UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

You don’t own anything online

Since its inception, Netflix has posed itself as a solution to cable television. They advertised convenience and cost—for just a few bucks a month, you could get everything that cable offered, but ad-free! Now, between Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+, YouTube TV, Pluto, Amazon Prime and hundreds of other streaming services—all of which come with their own monthly subscription, and usually a more expensive plan to remove ads—it’s the same thing as cable, all over again. In the digital age, you don’t own anything—you rent it. 

The trend of movie studios and streaming services abruptly removing content from their platforms demonstrates just how desperate they are for profits. Streaming services, according to CNBC, operate at a loss; for years, shareholders have focused on maximizing growth and subscriber count, sure that profits were soon to follow. In addition to implementing advertising, companies have famously resorted to removing media completely from their platforms to avoid paying licensing fees. Michael Nathanson, an economic analyst, told CNBC, “Warner Bros. Discovery was the first one to figure this out, so we have to give credit where it’s due. They said they need to get their earnings up, so they started taking shows off the app.” [1] Nearly every service, from Hulu to Netflix, has followed suit.  

Even products you buy instead of renting aren’t safe. As explained by an article in the New York Times, streaming services reserve the right to completely remove content that you have paid for: “Unlikely as that may be, theoretically the service could block access to movies you’ve already purchased—as the terms state, ‘[Y]our ability to stream or download Content may terminate if our licenses terminate, change or expire.’” [2] In many of these cases, consumers would have no recourse and would simply not be able to access content that they rightfully paid for.  

Unless you physically store the file on your computer, it isn’t really yours. Cloud and file-hosting services can shut down; even if you simply lose access to your account, it becomes infinitely harder to access your files. Artists and other content creators oftentimes don’t even own their own work—as soon as it’s made, it becomes property of Disney, or Netflix, or whichever streaming service lays claim to it. James Sammataro, a New York City lawyer who has represented Spotify and Amazon, told Inside Hook, “Trading your [ownership rights] in hopes of a future that matters was the standard way of doing business.” [3] 

Through the Healey Library, UMass Boston students can at least in part avoid paying for a dozen different streaming services. Most of the services have all or mostly educational material, although a few of the sites also contain some for-entertainment films and shows. According to their E-Resources page, the database includes services from PBS to the Royal Shakespeare Company [4]. 

However, the issue of subscription services speaks to a much broader problem of consumerism and rising costs. People have a right to entertainment—not necessarily to always have access to the newest and hottest show, but at the very least the right to relax and enjoy themselves. Forbes reported that the average American pays $46 a month, and the video streaming industry was valued at $544 billion in 2023, although that figure is expected to rise to $1.092 trillion—about $3,400 per person in the US [5]. It may seem silly and inconsequential, but in a world where costs are rising and wages are dropping, being able to destress without spending exorbitant amounts of money is as important as ever.  



[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2023/05/29/streaming-services-remove-movies-shows-heres-why.html 

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/blog/you-dont-own-your-digital-movies/ 

[3] https://www.insidehook.com/culture/why-taylor-swift-and-many-other-artists-dont-own-the-rights-to-their-work 

[4] https://www.umb.edu/library/e-resources/ 

[5] https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/internet/streaming-stats/  

About the Contributor
Elijah Horwath, Opinions Editor