Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What to do when your HD movie rental on Apple TV expires before its time?

A couple days ago, I lost power to the Apple TV after I started watching an HD rental, but before I had finished it. A few hours after I restored power to Apple TV, I went to go watch my movie. The screen said there were 7 hours left until expiration, and I hit Play. A few seconds after I did that, I saw a message that said "media content has expired blah blah blah", and then like David Copperfield, the movie disappeared.

Is this a bug? A hole in Apple's DRM? Who knows. I filed a bug on it, but it's hard to debug because there is no clock on Apple TV, at least none that you can see. From an end-user standpoint, what are you suppose to do? If this had happened to my Dad, there is like nothing in the Apple TV UI to allow you to report problems, which is where it should be. There is probably some paper that offers a support number or something, but I shouldn't have to dig out a manual. I think to understand how this should be, you have to first understand how it currently is.

How it works...

  1. Open iTunes on your Mac or PC
  2. Click on iTunes Store
  3. Click on your account in the top right navigation bar of the iTunes Store
  4. Click on the button
  5. Click on the button
  6. This is the really subtle point, then click on the text next to the item in the Latest Purchase group, or click on the next to a Previous Purchase to you can then click on text
  7. Then you get to choose what type of problem you have and submit your issue

Once you go through this process, I had to wait under 24 hours for a response from iTunes support, which added the movie back into my download queue. From there, I checked downloads on the Apple TV and all was good again. I couldn't find a phone number to call. When I had problems with Microsoft's digital downloads on Xbox Live, at least I could call someone and get immediate help.

How it should work...
On Apple TV:

  1. Go to the Settings menu
  2. Click on Purchases (I just invented this)
  3. See a grouping/listing of different kinds of purchases (Rentals, TV Shows, etc)
  4. Click on the purchase that was problematic
  5. Click the big Report Problem button
  6. See a long list of reasonable problems
  7. Add some notes if you like
  8. Submit

Once you complete this process, you should be able to receive a notification on Apple TV that your problem was addressed, or its status. While you can rent from the couch, eventually at some point you are going to have problems, and while no digital media delivery system allows you to resolve problems from the couch, resolving them on the device is the way it should be.