Apple Cripples MacBooks With Hollywood-Mandated DRM - InformationWeek

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11/20/2008
03:23 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
Commentary
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Apple Cripples MacBooks With Hollywood-Mandated DRM

Users of brand-new aluminum MacBooks are being blocked from playing movies on some external displays because of DRM built into the devices at the behest of Hollywood, according to reports. External displays used to play the movies need to comply with the High Definition Content Protection standard, according to David Chartier at Ars Technica.

Users of brand-new aluminum MacBooks are being blocked from playing movies on some external displays because of DRM built into the devices at the behest of Hollywood, according to reports. External displays used to play the movies need to comply with the High Definition Content Protection standard, according to David Chartier at Ars Technica.

When my friend John, a high school teacher, attempted to play Hellboy 2 on his classroom's projector with a new aluminum MacBook over lunch, he was denied. ... John's using a Mini DisplayPort-to-VGA adapter, plugged into a Sanyo projector that is part of his room's Promethean system. Strangely, only some iTunes Store movies appear to be HDCP-aware, as other purchased media like Stargate: Continuum and Heroes season 2 play through the projector just fine. Attempts to play Hellboy 2 or other HDCPed films through the projector via QuickTime also get denied. Other movies that don't work include newer films like Iron Man, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Love Guru, but older films like Shawshank Redemption are restricted as well.

Apple plans to adopt the technology across its entire product line, meaning buyers of future Macs will likely experience the same problems, according to Sam Oliver at AppleInsider, who provides more background on the technologies.

Even monitors and TVs that support HDCP might not work, apparently because of buggy implementations, according to The Unofficial Apple Weblog's Michael Rose. Apple TV users have been struggling with these problems for a while.

Even if your external display is compliant today, you're not guaranteed it'll work tomorrow, says Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing. "[T]he list of 'compliant' monitors will change over time: the monitor you buy today can be 'revoked' tomorrow and stop working," he says.

Apple and Hollywood's claims that they need the safeguards to protect copyright are nonsense, Cory says. "[C]opyright law isn't violated when you watch a movie on an 'unapproved' monitor. This isn't about enforcing copyright law, it's about giving a small handful of movie companies a veto over hardware designs."

Apple users aren't alone. HDCP is also built into Vista and, presumably, Windows 7, notes Michael Kelly in the Boing Boing comments threads.

And NixieBunny sums it up:

It's boneheaded anti-viewer policies like this that have led me to sit out the whole HD video movement.

I have no desire to buy equipment that will go obsolete, when I already have perfectly good equipment at home that is guaranteed to go obsolete at no additional cost.

That's my philosophy, too. I'm extremely reluctant to invest money in technology that has built-in, arbitrary, and confusing restrictions on how I can use it, and that can be changed on a whim by an accountant in Hollywood long after I've bought, paid for, and installed the device. That's what happened to people who bought DRMed music from MSN Music in April, when Microsoft said it would disable the music on new devices after Aug. 30. Similarly, Yahoo shut down its online music store, effectively blocking people who bought music from that service from playing that music; the company said it would offer coupons for an equivalent collection of MP3s from RealNetworks' Rhapsody music store.

This kind of thing simply encourages people to pirate their entertainment, rather than buy it legitimately. It's unfair to consumers, and bad for business.

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