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 Macworld.com. 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.