I know this is unlikely... but, many of us now buy our films/books/music through services like Kindle and iTunes.

Our purchases stay on the provider's infrastructure until we want them then we can either download or stream onto our own devices. This is after all what we want, a lot less DVDs and music lying around!

But, what happens if one of these big companies declares bankruptcy? If Apple, Amazon, or Google goes bust or declare that they're ending this service what rights do I have as an individual who has bought these items from them?

  • 3
    To be pedantic, bankruptcy doesn't necessarily mean the service will end. There are various kinds of bankruptcy and in many of them, the company keeps operating normally and comes out the other side. Even if the company shuts down, they might sell the service to some other company who might continue to run it. Of course, as you say, Apple could also decide to end the service at any time, just because they feel like it. Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 17:21

2 Answers 2


Apple going bankrupt is unlikely, but it serves to illustrate what could happen with items you bought. Situations like that could result in the change of the TOS (Terms of Service) of Apple and impact your downloads, and the TOS is your legally binding agreement with Apple for use of their services. (This answer is for the US; in other jurisdictions, your mileage may vary).

There are various Terms of Service you agree to when you sign up to use Apple and "click through" the usage contract. That contract is legally binding on both parties, you and Apple.

But Apple and many other companies can and do say things like "we reserve the right to change the contract at any time..." and you've agreed to that. From Legal - Apple:


Apple reserves the right at any time to modify this Agreement and to add new or additional terms or conditions on your use of the Services. Such modifications and additional terms and conditions will be effective immediately and incorporated into this Agreement. Your continued use of the Services will be deemed acceptance thereof.


Apple further reserves the right to modify, suspend, or discontinue the Services (or any part or Content thereof) at any time with or without notice to you, and Apple will not be liable to you or to any third party should it exercise such rights.

So, Apple could say one day for some reason that they are stopping all downloads and purchases. They would amend their TOS to that effect, and it impacts you, as you agreed to their option to change their TOS at any time. It would be Apple's choice - in the new TOS - to either say you can't download anymore, you keep what you've downloaded, or even if you must delete everything you bought. Remains to be seen.

But. If Apple did restrict downloads or change their TOS to something very onerous, I'm sure consumer groups would jump in, and there would quickly be a class action lawsuit against them regarding ownership of purchased items. (Caveat: depending on jurisdiction).

  • 1
    OP didn't specify a jurisdiction but is in the UK, where " Apple reserves the right at any time to modify this Agreement and to add new or additional terms or conditions on your use of the Services." is almost a textbook example of an unfair term. gov.uk/guidance/…
    – richardb
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 22:58
  • That's interesting; appears Apple UK has their own legal section that outlines different consumer laws: apple.com/uk/legal/statutory-warranty Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 2:37

There have been cases where people downloaded music or videos "protected" with DRM, which could only be played if their computer connected to the seller's servers, then the seller went bankrupt, the servers were shut down, and people couldn't play the music or videos they had paid for.

If Apple went bankrupt, and they didn't have the money to keep their computers running, then it is quite possible you would lose out. It would also depend on whether the service you are using gets regular payments and makes money. For example if they have 20 million customers paying $10 a month for service x, and it costs only $100 million to provide the service, then that service would likely keep running even if the company is bankrupt.

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