iTunes rentals arrive in Canada, U.K. with 48-hour time limit

Apple’s newly announced movie rental service for its iTunes offerings in Canada and the United Kingdom may come several months after the same service debuted in the United States. But the Canadian and British versions of movie rentals do carry one substantial difference—customers in those markets will have 48 hours to finish a movie once they start watching it. That’s twice as long as U.S. customers have.

Apple introduced movie rentals to iTunes customers in the U.S. this past January. When Steve Jobs first announced the service at Macworld Expo last January, he said that customers who rented films via the iTunes Store would be able to keep them for 30 days, with 24 hours to finish the movie once they began watching it.

The 24-hour limitation has been one of the more criticized aspects of iTunes rentals. Parents of small children, for example, may start watching a rented movie after they’ve put their kids to bed, only to find that they’re unable to finish it before heading to bed themselves—with the 24-hour window expiring by the next evening.

Movie rentals made their debut at the Canadian and U.K. iTunes Stores Wednesday. A quick look at the terms of service for both Canadian and British users confirms that renters in those countries have a 48-hour window.

Canada Limit
The limit for iTunes movie rentals in Canada is 48 hours...


...but it remains 24 hours for U.S. customers.

The difference in policies between iTunes outlets could spur talk that Apple is considering an extension to the U.S. limit. But Apple would not confirm whether those plans are in store. “There has been no update on iTunes Movie Rentals in the U.S. since the initial announcement,” an Apple spokesperson said Wednesday.

Indeed, if a change is in the works, it hadn’t taken effect Wednesday morning, after the rental service debuted in Canada and the U.K. Macworld editors in Canada and the U.S. both rented movies on Wednesday—the Canadian rental displayed a 48-hour window for watching the movie, while the U.S. rental continued to carry the 24-hour restriction.

The 24-hour limit for U.S. customers is not hard and fast, though. If you pause playback on your computer, iPod, or Apple TV and then return to the video after the 24-hour period has expired, you will be given the option to resume the movie from the point at which you paused it or delete it—as long as you have not tried to watch another movie in the meantime.

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