Apple to Mac owners: throw away your monitor if Hollywood says so

Buying an Apple computer? Get ready to throw away your monitor, over and over again. New Apple hardware is shipping with "HDCP" anti-copying technology that prevents showing some video on "non-compliant" monitors. Best part: the list of "compliant" monitors will change over time: the monitor you buy today can be "revoked" tomorrow and stop working.

Slashdot says that Apple's added "copyright protection" to its video. But copyright 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.

Yesterday, our buddy David Chartier at Ars and Sam Oliver at AppleInsider both publicized an issue that's been burning up the support boards for a while now: iTunes video rentals and purchases in HD are flagged for HDCP control, and in cooperation with the new Mini DisplayPort connector on the MacBook and MacBook Pro unibody models, those movies and TV shows are refusing to play back on non-compliant external displays.

In this case, 'compliant' means HDMI or recent-vintage DVI, but even monitors or TVs that support HDCP may not properly negotiate with the DisplayPort connector to give iTunes and QuickTime the all-clear signal (if so, quitting and relaunching iTunes once the display is hooked up may clear the playback hold).

Equally annoying: HDCP is only supposed to apply to 'high-value' digital streams, meaning standard-def purchases and rentals on the iTunes store should be out of scope... but some reports indicate that both the HD and SD instances are flagged, blocking playback on anything but the laptop's internal display or a straight-thru HDMI connection. Argh!

MacBook Pro users getting bitten by HDCP (Thanks, Denver Jewelry Guy!)


  1. 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.

  2. Yes, this sucks.

    But sensationalist headline much?

    Just don’t buy the media that places such restrictions on which hardware you use.

    If they hadn’t gone along with Hollywood they probably wouldn’t have been able to sell the content. Since they have they can sell the content. Either way doesn’t affect me because I’m not going to be buying the content.

  3. sensationalist headlines create leverage. Calm, reasoned and cautious statements of totally proven fact don’t.

  4. Lest we forget they did exactly the same thing with DVD (though, it was cracked of course). I once tried to record a DVD via S-Video to my MiniDV camcorder, and it wouldn’t allow that to happen… so this is nothing new.

    And, when is the last time any of you bought a Mac which didn’t have a built in display?

  5. Why do people keep acting surprised when Apple screws their users? They’ve got a long and celebrated tradition of delighting and then screwing their users.

  6. I’m sorry, as an avid Mac user who doesn’t buy any movies from iTunes, how does this effect me in any way, shape, or form?

    It doesn’t. I don’t have to throw out my monitor.

    brb playing with yahoo pipes again

  7. @6

    It’s more of the principle of the thing. Do I own my hardware or not?

    Of course all this means is that you have to acquire an hdcp stripper.

  8. Why do people keep acting as though Apple is the only company to do this?

    The new XBox 360 update with streaming movies via Netflix? HDCP-enabled:

    PS3? HDCP-enabled.

    Vista (and it’s safe to assume Windows 7): HDCP-enabled.

    Hey, here’s a list of HDCP-compatible video cards. From 2006.

    It’s only “news” because it’s Apple. Guess what? The *entire* computer industry is moving that way. It’s horrible yes, but running back to your PC isn’t going to help – unless you intend on running Linux … and hey, you can do that on an Apple box as well.

    So Ianloic, it’s not just Apple that’s out to screw their users. They just happen to be in the spotlight more.

  9. “well…back to PCs” is not the solution, Vista supports HDCP protection too.

    The problem isn’t that Macs will only output video to HDCP compliant devices, the new Macs will output video to non-HDCP compliant monitors just fine. They just won’t output DRM-protected content to non-HDCP compliant devices.

    All Apple has done is create an incentive for people to pirate video rather than buying it through legitimate channels that force DRM on the consumer. If you download a pirated, non-DRM’ed BluRay rip of Ratatouille from a torrent site, it will play just fine on any monitor connected to your Mac. If you buy an HD copy of Ratatouille via iTunes, you can only watch it on HDCP compliant devices.

    Great business model you have there movie studios! See you on usenet.

  10. what? so the new “apple display port” is some type of wacky new, even more proprietary version of HDMI?

    after further investigation – it appears so:

    Wikipedia – HDMI

    so in addition to turning ‘non compliant’ monitors off, it doesn’t even have the benefits of HDMI with being able to carry audio as well?

    you can do 1080p playback through DVI, what the hell is the reasoning for this? they stuck with the mini-dvi thing for years.

    bloody content industry.

