What typically happens if you are watching a streamed video when it expires?

On streamed video services such as Netflix and Amazon, titles typically have a finite availability window.

What happens if you are halfway through watching a movie at the point when it expires? Does it stop playing, or is there a grace period between when it’s removed from the catalogue, and when the stream is actually wothdrawn?

I have tried it on Amazon and it appears to be based on start time. As long as you start watching it before the window expires, it will let you finish as long as you don’t exit out. I am not sure what happens if you try to pause it for an hour after you start but I think that will work too. It seems that it is dependent on entering and exiting the movie.

I am not sure about Netflix but I assume that it works the same way because I have never heard of people getting cut off in the middle of movies due to timing alone.

Streaming videos are pre-downloaded (what is called “buffering”) to your device’s memory so odds are even if they cut it off halfway you might be able to finish.

Netflix only seems to buffer about a minute or so ahead. Perhaps this amount depends on the device but you’d have to be awfully close to done for buffering to matter.

I don’t know what happens if you are watching it when the rights expire. I do know that if you start watching a movie in one country where Netflix offers it and try to finish it in a country where they don’t, Netflix won’t let you finish it. I just paused the movie without exiting the application. When I tried to restart the movie, the application seemed to try really hard for a couple of minutes to continue the stream and then it quit with a generic message like “title not found” or something. Maybe something similar would happen when the rights expire.

In most cases, your right to play a movie is authenticated at the start of play. After the movie starts playing, there’s no authentication happening, except that the movie might be encrypted. In that case the authentication negotiation gave your player the key to decrypt it. There may be some forms of DRM that do authentication during play back, but I’m not aware of any.

The provider may also simply remove the files from their servers when the movie expires, but I doubt that anuone tries to time it so closely that it would be removed within a hour or two of expiration. But if that happened of course your playback would stop.

It would be terribly inefficient for the provider to maintain a separate copy of the movie for every customer. But in any case, for many computer file systems, removing the file doesn’t prevent it from being read by programs that already have it open.

Indeed. But if you thought that I was suggesting such a thing, you misunderstood me. I’m referring to the content provider (eg. Netflix) removing the video files from their CDN / edge servers.

Again true. But most streaming providers are no longer using single-file containers like MP4 anymore. They use adaptive streaming protocols, which usually split the video file into hundreds of short (a few seconds) segments, each in its own file, with its own URL. If all the segment files were removed, even using a filesystem that doesn’t delete files until the last close, you would only be able to finish playing the few seconds remaining in the current segment.

That’s not a file system thing, BTW. It’s a file system driver thing. Linux will not delete until the file is not in use on every filesystem, including FAT32 and NTFS. Windows will, on the other hand, just refuse to delete the files until it is no longer in use. (And if you bypass this and delete the file anyways, it is effectively deleted out from under the program.)

Yeah, unfortunately engineers use “file system” to mean two related, but completely different things – the data on the disk, and also the code that accesses that data. I (and psychonaut I presume) were using it in the latter sense. (And there’s also the religious war about whether it should be “file system” or “filesystem”.) “File system driver” seems to be a term mainly used in reference to Microsoft systems. In my experience (30 years of working on file systems), file system code on Linux and other systems is rarely referred to as a “file system driver”; it’s just a “file system”.

Sometimes my cable company will have a free preview weekend for HBO or Showtime (in fact, Showtime is this weekend). If it ends on Monday at midnight, to extend it for a day I’ll start watching episodes on the On-Demand channel, watch a minute or two and then stop it, which starts a 24-hour timer to finish watching it from “My Rentals”. Like said above, if you start watching right before the 24-hour period is up, you can continue watching as long as you don’t exit (pause still works).