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Denial of Digital Distribution

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Digital distribution has a lot of advantages. You don't need to press any CDs, DVDs, or whatever. You don't have to package them, store them, ship them or manage stock. Also, your customers can't resell their copies of the work. Still, there are some creators who insist on only using physical releases. There are a few reasons why. The creator may feel that the physical release becomes more special if there's no digital equivalent. Maybe licensing issues prevent a digital release. If the work is very obscure and its fanbase vastly prefers owning physical copies, the market for a digital release may be so tiny that even paying the small fee to get it on a service like iTunes isn't worth it.


Doujin works often fall under Denial of Digital Distribution. A common explanation is copyright: Many of them are derivative works, and while IP owners are typically willing to ignore people who sell a limited number of physical copies, they may take action if you're selling a theoretically unlimited number of them digitally. And even if the work is fully original, the creators may feel that digital distribution goes against the "doujin spirit".

In many other cases, digital distribution does exist, but is restricted in some way. Common patterns include the following (note that some don't require a physical release):

  • Denial of Streaming: You can purchase the work digitally, but it's not on services like Spotify or Netflix. The usual justification is that the streaming services pay creators too little — if this argument is used, expect debates on whether the creator's stance is justified, or they're just being greedy. In some cases, the creator will allow the work to be on certain streaming services, but not others.
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  • Delayed Digital Distribution: The digital equivalent of Late Export for You, but usually not as severe. Presumably, the creator hopes that impatient fans will buy the physical release, but still wants people who wouldn't have done that anyway to have the option to buy it digitally. Delayed Digital Distribution can also happen if the creator was initially opposed to digital distribution, but later changed their mind and made their work(s) available.
  • Delayed Streaming: A combination of the above. You can purchase the work digitally on its release day, but if you want to stream it, you'll have to wait. This is obviously done to encourage people to buy the work, which is usually more profitable than streaming.note  A particularly mild version of this is Spotify's option to let artists keep their music off the free tier for the first two weeks.
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  • Bad Digital Distribution: The digital equivalent of Bad Export for You — the digital copies are watered down compared to the physical ones. Typically, this happens because the creator wanted you to buy it physically instead (e.g. a digital album release missing a bonus track), or because rights issues affect specific parts of the work (e.g. a song being removed because someone who worked on it didn't want it to be on the digital version). Alternatively, the digital version is somehow more expensive than the physical release despite having no extra content.
  • Region-Specific Digital Distribution: The digital equivalent of No Export for You. Manufacture and shipping costs don't apply to digital releases, so in many cases, you might as well release your work worldwide if you're releasing it digitally at all. Still, this doesn't always happen. Maybe licensing issues prevent a worldwide release. Maybe the creators thought an English translation would be too expensive to be justified, but they didn't want to release it untranslated either. Maybe they feared that cultural differences would get the work in hot water. Or maybe there's no obvious reason at all, and it's just a case of favoritism or nationalism... or just an oversight.
  • Partial Digital Distribution: The digital equivalent of Missing Episode. Some of the creator's work is available digitally, but not all. Maybe the missing works are the ones the creator would rather forget anyway. Maybe there are some rights issues that only affect some of the creator's works. Maybe it's just an oversight.
  • Limited Digital Copies: There's only a limited number of digital copies available. This can serve to pacify licensors who don't want you to sell too many copies, but in most cases, its only purpose is pressuring you to buy the thing right now because it might be gone soon. Alternatively, the digital release is time-limited — again, to pressure you to buy it before it's gone.

If there's no digital distribution and the physical copies go out of print, the work will fall under Keep Circulating the Tapes. Compare Missing Episode, Temporary Online Content, Late Export for You, Bad Export for You and No Export for You.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • This was the longest practice from Studio Ghibli, which refused to put out their movies on streaming services. Though that changed in 2020 with HBO Max and Netflix gaining rights to distribute them.

    Comic Books 
  • The Tick has never been distributed digitally, and likely never will be, as publisher New England Comics is in the brick-and-mortar comic-store business, and thus would not allow a digital alternative.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side was an example of this for a long time, with Gary Larson disallowing any official releases of his work except in book collections and calendars, although fans posted the strips online unofficially with great frequency. He eventually relented in late 2019, with the strip's website relaunched to become its official online home.