    Day after day the public grows more apathetic about these types of things. I don’t think they understand that if the LEGAL THING WONT PLAY, people will go for THE ILLEGAL THING WHICH IS EASY TO ACCESS.

    this will be the thought process.

    Not “go and buy a new monitor”.

    Even those not wise in the way of the internets will ask those who are, and they will likely get directed to some torrents.

    the suspension of disbelief required to create standards like HDCP astound me, and I liked that apple didn’t jump on the bandwagon.

    *shakes fist* damnnnn youuuu steeeeeve.

    however, I will still probably buy their stuff, because in the end, this doesn’t effect me.

    most people would prefer to do it the legal way, but you put up too many barriers, and they will stop giving a shit about arbitrary hardware ‘rules’ that make no sense outside of big companies management boardrooms.

  11. Even I’m an Apple fan and I don’t like this total (blank) move on Apple’s part. What’s next? Will they set my desk on fire if they don’t like the kind of keyboard I’m using for my MacBook?

  12. Sorry to sound like a bit of a bastard, but IMO anything that drives people towards Linux is probably a good thing in the long run.

    Give big businesses enough rope, and the ethically dodgy ones will hang themselves. Leaving us all with working, usable, maintainable software and hardware.

    I’m not so much of an idealist to think that this will actually happen, of course. But I can dream.

  13. Alternate headline:

    Apple encourages users to slap some sense into the content producers it’s had to partner with.

    That’s better.

  14. @ #17 – that’s probably more like it.

    Though then again, I’m still trying to work out how to get my 3 year old Macbook Pro DVD drive to be multiregion

  15. I’ve just hugged my Dell 30″ and told it I love it very much. I have also petted all my PCs and told them they’re good girls, and that despite the Amiga 4000 that sneers at them from the end desk, that I love them.

    Have you cuddled a quad-core today?

  16. I’m surprised nobody mentionned this yet, but this is where you really see the advantage of running an open source OS, where the HDCP requirements that the OS has to implement can be removed anytime by anyone, thus protecting your fullly programable computer from becoming a scripted recording industry end-user media-playing device.

    This might sound a bit extreme, but as always with technology:
    Either you control it and decide what it can do or others will decide what you can do with it.

  17. @ #6 teknokracy wrote, “And, when is the last time any of you bought a Mac which didn’t have a built in display?”

    We’re about to purchase 7 MacPros to drive 14 52″ NEC monitors. Do we need to be concerned that the Quicktime libraries might refuse to play our HD content (films that we’ve commissioned and own the copyright on)?

  18. What all you guys saying “move to linux” are missing is that these requirements are part of a process that leads to all software or hardware that can copy things or display things needing to be blessed by some governmental body. Linux is already on unsteady footing under many copyright laws (such as the DMCA). Responding to these things by moving to linux will make you a criminal, if it doesn’t already.

    Besides: how do you legitimately get high-def content onto your linux box? Can’t rip the disc without circumventing copy protection. No online stores will sell it to you, or have clients that run under linux. Congrats — I mean YARR — you’re already a pirate.

  19. If you think this is a ridiculously bad business choice on Apple’s part then you need to let them know. Apple has always been fairly responsible when it comes to DRM, but this is completely unacceptable. They are putting their customers second to Big Content, and the only way they’ll stop is if we let them know how bad a decision it was for them.

    Everyone, go to this feedback page and let them know what you think about their new HDCP support:

  20. Hah. I can see the new Mac/PC commercial:

    Mac: (looking at PC staring intently at his monitor) I see you’re watching a movie over there on a new monitor.

    PC: Oh no, same monitor, new computer. Wanna borrow my copy of Taxi Driver? I just downloaded it today.

    Mac: Uh, in a bit, I’m waiting for my new monitor to arrive to satisfy Itune’s HDCP requirements.

    (awkward silence)

    PC: When’s it coming?

    Mac: Next week.

    PC: Ah…

    (cue music)

  21. Darran, that’s a very good question to ask. However, you should probably ask Apple rather than us. I know about as much about HDCP as anyone, but I can’t answer that question. It’s really up to the particular’s of Apple’s software choices.

  22. This will last as long as it will take some fourteen-year-old unsung hero to come up with a fix. Say, a week?

  23. man you gotta love the whole PC vs Mac thing right? Would you give credence to anyone who would try to face off any 4 wheel passenger vehicle with a proprietary brand of 4 wheel passenger vehicle based on the biggest number of whatever they can produce?

