Google to offer full refunds on videos purchased from Google Video Store.

Apparently the hue and cry from folks upset with Google over their decision to shut down GVS and only offer refunds via credit on Google Checkout purchases caught their attention as they’ve announced that they will in fact do full refunds to customers:

When your friends and well-intentioned acquaintances tell you that you’ve made a mistake, it’s good to listen. So we’d like to say thank you to everyone who wrote to let us know that we had made a mistake in the case of Google Video’s Download to Own/Rent Refund Policy vs. Common Sense.

To recap: we decided to end the Google Video download to own/rent (DTO/DTR) program, and are now refocusing our Google Video engineering efforts. The week before last, we wrote to Google Video DTO/DTR program customers to let them know that videos they’d already bought would no longer be playable.

We planned to give these users a full refund or more. And because we weren’t sure if we had all the correct addresses, latest credit card information, and other billing challenges, we thought offering the refund in the form of Google Checkout credits would entail fewer steps and offer a better user experience. We should have anticipated that some users would see a Checkout credit as nothing more than an extra step of a different (and annoyingly self-serving) kind. Our bad. Here’s how we’re hoping to fix things:

  • We’re giving a full refund—as a credit card refund—to everyone who ever bought a video. We’ll need you to make sure we have your most recent credit card information, but once we know where to send the money, you’ll get it.
  • You can still keep the Google Checkout credit that you’ve received already. Think of it as an additional ‘we’re sorry we goofed’ credit.
  • We’re going to continue to support playing your videos for another six months. We won’t be offering the ability to buy additional videos, but what you’ve already downloaded will remain playable on your computer.

We take pride in moving quickly, and we think this philosophy helps to create lots of new and innovative products. But it also leads to errors that—upon reflection and your feedback—we need to rectify. This was one of them. We make mistakes; we do our best not to repeat them—and we really do try to fix the ones we make. That said, the very least that our users should expect from us is that our mistakes be new and innovative, too. wink

We appreciate your responses, and hope our actions convey just how seriously we take everyone’s feedback.

That’s certainly an improvement though you’re still going to lose the ability to watch those videos in the long run which still points out the biggest problem with DRM. Imagine if your DVDs just suddenly stopped working because, say, Disney decided they weren’t going to support that format any longer. I’m sure Disney would LOVE to be able to do that, but I don’t think the average consumer would think it’s all that great.

Google Video Store illustrates the problems with DRM.

Around about 19 months ago Google launched their Google Video Store where you could rent or purchase commercial videos of mainly TV shows which you could watch in your browser. On this past Friday the folks at Google announced they were shutting that service down:

The decision, confirmed late Friday, underscores Google’s intention to concentrate its financial muscle and brainpower on developing an advertising format to capitalize on the immense popularity of online video.

Google has been selling the right to watch a wide range of video, including sports, music and news, since January 2006. Most of the video sold for anywhere from a couple dollars to $20. Customers could pay less to “rent” the right to watch a selected video for a day or buy the show so it would be available to watch indefinitely.

In all fairness people weren’t exactly buying up videos from Google Video Store in record numbers so it’s not unreasonable that Google should decide to shut the service down, but what if you were one of the few people who actually “bought” videos from GVS? Because the files are protected by DRM it means you won’t be able to watch those videos you “bought” through GVS:

The video section on Google’s Web site will remain open, but will stop showing paid programming Aug. 15.

To compensate customers who will no longer be able to see the videos that they purchased, Google is providing refunds in the form of credits that can be used on its online payment service, Checkout. Hundreds of merchants accept Checkout.

Well, that’s something I suppose though it means you have to spend more money in order to get your “refund” as it’s a credit on purchases made through Google Checkout which means it’s only good at retailers that offer Google Checkout. That’s like someone selling you a car and then after you’ve driven it for almost two years he shows up and tells you your car isn’t going to work any longer and then hands you a coupon good for credit at a handful of random retailers you may or may not ever want to buy something from. Meanwhile those same videos are available for free via BitTorrent and even perhaps on YouTube.

It bears repeating that DRM only punishes people who play by the rules and does nothing to stop the pirates. If you downloaded a copy of Kobe Bryant’s 81-point basketball game from BitTorrent you’ll still be able to burn it to DVD and watch it all you want after August 15th, but if you “bought” it through Google Video Store… well, perhaps there’s something at Buy.com you’d like to spend your “coupon” on.