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Apple Mini DisplayPort DRM sparks controversy

updated 08:00 pm EST, Wed November 26, 2008

DisplayPort DRM conflict

Apple is under fire once again for its use of copyright protection, with the implementation of High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) into the Mini DisplayPort video connection found on the latest MacBook, MacBook Pro, and Air notebooks, according to The enforcement of HDCP protection had caused problems for a number of iTunes customers, preventing them from playing videos on external displays that were not compatible with the protection standard.

Apple omitted the anti-piracy details when it announced the new upgraded line of MacBooks. Owners have even reported that iTunes content that played on their older notebooks would be prevented from playing on external displays with the new products.

The company this week released an update to QuickTime that allows HDCP-flagged standard-definition videos to play without the authentication. The protection was originally intended to prevent illegal copying of HD material, downgrading the output to SD quality if the connected device is not HDCP-compatible.

iTunes so far only offers standard-definition video, with HD limited to the Apple TV offerings. With the current push of HDTVs and Blu-Ray, it would be unlikely for the iTunes catalog to stay SD-only forever. The company has not elaborated about the future application of the HDCP standard if it begins selling HD movies or shows.

Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has claimed that Apple is actually encouraging piracy by integrating the technology into its products. He argues that the computer-maker is likely to drive a number of customers to download pirated titles or burn illegal copies, if it would be easier, or cheaper, than dealing with the DRM technology.

Although the temporary inconvenience was certainly frustrating to many customers, the blame may not lie completely on Apple's shoulders. The entities that own the rights to the content have a large influence in the protection methods. iTunes does assert the level of dominance in the video business as it does with music sales. If Blu-ray is to be supported on future MacBooks, the devices would still need the HDCP-enabled video output to play on other displays.

While Apple was under pressure from European countries for its use of music DRM, Steve Jobs explained that the company would actually prefer DRM-free music and "would embrace it in a heartbeat." He even pointed out the futility of the labels' current efforts, considering they require DRM on Internet-purchased music while selling the same titles on CD without protection.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Feathers

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Steve doesn't make music so he doesn't care about it's protection...but Steve's slaves over at Pixar make movies so, by a strange coincidence, he's deeply concerned about the protection of THAT form of intellectual property!!!

  1. lkrupp

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Good reason to be afraid

    Human beings are thieves by nature and will steal anything if given the opportunity. The advent of digital audio/video files makes theft easy and anonymous. So they steal. How else can you explain the attitude expressed here that digital content, once obtained, is owned by the possessor to be copied and shared or even resold at will? You couldn't do that easily with vinyl LPs or 8 track tapes. You can with a digital file.

    Humanity's lack of ethics and the concept of relative truth is the problem, not DRM.

  1. jragosta

    Joined: Dec 1969


    ESF idiots

    "Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has claimed that Apple is actually encouraging piracy by integrating the technology into its products"

    General Motors is encouraging theft by putting locks and alarm systems on its cars, too. Right?

    ESF is full of idiots. They have no understanding of the principle of intellectual property and therefore make fools of themselves constantly by attacking anyone who doesn't give away all their property rights.

    Oh, and btw ESF, this isn't Apple's doing. It is a requirement of the content licensors and is part of the HDCP spec. The only way Apple could leave it out would be by becoming thieves as you apparently think everyone should.

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: ESF idiots

    Wow, one is a digital copy of a file, the other is a physical piece of property. Yes, let's make that correlation, it'll work!

    Your car/lock analogy is useless and stupid and incorrect. A better analogy would be that GM is promoting theft by preventing you from using your car unless you used all GM parts, filled it with GM-authorized gasoline, and drove it while listening to "Like a Rock" or something.

    People have BOUGHT their music or video, and now told they can't play it or use it as they see fit, in ways that are perfectly legal. They may end up 'pirating' copies of their legally purchased materials so they can exercise their fair use rights as authorized by the US constitution and copyright law.

    Oh, and btw ESF, this isn't Apple's doing.

    Sorry, it is Apple's doing. They sold the hardware. They sold the content. Somewhere in that, they could have mentioned to the consumer that "BTW, this stuff is now copy protected. Don't even think about trying to play it on your current entertainment system".

    But, since I actually looked for it when it was released, I know there was NO mention that the port has HDCP.

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: ESF idiots

    It is a requirement of the content licensors and is part of the HDCP spec. The only way Apple could leave it out would be by becoming thieves as you apparently think everyone should.

    Sorry, it is an OPTIONAL part of the spec to the hardware and isn't required. It is required if they want to sell certain content, but it is up to Apple to make that choice. They could just say "No, we're not selling content that requires this restrictive form of DRM."

    Apple has chosen to get in bed with the video producers, so they are just as liable on this issue (again, more so, since they didn't even warn those buying the content of the restrictions involved).

    Oh, and I've said it before and I'll keep saying it. Why isn't Apple pushing for DRM-free video like they did DRM-free music? Is it because they only believe DRM is evil after they've cornered their marketshare? Or do they only think music DRM is evil, but necessary for video?

    Oh, and did you notice the issue here is with the DisplayPort. I haven't noticed people complaining about this issue with older macbooks. So does the content restriction only apply if you have newer hardware?

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