    As to the DRM thing what do you all think the push for new video formats was all about? This is where the industry is headed – they can’t control what happens to the media so they bottle neck the hardware then use legal pressure to force everyone to conform to its use.

    It’s pretty similar to 19th century anti-poaching laws in the UK which allowed land owners to kill or maim anyone trespassing on their land.

  24. But this only applies to playing the DRM’d files from the iTunes store, right? If you are a good little pirate and stayed away from that DRM bag of hurt, you would be fine, right?

  25. Yeah, switching back to PC now for sure for my next notebook. Sucks too, A souped-up flavor of unix is really what I was looking for, maybe now it’s time to move it all back over to linux. Thanks for taking the WRONG SIDE, apple.

  26. I despise Macs and refuse to touch garbage like iTunes, but this still annoys me. The reason–now I’m going to get friends and family calling me asking why their DRM-riddled crap that they legitimately bought won’t work anymore. I’m going to still end up dealing with it just like I got to troubleshoot Mac wireless problems all weekend (a bug-by-design compliments of Apple to sell overpriced routers).

  27. Great busines model these people have: Do everything you can to piss you’re viewers/users off so that they switch to pirating your content, to avoid this bullshit, pick out a few richer people who’ve done this and sew them for millions!

  28. I see many in this thread are still giving Steve Jobs a personal pass on this and blaming it on the big bad content industry forcing this on Apple. Steve Jobs IS the content industry.
    From Wikipedia: Jobs is currently the Walt Disney Company’s largest individual shareholder and a member of its Board of Directors.
    Market share:
    Steve Jobs announced in his “It’s Showtime” keynote that Apple had 88% of the legal U.S. music download market on September 12, 2006.[33]
    Apple announced that the iTunes Store had sold more than two million movies, making it the world’s most popular online movie store on April 11, 2007.[41]
    Apple announced that iTunes Store surpassed Best Buy to become the second biggest music seller behind Wal-Mart on February 26, 2008 and eventually became number one on April 3, 2008.[1]

    Please believe if Steve wanted it to change, it would.

  29. and that’s why I won’t be buying a MAC or a PC with Windows Vista on it. guess I should start learning how to use LINUX.

  30. Avast ye Matey! I be gettin’ me content off o’ thee tubes at the bay o’ pirates, and not givin’ me treasure to them scallywags. So another reef be avoided… Yar.

  31. I think that every mac owner has a responsibility to call apple support about this issue if they are unhappy with it. It’s time to call shenanigans.

  32. sooooo what they’re saying is that, once again, pirated stuff works every time, and we should stick to that?? Maybe Mac is secretly advocating piracy, through their overly restrictive (and sometimes INSANE) copyright protection policies. Hmm…

  33. As an non-hipster PC user, I take comfort in yet another ‘feature’ I didn’t shell out an extra thousand dollars for to get a Mac.

    $1k more for the same hardware, a ‘Pretty Buttons!’ operating system, and so little control over the thing that it’s a wonder they let you use it at all!

  34. shadowfirebird Said
    Sorry to sound like a bit of a bastard, but IMO anything that drives people towards Linux is probably a good thing in the long run..

    You mean drive away.. right if your going to want to play HD Videos you are going to have to have a PC or Apple computer.

  35. Lets face it..
    The once valued consumer is now seen as a criminal.

    We’re told to care, we’re told to pay, we’re told to buy the right equipment and players, and still.. movies aren’t getting any better.

  36. Some people here don’t seem to realize that it’s not about MAC vs PC, it’s all about OpenSource vs proprietary source! And don’t tell me stuff like “oh but linux is so hard and complicated and you need to be a complete geek to understand it etc…”.
    It’s simply not true anymore, the ninetees are over! Linux (or FreeBSD and others) brings three major advantages: constant evolution, constant freedom, and you actually control your own hardware and software… not the other way around.

  37. incidentally – it’s not just computers – I’ve had Blu-ray disks from my local rental shop that refuse to recognise my 5 month old HD tv.

    $1k more for the same hardware, a ‘Pretty Buttons!’ operating system, and so little control over the thing that it’s a wonder they let you use it at all!

    So like dude you totally overspent on that Ferrari thing, like my Maruti costs $2,500 and it’s got 4 doors man!

  38. I’ve already been ripped off by HDCP.

    A couple years ago I bought an HP HD-DVD Media Center PC. It came with a wonderful 24″ widescreen monitor with more than 1080 resolution. It even came with an HD movie.

