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Editor's take: Sony unilaterally removing paid-for content is bound to reignite the argument for piracy – specifically to protect from unfair digital media seizures. While I cannot condone piracy, I can understand this frustration. Companies need to seriously reconsider how they implement licensing if they can arbitrarily take away content purchased on top of their subscriptions. Discontinuing the "Buy" button or allowing offline downloading would be a start.
If you have purchased Discovery content from PlayStation at any time in the past, prepare to lose it. Sony has notified some PSN members that it is pulling digital content from the store and user libraries on December 31, even if they paid for it.
"Due to our content licensing arrangements with content providers, you will no longer be able to watch any of your previously purchased Discovery content, and the content will be removed from your video library," reads the email notice one user posted on X (below).
The full notice on the PlayStation website, titled "Discovery Entitlements Affected Titles," lists hundreds of shows Sony will purge from the store and user accounts at the end of the year. Some popular entries leaving include Myth Busters, Shark Week, Sister Wives, How It's Made, and Naked and Afraid.
Of course, users haven't taken the news well. We saw similar outrage when Sony announced the closure of the PlayStation 3 and PSP stores. However, in those cases, the company didn't pull games from players' libraries and left legacy servers open for players to redownload their titles.
Disgusting behavior pic.twitter.com/qSTxzp82yL– JayRock (@JAAY_ROCK_) December 1, 2023
While the closures ultimately didn't affect paying customers, they reminded us that we don't own the content. All digital content is a licensing agreement that can be changed or revoked by the issuing company. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of this, not just because nobody reads novel-length licensing agreements but also because companies continue using the "Buy" button, which is misleading.
Sony's notice didn't mention causes for the licensing issues, nor did it respond to requests for comment. However, it could be related to Discovery's merger with Warner Bros.
In April 2022, AT&T spun off WarnerMedia, which merged with Discovery to become Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD). IGN notes that in August, 36 shows and movies got axed from HBO Max. At the time, Variety pointed out that WBD had quietly removed several films from the streaming platform since the deal concluded. Eurogamer speculates that Sony's licensing failures could be further cost-cutting fallout from the merger.
Although Sony has not commented on the matter, it is bound to address the blowback. It's too early to say how the company will respond to furious users. However, it's not likely the company will simply fall back on its licensing agreement, even though that should keep it legally sound from the lawsuits that are sure to follow. It will more likely offer concessions to affected users, such as in-store credit or partial refunds. However, it's too early to say anything for sure.