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MacBook locks iTunes movies on non-HDCP screens

updated 10:10 am EST, Tue November 18, 2008

HDCP on MacBooks

Certain movies bought through the iTunes Store appear to be taking advantage of the inherent copy protection hardware in the new MacBook lineup, a report from one Ars Technica reader. Attaching an external display without HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) encryption support, such as a projector with VGA-only input, produces a warning from some titles that the display isn't authorized to play protected movies and so refuses output.

The notice is inconsistent and appears for both new and titles such as Hellboy 2 and The Shawshank Redemption but doesn't always appear for these full-length titles. The locks also don't apply to TV shows, which historically haven't been copy-protected on regular digital TV channels.

Playback should be supported using Apple's LED CinemaDisplay, which supports HDCP by virtue of using DisplayPort, or through newer third-party displays with HDCP support over DVI by using a DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter. It should also work with HDTVs that either have similarly guarded DVI input or if a company develops a compatible DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter.

While the DisplayPort format on the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro includes HDCP as part of its official spec, the previously unexpected notice confirms that Apple has implemented the 128-bit AES encryption as a complement to its FairPlay copy protection system. HDCP is most often used to prevent pirates from ripping Blu-ray or other digitally protected movies by capturing the raw video output but until now wasn't generally believed to be used by Apple.

The new MacBooks aren't the first devices to use HDCP from Apple, as the Apple TV uses it for relaying its signal over HDMI. However, the Apple TV also includes component video output that isn't subject to the same kind of restrictions. As DisplayPort is the only video output short of USB options on the company's portables, the move effectively pushes some owners to upgrade any external displays to newer models if they want to play iTunes movies.

by MacNN Staff



  1. WiseWeasel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    One more reason to stay far, far away from all video purchases on the iTunes Store, and stick to ripping your DVDs to standard formats, where you'll never run into any problems like this.

  1. Athens

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I totally agree, the methods of protecting copyright which will never work are only hurting those who are not making copies of movies. I wont purchase any movies outside of the 2 I bought on iTunes for 2 reasons.

    Price, its to expensive. For something that is near DVD quality, that takes up hard drive space, that has no extra content like a DVD it pisses me off im paying more for it then if I buy the actual DVD in Wal-Mart

    Copy protections, enough already because every movie out there has a torrent with its name on it. If we want to get the movies for free its dead simple. Stop punishing paying customers.

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Movie industry getting

    kickbacks from the playback and display manufacturing industry? Hmmmm.

    "You need an HDCP capable device for your viewing pleasure."

  1. TerryJ

    Joined: Dec 1969



    This is a terrible surprise to spring on users. I have a new MacBook and 19" Acer widescreen that was great for watching a movie and I was starting to get in the mode of treating myself to a new movie from ITMS every couple weeks to build a consistent library but now, no more. I'll find some way to start ripping DVDs to add since you can grab a ton of movies from the Blockbuster bargain bin to help build your library. This has the reverse effect of wanting to keep users AWAY from rental stores like BB and instead drives them toward traditional rentals or purchases at brick-and-mortar retailers. For basically the same price, you will get more content, less restriction and a hard disk copy (backup) however with the added step of having to rip it yourself. Sorry ITMS, I won't be back until you fix this.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re HDCP

    If the flag is set by the content owner, then the providers must honor it. Blame the movies studios, not Apple. Know your technology. Check out HDCP on Wikipedia.

    No, you blame Apple for not telling the customers. That's the problem here. Esp. with Apple whining about all the restrictions on Blu-Ray and how they don't want to deal with it, and yet they've apparently dealt with it here.

    Users know when they buy music that it is iTunes Plus or not (DRMed or DRM-free). They should be told what movies they can and can't show on their Apple monitor.

    Oh, and in case you didn't notice, Apple makes no mention of their new monitor support DPCP. So I guess if you buy that new LED monitor to work in concert with your new MacBook, you'll be SOL to watch some movies.

    And I agree, buying movies from the iTMS is sheer madness.

  1. danangdoc

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Deal breaker

    I just download movies from iTunes to my iPod, and play them where I want - t.v., etc. I guess I could record them then as well? Hee hee hee! Yeah, my iPod is my new DVD player! And with Handbrake to rip other DVD's I've got all the bases covered. But yes, shame on Apple for keeping this nasty surprise quiet. That's really two-faced. I was going to buy a new mac-book, but now I'll be happy to get one of the less expensive, previous generation ones. Thank God for these blogs. I think this could hurt some of Apples sales. D'ya think?

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Does anyone...

    ...know if this affects iTunes movie rentals as well?

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