One Bad Apple

Anders Gonsalves da Silva lit up the Twittersphere in September with a screed aimed at Apple, accusing them not only of deleting films from his iTunes library without warning, but also offering him nothing but a couple of “rentals” in compensation. The Interweb was soon out in the street with pitchforks and torches, decrying the theft of a consumer’s property.

A few days later, someone pointed out some critical missing information. Da Silva had recently moved house, not just down the road, but from Australia to Canada. He had paid for his videos in Australia, but the sale of an Australian version did not amount to the sale of an identical Canadian version. But it wasn’t until the three films were named – Cars, Cars 2 and Grand Budapest Hotel – that I realised what had happened. Apple did not delete his films. He deleted his right to the versions he had bought, by moving to a territory where they were no longer the same films. They were not actually “identical” at all.

Yes, indeed, we’re back in the world of territorial lockout – familiar to anime fans in days of yore – whereby the tape or disc you buy to watch in one territory is only watchable in that territory, unless you have a special player. The digital version, however, seems a little more complicated.

I can’t speak as to the international variance for Grand Budapest Hotel, but having bought copies of Cars in several different countries, I can see precisely why the film rights would be slightly different. Many Pixar films drop in a little bit of targeted hyper-localisation, effectively turning each territory’s version into a unique work. In the original Cars, for example, Lightning McQueen’s off-screen agent Harv is played by Jeremy Piven in North America, plainly reprising his character as Ari Gold from Entourage. But in the UK release (which is presumably the one released in Australia), Harv’s voice is provided by Top Gear’s producer-punching petrol-head Jeremy Clarkson, struggling a little to be quite as Californian.

As the Internet ire has died down, it seems that da Silva can “easily” access his films again by moving back to Australia, or by convincing Apple that he has done so with the use of a VPN and an Australian home address on his credit card. But since it would be cheaper to just buy them again in Canada, I guess that’s where we are. If he’s just stuck to DVDs, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Before you ask, in the Japanese dub of Cars, Harv is played by the late Tomoyuki Dan, an actor best known in the anime world as Ishikawa in Ghost in the Shell: ARISE, and as the Japanese voice of Ben Stiller.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO #182, 2018.

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