Movie Availability on iTunes May Be Temporary

CNet explains the reason behind a Macworld report last week that several movies had disappeared from the iTunes Store.

Frequent Macworld contributor Kirk McElhearn noticed something interesting when he went to grab a movie from the iTunes Store. Of the 15 films he had bookmarked for later viewing, an astounding nine were no longer available for purchase. Or rental. Nor, for that matter, did they seem to exist anywhere on the iTunes Store at all.

CNet explains that this is due to licensing agreements between the movie studios and Apple.

Typically, movies have set distribution windows that are followed in order: theaters, DVDs, pay-per-view (and iTunes) and finally, broadcast TV. As movies cross over into broadcast TV distribution, they are being removed from Apple (and Netflix) distribution.

Normally, release windows don't affect retailers or video-rental services after they've begun selling or renting films. Warner Bros. doesn't go into Best Buy and pull DVDs off the shelf when Comcast airs Casablanca. The corner Mom and Pop video store doesn't surrender copies of Gladiator to Universal Studios when the film appears on ABC. But Internet stores are being treated differently. What this means for iTunes and Netflix customers is that movies will pop in and out of the services.

Those who have already purchased these films will, of course, be able to continue to watch them.

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