  • Many doujin circles rearrange KanColle music and release it on physical albums, but can't/don't release them digitally.
  • Touhou Project: Its creator ZUN allowed a lot of fan works, but his guidelines specifically prohibited sale of fan works via sites primarily oriented for overseas customers (this includes stuff like iTunes and the App Store). Many creators didn't even use Japan-only download sites. This started to change in the late 2010s: After Touhou Tenkuushou ~ Hidden Star in Four Seasons was released on Steam in late 2017, ZUN also started allowing Touhou fan games to use Steam as long as they follow his not-that-strict guidelines. About a year later, a label that publishes Touhou Fan Music on iTunes and Google Play Music appeared. Their releases are available internationally, though they're delayed, you can't stream them, many circles are still absent, and most of the ones who are there haven't made their full discographies available.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who got hit by this in two different ways over the years:
    • For a time during The '90s and the Turn of the Millennium, fan-made audio-plus-telesnap reconstructions of Missing Episodes were only distributed on analogue VHS, to prevent them from being made widely available on the Internet, which might have brought IP complaints from the BBC.
    • For a while, large chunks of the Classic Series were not available on streaming platforms. The Revival Series and many more acclaimed Classic-era serials were up, but the majority of them were relegated to DVD-only status. This eventually changed with the advent of BBC Media Player and Britbox, both of which feature every surviving episode of the Classic Series available to watch.

