Update: Playster cancels accounts for excessive usage

Yesterday, I posted about user claims that Playster is apparently cancelling users’ memberships because they are consuming too much content. The service is marketed as offering unlimited access to media content. There are a series of complaints, most dated over the last ten days, on sites like Trustpilot and Pissed Consumer, all claiming that their accounts were unjust flagged by the system’s fair use algorithm. These users then found their accounts cancelled or suspended. All of the members seemed to be heavy users of audiobooks.

I reached out to Playster for their side of the story. Here is their response:

Playster’s fair use algorithm has two major goals: to deter fraud and help us keep the service unlimited for all audiobook lovers.

After discovering cases of average consumption exceeding 24 hours per day, concurrent streaming on multiple IP addresses and other activity that appeared to be in violation of our terms and conditions, we felt we had no option but to take an extra cautious approach with accounts resembling any of the following:

  • Commercial use;
  • Automated consumption;
  • Recording or duplicating content;
  • Unauthorized sharing, leasing or distribution of content;
  • Public broadcasting;
  • Multiple accounts created with the same device, IP address or credit card
  • Accounts using a blacklisted device, IP address or credit card;
  • Use of a VPN or Proxy IP.

We realize some accounts may have been flagged unjustly, which is why all members were refunded their last membership charge and everyone affected was invited to submit an appeal form, so that we may address all concerns in detail with the attention they deserve. If anyone hasn’t received the appeal form or has any questions, they can email support@playster.com.

Several items on the above list are troubling to me. First, flagging an account solely because of an IP address can be a recipe for disaster (please google records companies charging 80 year old great-grandmothers with infringement for details). For a variety of reasons, IP addresses are not always unique. People create accounts from workplaces or apartment buildings that share internet access. IP address alone is not sufficient reason for denying access to an account.

Perhaps most troubling is the assumption that the use of a VPN or proxy IP suggests illegal actions. There are host of valid reasons to use a VPN for both privacy and security concerns. The use of a VPN should not imply illegal consumption of content.

Playster’s response said that members were invited to submit an appeal form. None of the complaints I read on either Trustpilot or Pissed Consumer mentioned being offered an appeal form. In fact, several of them have commented on the lack of response and long delays in hearing from customer service. At this point, no one has said that they were able to get their account reinstated.

If you have had an experience with this issue, please let me know in the comments. Are you a VPN user? Were you offered an appeal form? Was customer service’s response?  Did you get your account reinstated?

I will follow up on this story as more information becomes available.

(You can read my review of the Playster service here.)

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Scribd adds Selects, other features today

Scribd_Selects_500Last February, Scribd announced changes to its subscription service that would begin in mid-March. Planned changes included limiting monthly reads to only three books and one audio book, along with offering a limited selection of unlimited access titles.

Scribd began implementing the new system today. They started by unveiling the first installment of Scribd Selects on their blog. Selects are an assortment of books, audio books and comics chosen by Scribd editorial team, which can be read without additional cost or having to using one of the three allotted Monthly Read credits. This is the unlimited access portion of the subscription that Scribd previously told us about.

These titles also come with a bit of extra reading time. If you don’t have time to finish a Scribd Select during a month, you have an additional two weeks to finish the title before requires the use of a Monthly Read credit for continued access.

The March selection of titles draws books from various categories, including history, art, biography, children’s books, leadership,self-help, food, as well, as a variety of titles from genres like mystery, fantasy, science fiction and romance.

You can find the Scribd Selects lists on the Editor’s Picks Pages. They can also be found throughout various category sections. Or, you can find them on the Scribd website where they are listed separately as a book list, an audiobook list, and a comics list.

Scribd has updated its app to incorporate the new membership features. These app changes include adding Scribd Selects, filtering the library to hide previews and filtering full access  titles in the user library. The buttons on the book page have also been reorganized. Users are required to agree to the new terms and conditions when installing the new app.

There are a few interesting points in the Scribd Paid Access End User License Agreement:

The new TOS clearly distinguishes between direct purchases and membership. This made me wonder if Scribd is also attempting to position itself as an ebook retailer.

There are also a few restrictions:  One says “You may not exceed usage limitations set by content providers (participating publisher or user).” I am not exactly sure what that means. Does that mean we can be throttled for reading too much content? I wonder.

The terms also state that you can only accumulate three monthly audio book credits or nine monthly book credits at one time. Since Scribd gave everyone several free credits in February when they announce the new content terms and since I seldom listen to audio books through Scribd (I had an Audible subscription), I now have six audio book credits built up. I need to check if those will expire.

One important point clarified in the TOS: Once you have accessed a monthly book or audio book on the service you will be able to continue to read or listen to that title as long as your membership remains active in the material remains available on Scribd’s services. That means it is not exactly like a a library book that expires.

The TOS also states if Scribd removes commercial content that you have purchased, it may provide to you, at its sole discretion, a limited window of time in which to download such removed commercial content. I intend to ask for a clarification of this one before I buy anything. Does this mean I am buying it or not?

At the present time, you can purchase additional audio books from the service, but you cannot purchase additional monthly reads or comics.

Is it just me, or do some of these new terms sound a little murky? Or murkier than than the typical legalese….

So, what do you think of the changes to Scribd? Does this sound like what you expected it was going to be like?