Streaming service Wuaki.tv has come forwards to clarify its seemingly contentious ‘three years’ policy on purchased content.
Like iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and TalkTalk TV Store (the artist formerly known as Blinkbox) Wuaki.tv only charges customers for the content they watch, as opposed to Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime Video, which charges folks a flat fee and lets them binge away.
Wuaki.tv gives you the option of renting or buying movies and TV shows in standard or high definition. It’s signed content partnerships with big names including Disney, 20th Century Fox and HBO, which means titles like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Revenant and Game of Thrones are available to stream now. Even still-in-cinemas spandex slugfest X-Men: Apocalypse is available on a pre-order basis.
The prices are pretty damn cheap, there’s a growing selection of 4K content and you can download content for offline viewing on mobile devices, with desktop downloads also in the pipeline.
Everything seems great, until you read this worryingly-worded caveat that pops up whenever you go to buy something (our italics):
“This purchase allows unlimited streaming in all purchased versions on all compatible devices linked to your Rakuten Wuaki.tv account for a period of 3 years subject to restrictions outlined in the contractual conditions.”
Armed with the information available on Wuaki.tv’s site, it’s easy to interpret these terms to mean ‘stuff you buy will self-destruct after three years’ which runs contrary to just about everyone’s definition of the word ‘purchased’.
As such, we’ve been quick to warn readers in the past about this aspect of Wuaki.tv’s service, because on the surface it looks like a bad deal, to be polite. We’re not the only ones to get the wrong impression either.
We are now happy to report that this is not the case. If you buy something from Wuaki.tv, it’s yours.
That’s the short answer.
After speaking to Wuaki.tv, we’ve been able to find out exactly what they mean and why you shouldn’t worry too much about parting with your hard earned cash.
Streaming rights: What happens to my Wuaki.tv purchases after three years?
Ironically, Wuaki.tv’s decision to include a line about contractual conditions well intended; the company wanted to draw customer attention to the somewhat messy situation surrounding digital media rights.
Simon Homent, European head of content for Wuaki.tv, explained that contracts with rights holders guarantees that Wuaki.tv will be able to rent out and sell content for a set period of time. These contracts also have a built in clause which prevents titles from automatically dissapearing from the Wuaki.tv line up in the event of two worst-case scenarios.
“When we’re licensing content in a digital space, there’s two reasons why that content might get taken down,” Homent said.
“Firstly, imagine that for some reason Warner Bros., who has the rights to the Harry Potter movies, lost those rights to somebody else. If we didn’t have a contract with that other party, then we wouldn’t be able to offer those movies any more.
“The second thing is, if for whatever reason we stopped having a relationship with Warner Bros. or whoever, then all of their content would have to come down.”
Should either scenario unfold, then Wuaki.tv’s sunset clause will kick in. Confusingly, in some cases this grace period will actually be longer than three years.
“When we do a deal with a studio or any of the content providers, in our contract we insist on a certain minimum period of time [for the clause]. The very least we have in any contract is three years – some are four or five years. Obviously we have to give the customer one single number, so we stick with the lowest one.”
“If for whatever reason we lose the streaming rights to a title, customers will be able to download a permanent copy to their hard drive to watch offline.”This basically means that if one day Disney decides that it doesn’t want to let Wuaki.tv sell The Force Awakens and other future Star Wars films, after that point in time you’ll then have X number of years to carry on streaming that film, during which time you’ll also be able to download a digital copy.
While you’re given time to download iTunes purchases before they’re no longer available to buy, you’re not exactly given notice as to when they’re leaving, which has led to problems in the past. Apple’s T’s & C’s currently state, ‘previous purchases might be unavailable if they’ve been refunded or aren’t on the iTunes Store,’ which won’t make not being able to watch that copy of Anchorman you’ve actually paid for suck any less.
Homent said that Wuaki.tv doesn’t want to get in the way of your enjoyment of Ron Burgundy and will give you ample notice of when any title you’ve bought is due to leave: “If for whatever reason we lose the streaming rights to a title, customers who had bought that movie or TV show would, from a certain date, be able to download a permanent copy to their hard drive to watch offline.”
Chief operating officer and one of the two Wuaki.tv co-founders Josep Mitjà added: “So far we have not removed any title so this is new for us, but in that event, we would give to our customer a DRM-protected MPEG file.”
Mitjà explained that this means you’ll be able to play your downloaded file on compatible iOS and Android devices and (eventually) desktops as well. Storage and rights means you won’t be able to play it on all devices, even smart TVs with the Wuaki.tv app, but as the mobile apps work with Chromecast, this isn’t the end of the world.
What is HD? The difference between 720p, 1080i and 1080pWhile it’s good to know that there’s a backup option available to you should the worst happen, Wuaki.tv’s HD titles are currently only available in 720p HD. This is due to issues with 1080p Full HD files not working properly on ‘certain devices’, but according to Mitjà, customers will eventually be able to re-download HD titles in 1080p, as you can on iTunes.
Mitjà said that once 1080p content is live, newer titles will be prioritised, but added that ‘older titles may also be “retrofitted” if they are popular.’ While some customers would undoubtedly prefer to have the option of getting everything in 1080p HD, we welcome the gesture.
As it stands right now that’s a little better than the Sky Store Buy & Keep solution in one respect; while the Buy & Keep option might sidestep the whole DRM and platform access issue by sending you a DVD hardcopy in the post, you sadly won’t get any Blu-ray copies of your HD purchases.
However you prefer to consume content, Wuaki.tv’s worked on making sure that if you buy something, you’ve actually bought it. It won’t magically evaporate after three years and if the streaming rights for something you’ve paid for aren’t renewed, you won’t be out of pocket.