsMix in 2023. Sorry about that!"
which isn't hyperbole, it's a thing that can and has happened. MySpace lost over a decade of music by botching an upgrade.
pitchfork.com/thepitch/histo…
and there's been comments on the internet archive thanking Jason Scott or whoever for uploading some old mix tapes because the originals were lost and the other bandmates were dead.
We gotta push back against making everything streaming. The convenience is great but if we're moving to the point where it becomes impossible to own anything, we get into situations like what happened with Doctor Who in the 60s and 70s.
before you could really do home video, the only way to see a show again was reruns, and therefore the only copies were sometimes the ones stored at the BBC, and they figured it wasn't important to keep copies of old episodes they couldn't really show anymore, so they tossed 'em.
It's one of the most important sci-fi shows of old time. One of the longest running shows. And a full third of the episodes from the first six years are just GONE.
They do not exist anywhere. They can never be seen again.
and again, that's doctor fucking who, a show with a massive fanbase and worldwide fame: Imagine what happened to all the shows made back then that weren't international smash hits?
and similarly it's been estimated that at least 3/4ths of all silent films ever made have been lost. They're just gone, unmade.
And a lot of that was technological limitations: we couldn't easily make perfect copies, storage was hard (and dangerous), and there was no home market
none of those are true now. not at all. We can perfectly duplicate any film, it's just a digital file.
we have insane amounts of storage, which no longer randomly bursts into flames.
and we can watch films, play games, & listen to music everywhere.
and we're still going to end up losing tons of things because it didn't fit into our product model or wasn't a priority or didn't make any money for the people who'd have to pay to keep it.
because that's the thing: the technical issues of preservation are largely solved. You digitize, you make copies, you make them available, and it will never go away.
so we're going to end up losing tons of media from the current generation for political and business and cultural reasons.
we're not gonna lose history because we can't save it.

we're gonna lose it because we don't want to save it.

because we don't care to save it.
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