    I’ve never been able to watch that movie – the monitor didn’t support HDCP. At least the video cards supports it; it turns out that many of the video cards sold as HDCP compliant are not.

    The DRM won’t let me transfer to movie to another format in the event that HD-DVD was no longer supported. But that would never happen, would it?

    HDCP is a monument to the saying that nothing is illegal if 50 business people agree on it.

  39. For those saying that they’ll simply avoid DRM and systems using it, a quote by Leon Trotsky comes to mind; “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”

    While it’s currently possible rip a Blu-Ray disk, it’s undeniably far harder then it was with DVDs. The DRM side is learning too. And they can revoke the crypto keys for current hardware and software when something more secure is released.

    No doubt this can be used to protect ebooks too, with an HDCP-compliant display required.

    The recording industry has already lobbied to have music players support *only* DRM’d formats. With video having standardized on one DRM scheme (AACS/HDCP), and with that scheme now supported by Apple and iTunes, taking away the non-DRM option for the average person is a lot closer to reality for video.

  40. Nice way to increase monitor sales. If this wasn’t about making monitors obsolete faster, there would be a way to upgrade the monitor firmware every time DRM gets messed with. But if that was possible, someone would hack the firmware to accept everything.

  41. Have you tried VLC player

    Actually that was the first thing that popped into my mind when I read that QuickTime was going to be involved with policing digital media.

    I use VLC for just about everything I can and it’s even got basic support for the Mac infrared remote. However when it’s dealing with a video format normally handled by QuickTime, it does depend on the underlying hooks of the OS which are basically, the same ones used by QuickTime.

    On some Blu-ray DVDs that’s MPEG2 (old fashioned DVD), though most are now MPEG4. The change in format means Apple can remove hooks, much in the way they currently make it hard to edit media in Quicktime format, or get full screen video etc.

    That is of course if you watch media in it’s native format.

  42. And they wonder why people pirate? As DRM gets more appalling, having DRM-free pirated versions looks all the more appealing.

  43. Way to shoot yourself in the foot Apple!
    Already, I won’t buy another Sony…
    And I was getting pretty ticked off at Micro$oft.

    I was seriously considering an 8 core Mac Pro early next year.

    Now, I guess I will stick with XP Pro. Shame I can’t get the video editing tools I need on Linux. All this DRM crap has truly pissed me off.

  44. Does anyone have any good ideas on how to make the media companies realize that DRM technologies don’t work?

  45. @ #59 I really think the only way the media companies are going to realize that the consumer hates DRM is for them to actually lose a significant amount of money.

    Mass boycott anyone?

  46. f^&k Jobs and f^&k Mac

    I have a macbook pro, a vista laptop, and an xp laptop for work. the macbook is better made with a better OS, but i can’t wait for Windows 7. Funny that M$ used to be the evil ones. Emperor Jobs better enjoy it while he can.

  47. @ #59:

    Does anyone have any good ideas on how to make the media companies realize that DRM technologies don’t work?

    The power of the purse. If you ever spent any money on DRM’d content, you’re already suckered.

  48. #52:
    >@18 padster123
    >Have you tried VLC player –
    >It doesn’t care about DVD regions, works on pre-intel Macs and it’s open source.

    The problem is that Macs use slot loading DVD drives. There aren’t many to choose from, and those that are out there are from manufacturers who’ve gone all out to protect region coding. With these drives, you can’t even read data from an out-of-region disc. VLC can’t do a thing, unless you hack your firmware.


  49. @ #62 valkraider

    actually a hardware dongle thingy seems a good lateral approach, as long as the firmware can be upgraded to keep pace with the whims of the paranoid marketing departments.

    Hollywood really needs to get its head on straight. Nothing like counting the chickens that would have hatched from the chick that was in the egg that you made sterile, and blaming the consumer for the sterility.

    Oh another way you could get legally out of all this bullcr@p is to make your own media.

    Anyone heard of Star Wreck? Well the same guys are starting up the Source Forge of film makers – they give people the collaborationware to help develop films and media projects

    Wreck a Movie

  50. This is just another Episode of Spy vs. Spy!!!

    Support Your Local Hacker!
    -Friend of Common Sense and Sworn Enema of Big Business Pigs Everywhere!

    ***my apologies to pigs, who probably have much better character than most businesspeople, especially the ones at the top.

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