  • Aaliyah's music from Jive Records is widely available on digital platforms, most notably her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number (1994). However, all her subsequent music—from her time at Blackground Records— is unavailable from streaming services due to the refusal of Aaliyah's uncle, Barry Hankerson. As of 2021, Aaliyah's estate has yet to carry through on its plans to widely distribute her music.
  • Only one AdamKadmon album — the compilation album sand — has been released digitally.
  • Akatsuki Records is a major Touhou arrangement circle whose music has appeared in Rhythm Games. It took two years for their music to become available digitally.
  • Alstroemeria Records: Most albums released before POP CULTURE 4 or after IMAGINARY JOURNEY are missing from iTunes and Google Play Music.
  • Amateras Records:
    • The songs "Indomitable Spirit", "Flying!", "Question." and "Conflict" (including remixes) have been removed from every digital release due to Konami licensing.
    • Brilliant Story and its instrumental version both miss the last track. Similarly, Sparkling Alteration and its instrumental version both miss the last two tracks (possibly because they come from the TOHO PARTYBOX series).
  • A One: Their early albums (such as POLYGON RAIN) lack digital releases. Additionally, the digital releases of MONTAGE Blue and MONTAGE Yellow have had the Kantai Collection track removed.
  • While the bulk of Captain Beefheart's discography is readily available to stream, his seminal album Trout Mask Replica is absent from digital services for unclear reasons.
  • Beyoncé's Lemonade was released on Tidal on April 23, 2016, and made available for digital purchase the following day. Physical copies became available on May 6. However, the album first appeared on Spotify and Apple Music three years after its initial release.
  • In 2018, BUTAOTOME made their old Touhou albums available digitally. However, their old original albums (Bowling, Chess, Billiards, Hanafuda and Doubt) did not get digital re-releases. Neither did the Solo Buta-R album Kaen Ranzen, which features guest arrangers from other circles.
  • C-CLAYS have released over 70 CDs. Only SOLE, LUNA, YES! and CORE are sold digitally. Notably, these albums do not feature vocalist Mai Kotohge, but several MUONKAGURA albums featuring her are available.
  • The digital releases of CrazyBeats's albums are missing the remixed A-One tracks.
  • Due to various issues, most of De La Soul's music is not available digitally.
  • Doujin circle Halozy has suspended all of their activities in October 2017 with no plans to return to the doujin music industry. As of January 2020, none of their albums are available digitally, despite rumors flying about that they are.
  • Jojo's first two albums, JoJo (2004) and The High Road (2006) are unavailable digitally in their original forms. This relates to her contractual battle with her original label, Blackground Records. After she was released, JoJo eventually re-recorded her first two albums and re-release them with redone vocals and production.
  • A little of Kanako Hoshino's music is on Spotify and iTunes, but EIGHT ELEMENTS OF THE STAR, EIGHT ELEMENTS OF THE STAR ~ANOTHER SENSE~, Prism, Starry ~the way to the SIRIUS~, Articulation and Sky Arium are missing.
  • Due to The KLF deleting their entire discography upon disbanding in the 1990's, long before the advent of digital distribution, their music was completely unavailable for streaming for years. This was eventually averted in 2021 when the band released a greatest hits compilation and a revised version of their album Chill Outnote  to streaming services.
  • King Crimson are widely considered the most famous case of this across media: de-facto leader Robert Fripp spent the better part of two decades openly reviling digital distribution for the low royalties artists received from it, and did everything he could to ensure that the band's music could only be listened to on a physical format. Alongside Prince, Fripp's affinity for going after even fan uploads became the stuff of legend among fans, and the idea of King Crimson appearing on digital platforms was treated as wishful thinking at best... which made it all the more surprising when the entire King Crimson catalog was added to Spotify in 2019, with other platforms following suit over the course of the next few months.
  • The Touhou Fan Music circle Maikaze actually put their music on Spotify, but it had to be removed because ZUN, the Touhou creator, didn't allow it. Their music has had authorized re-releases on iTunes and Google Play Music (without the possibility of streaming), though.
  • Metallica's catalogue is not available on Tidal in the USA/Canada, but their albums are available in other countries.
  • monochrome-coat have released 19 albums. Only LOCK is available digitally.
  • Despite being widely considered one of New Order's best albums, Substance remained absent from streaming and digital download platforms all the way until 2020, by which point the rest of their studio discography had already been put up. Even after it finally got included, the version used was the CD one, leaving the cassette-exclusive songs in Keep Circulating the Tapes purgatory.
  • Despite being one of of the few Touhou arrangement circles to make albums almost exclusively in English (and good English at that — not Gratuitous English), ORANGE JAM hasn't published its music via the label that distributes Touhou music internationally on iTunes and Google Play Music.
  • Pizuya's Cell normally doesn't use digital distribution. However, the circle did sell some cheap digital compilations for Black Friday 2019. These releases were both time-limited and quantity-limited.
  • Prince was constantly an infamously vocal opponent of most digital distribution services; like most major artists, he decried the low royalties they provided, and the only platform he did embrace was the paywall-heavy Tidal. Prince's music wouldn't be made available on more accessible platforms until after his death in 2016, with most people darkly crediting it to the fact that him being dead meant that he could no longer object to his songs being on YouTube or Spotify.
  • For a long while, Radiohead openly refused to make their material officially available on any digital platform (barring In Rainbows and its "pay what you want" service), citing issues with the way they operated in regards to artist royalties. They eventually changed their opinion in 2016, with almost their entire backlog being made available on all digital download and streaming platforms as part of the Radiohead Public Library, a wider project that saw their backlog Rereleased for Free. The only song not put up was "Pop is Dead", a huge Old Shame for the band.
  • Seventh Heaven MAXION started publishing its albums on DLSite and MelonbooksDL in early 2016, but there are still eleven albums it never got around to re-releasing. Additionally, the offered downloads are lossy.
  • Most of Sound Holic's discography is available digitally, but there are some exceptions, and the digital releases tend to come later than most albums that were released at the same event.
  • ShinRa-Bansho: The albums Season 4 you, M other, On That Day, I Looked Up at the Sky, Doppel and the original Ano Hi no Yume no Alice are missing from the digital marketplaces that offer their music. Also, Touhou Utattemita lacks "Hoshi wo Mawase Tsuki yori Hayaku"
  • Almost every release by Swans is readily available on digital services...with the glaring exception of their sixth studio album The Burning World, presumably due to the fact that frontman Michael Gira considers the album an Old Shame.
  • SYNC.ART'S: Its first three collaboration albums with Lunark have been released on multiple digital platforms, though it was a while after their physical releases. Out of all its non-collaboration albums, only Kitty is available digitally.
  • Taylor Swift has a history of Denial of Streaming: Her album 1989 did not appear on Spotify when it was released in October 2014, and the rest of her catalogue was removed the next month. In March 2015, all of her music except 1989 was put on Tidal (which doesn't have a free tier). In June 2015, she refused to put her music on Apple Music because she thought it was unfair that artists wouldn't see any royalties from streams during the three-month free trial. Apple acquiesced to her demand, and the following week, she announced that 1989 would stream for the first time on Apple Music (alongside her back catalogue). However, she didn't want to put it on other services yet. As of 2017, her music is back on Spotify, and also available on Pandora and Google Play Music.
  • TERRA: Their first album REVOLUTION was not released digitally at all. Their second album EVOLUTION was... but not for Europe.
  • tool initially resisted releasing their catalogue to streaming services, although in 2017 they were reported to be considering it, and finally did release their albums digitally in August 2019, just before the debut of Fear Inoculum.
    • The Unlucky Morpheus collaboration album Parallelism gamma is not available digitally even though both of the participating groups are okay with digital distribution.
    • The digital release of Am I already dead? doesn't include the screamless version of track 8. Similarly, Japanese ogre story doesn't include the instrumental/screamless versions.
  • Unlucky Morpheus:
    • The original versions of Hypothetical Box, REBIRTH and Jealousy are not available digitally. Neither are the instrumental versions of REBIRTH and Jealousy.
    • The albums Faith and Warfare, HEAVY METAL BE-BOP and Miseria Kills Slaughterously are not available for digital purchase.
    • The UNDEAD CORPORATION collaboration album Parallelism gamma is not available digitally even though both of the participating groups are okay with digital distribution.
  • Kanye West's The Life of Pablo was originally a Tidal exclusive, and West vowed that it would never appear on any other services [than Tidal], nor would it ever be for sale. It was released on other streaming services and for digital purchase on his website on April 1, 2016.
  • Whitey, out of frustration with major record companies, began selling his music exclusively through Bandcamp and as physical copies.
  • The Touhou arrangement circle Yellow Zebra. While it disbanded in 2011, its successor R-note was still active when the label that releases Touhou music digitally appeared (and is still active as of January 2020). Neither circle is on it.
  • Yuuhei Katharsis can't release its music digitally because it's a bunch of Kantai Collection rearrangements.
  • Yuuhei Satellite has done a mostly good job of making their catalogue available for purchase (not streaming) on iTunes and Google Play, but some (not all) of the event-exclusive and limited retailer-specific CDs are missing. Also, all but a few early sample albums are missing. This isn't a big deal for most of them, whose songs later appear on an album that did get a digital release anyway. However, there are a few exceptions. One of them is the Title Track on the sample Hana to Ame. Its original version was never re-released, and even its cover version only showed up on a physical exclusive CD.
  • ZUN's albums. The ten ZUN's Music Collection CDs and five Akyu's Untouched Score soundtrack albums were released between 2002 and 2016, but didn't appear on iTunes and Google Play Music until 2018. They still can't be streamed.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Star Wars Roleplaying Games developed by Fantasy Flight Games do not have PDF versions officially on sale courtesy of a detail in their contract with Lucasfilm/Disney that is meant to be a non-contest clause (legally speaking, only Electronic Arts has the rights to create digital content). It's supposed to prevent FFG from releasing videogames, but it's broad enough to stop PDF releases too.

