Amazon Unbox and its absurd restrictions

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 10, 2006
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Amazon, Companies, Internet

Amazon Unbox, the new video download service provided by Amazon, went live yesterday offering users a free and easy way to download and view videos on their computer. Most tv show episodes cost 1,99$ while movies begin at 3,99$ up to 19,99$ for new releases. Files are offered in .wmv and .amzn (for portable devices) format only and can't be burned on DVD to watch the movie on the television. The only way to do that would be to connect the computer to the television.

I'm currently conduction a little poll here on ghacks about the maximum price you would pay for DVD downloads and there are only very few voters who would pay more than 7,99$ for such a download with the majority voting for a price below 5$. So, who will be buying movies for the extreme price of 19,99$ that you can only watch on your PC or portable device while you could easily purchase the DVD for the same amount including a physical DVD, cover, booklet and DVD extras that you do not get when you select the download route.

All your movie downloads can only be played on a computer that has the Amazon Unbox software installed and an association with your account. Amazon states that you have 24 hours to download the movie after you made the purchase on a computer that has the Amazon Unbox software installed. They do not mention what happens if you fail to download the movie in that time, I have a guess but I keep that for myself.

If that is not enough, let us take a look at the license agreement which should scare every single user away from that service:

  • Software Upgrades: They may automatically update the software without your consent and playback will not work on computers that do not have the latest version of the software installed. Sounds ridiculous?
  • Information Provided: Amazon will keep track when you viewed or deleted content, keep track about your operating system, software (whatever that means) your disk space and your internet connection.
  • Removal of Software: If you uninstall the software Amazon has the right to delete all digital content from the device without notification.
  • Promotional Content: Amazon may automatically deliver promotional content to your unbox software and delete that content again without notice.
  • Service: Amazon has the right to modify, suspend or discontinue the service at any time without notification.
  • Agreement: Amazon may change the agreement at any time, if you want to be able to continue watching the movies you will have to accept the changes.

Here we have it. You get a crippled file for the same price of a DVD that is full of DRM and restrictions. You can't burn the movie on DVD, you can only play the movie on systems with the unbox software and your account, you only have 24 hours to download the movie, you will be spammed with promotional content without your agreement, your viewing habits and system information are recorded, the service may stop without warning and you will not be able to play the files anymore and Amazon may update the software whenever they please without letting you know about it.

Oh, did I mention that they have the right to delete all content when you uninstall their software? If you are using this you must be insane, that is my opinion on the matter.

Update: Amazon's digital offerings have changed over the years. The company is now making available a service called Amazon Prime Instant Video and Amazon Instant Video for instance. It is a subscription based service that provides you with access to movies and TV shows for a single flat fee. To make that service attractive, Amazon has begun to produce its own TV shows that are only available on Prime.

amazon instant video

Amazon Instant Video: This is the new name of Amazon's streaming and download service. It can stream contents to many different devices, including PCs, tablets, directly on the Web or to gaming systems such as the PS3 or Xbox 360.

Amazon Prime Instant Video: The main difference here is that Amazon Prime members get access to part of the Instant Video catalog for free. They pay $79 per year for that privilege but also get free two-day shipping and access to Kindle Owner's Lending Library on top of that which provides them with access to 300,000 books that they can borrow for free.

Most contents can be rented or bought, and streamed or downloaded.  You find additional information about the program here on Amazon.


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  1. The Dark Lady said on July 9, 2023 at 11:19 am

    Martin, I would appreciate that you do not censor this post, as it’s informative writing.

    Onur, there is a misleading statement “[…] GIFs are animated images …”. No, obviously you don’t seem to have take much notice of what you were told back in March regarding; Graphics Interchange Format (GIF).

    For example, (if you had read my replies within that thread, you might have learnt something useful). I even mentioned, “GIF intrinsically supports animated images (GIF89a)”.

    You linked to said article, [Related: …] within this article, but have somehow failed to take onboard what support you were given by several more knowledgeable people.

    If you used AI to help write this article, it has failed miserably.

  2. KeZa said on August 17, 2023 at 5:58 pm

    AI is stupid, and it will not get any better if we really know how this all works. Prove me wrong..

  3. Database failure said on August 18, 2023 at 5:21 pm

    Martin, [#comment-4569908] is only meant to be in: []. Whereas it appears duplicated in several recent random low-quality non relevant articles.

    Obviously it [#comment-4569908] was posted: 9 July 2023. Long before this thread even existed… your database is falling over. Those comments are supposed to have unique ID values. It shouldn’t be possible to duplicate the post ID, if the database had referential integrity.

  4. Howard Pearce said on August 25, 2023 at 12:24 pm

    Don’t tell me!

    Ghacks wants the state to step in for STATE-MANDATED associations to save jobs!!!

    Bring in the dictatorship!!!

    And screw Rreedom of Association – too radical for Ghacks maybe

  5. Howard Allan Pearce said on September 7, 2023 at 9:13 am

    GateKeeper ?

    That’s called “appointing” businesses to do the state’s dirty work!!!!!

    But the article says itself that those appointed were not happy – implying they had not choice!!!!!!

  6. owl said on September 7, 2023 at 9:50 am

    @The Dark Lady,
    @Database failure,
    @Howard Pearce,
    @Howard Allan Pearce,

    Note: I replaced the quoted URI scheme: https:// with “>>” and posted.

    The current is owned by “Softonic International S.A.” (sold by Martin in October 2019), and due to the fate of M&A, has changed in quality.
    Many Authors of bloggers and advertisers certified by Softonic have joined the site, and the site is full of articles aimed at advertising and clickbait.
    As it stands, except for articles by Martin Brinkmann, Mike Turcotte, and Ashwin, they are low quality, unhelpful, and even vicious. It is better not to read those articles.
    How to display only articles by a specific author:
    Added line to My filters in uBlock Origin:,.home-posts,.home-category-post:not(:has-text(/Martin Brinkmann|Mike Turcotte|Ashwin/))

    By the way, if you use an RSS reader, you can track exactly where your comments are (I’m an iPad user, so I use “Feedly Classic”, but for Windows I prefer the desktop app “RSS Guard”).
    RSS Guard: Feed reader which supports RSS/ATOM/JSON and many web-based feed services.

  7. Anonymous said on September 14, 2023 at 6:41 pm

    We all live in digital surveillance glass houses under scrutiny of evil people because of people like Musk. It’s only fair that he takes his turn.

  8. Anonymous said on September 18, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    “Operating systems will be required to let the user choose the browser, virtual assistant and search engine of their choice. Microsoft cannot force users to use Bing or Edge. Apple will have to open up its iOS operating system to allow third-party app stores, aka allow sideloading of apps. Google, on the other hand, will need to provide users with the ability to uninstall preloaded apps (bloatware) from Android devices. Online services will need to allow users to unsubscribe from their platform easily. Gatekeepers need to provide interoperability with third-parties that offer similar services.”

    Wonderful ! Let’s hope they’ll comply with that law more than they are doing with the GDPR.

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