    Video Games 
  • The entire Bookworm series was inexplicably de-listed from all digital stores in 2016, and was outright scrubbed from PopCap's site during this time. As a result, the only way to play the original game is its own rare physical release or console ports, the only way to play Adventures is to own its even rarer physical release, and the only way to play Adventures Volume 2 is to own the Wordy Wonder Bundle, an excessively rare physical release that comes bundled with it and the other two aforementioned games, and regularly runs at least 30 USD secondhand.
  • Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is one of the few of Square Enix's games for the PlayStation Portable that wasn't made available digitally following its physical release. No one knows why for sure, but fandom speculation points to one of the game's characters actually using the likeness of Japanese singer Gackt and suggested that whatever contract he and Square Enix made during the game's production doesn't allow for a digital release.
  • The Nintendo Labo kits and Ring Fit Adventure are among the few Nintendo Switch games that cannot be downloaded on the eShop. This is because the games come with physical peripherals (cardboard accessories for the former, the Ring-Con and Leg Strap for the latter), so getting digital versions of those games without the peripherals would be incomplete experiences.
  • The 2005 version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted will likely never be sold digitally again, especially after the 2012 version came out.
  • Republic: The Revolution. After its original publisher Eidos folded, the IP went to Rebellion, who did put it on in 2009 — but then pulled it again in 2011 and have effectively denied any sort of digital distribution of the game ever since.
  • Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a Compilation Re-release featuring three Super Mario Bros. games, is only available until March 31, 2021. This applies to both the physical version and the digital version.
  • The Touhou Project games have been quite popular in the 2000s and 2010s, but ZUN has refused to release them digitally or even make them available for overseas fans. In August 2014, he made an exception by releasing Touhou Kishinjou ~ Double Dealing Character on Playism, but that was a one-time thing. He changed his mind in 2017 — Touhou Tenkuushou ~ Hidden Star in Four Seasons was released on Steam, and he started gradually releasing the catalogue of official Touhou games on Steam, with the newest ones first.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons episode "Stark Raving Dad" was available on sites like Hulu, but it was eventually pulled in 2019 following the release of the controversial documentary Leaving Neverland, which introduced some new alleged facts about Michael Jackson's child abuse, and is the only Simpsons episode to be excluded from Disney+.

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