MacBook Owners Enraged As Apple Blocks Some Displays

MacBook Owners Enraged As Apple Blocks Some Displays

MacBook fans are in an uproar after discovering the new laptops contain hardware-based copyright protection that prevents the viewing of iTunes movies on some external displays, such as a second monitor or a projector.

“This movie cannot be played because a display that is not authorized to play protected movies is connected,” is the warning MacBook users receive when using an external display that doesn’t support the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) protocol.

The HDCP technology is part of Apple’s Mini DisplayPort Content Protection built into MacBooks. Hollywood studios looking to protect their movies appreciate the 128-bit copy protection measures included in DisplayPort, according to reports.

Since late October, MacBook owners have used Apple’s discussion boards to deride the hardware copy protection scheme.

After plugging Apple’s mini Display Port adapter to his 19-inch VGA external display, one laptop owner wrote he could not view any movies he rented from iTunes.

An owner of Apple’s just-updated MacBook Air reported being unable to view any episodes of high-definition television series on his Apple 23-inch Cinema display. (However, his older MacBook Air displayed movies fine with the Cinema screen.)

“This is unacceptable. Here I have pure Apple products, with a digitally linked Apple display (displayport to DVI) and I cannot play video I legally purchased through iTunes. What gives Apple,” asked the user, ‘doh_eb.’

Prior to the MacBooks, Apple included the copy protection method in its AppleTV box.

So far, Apple had not responded to questions from Cult of Mac about user concerns.

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  • Matt

    This is bullshit. Their stupid Mini DiplayPort is aggravating enough on its own (would it kill you to give me HDMI?), but to have their copy protection scheme disable legitimate video playback to an external set is ludicrous. Once again, anti-piracy measures only hurt legitimate users.

  • Martijn

    This should have been advertised in huge type with the MacBook, that is a nasty surprise! I think at Daring Fireball they have another Jackass Award ready, and this time it goes to Apple.

  • firesign

    i’m sort’ve amazed that apple hadn’t required hdcp already. people might as well get used to it. it’s been a fact of life on the pc side for quite awhile now. i have a pc that only has hdmi with hdcp out, but my samsung monitor is not hdcp capable. therefore, i can’t play any media on it that requires hdcp. if i wanted to do that, i would have to hook it up to my hdtv, which does have hdcp.

  • Clarus

    And the media giants wonder why tech savvy customers get their content using file sharing, torrents, etc.

    Frustrate and annoy your customers and it won’t be long before they aren’t customers any longer.

  • Captain Snicklefret

    Another reason to NOT buy the new Macbook in addition to the missing firewire… anyone got notes on jerry rigging a Dell to run OSX?

  • Cowicide

    I suddenly feel a disturbance in the force… the force in which torrent seeds just surged for free non-DRM content that would have been paid for otherwise.

    I refuse to pay to be punished for paying. I will download it for free instead. Offer non-DRM content? I will buy it. Otherwise, fuck off.

  • pondhopper

    You got that right Greg and others, Who in their right mind would buy a computer that tells YOU what you can and cannot do with it after you buy it? The apple has lost its shine….more and more miscues and pretty aluminium containers don’t make the computer, the beauty of the mac products went beyond the box, it always seemed to focus on the customer first, the user first.
    Keep nudging Steve-O, each push is edging me closer to Dell and Unbuntu.

  • ipad 2 accessories

    That was pretty sneaky of Apple to sneak that in.

  • imajoebob

    Never mind torrents, this is an open invitation to apps that rip the protection from the file, making a rental into a de facto purchase.

    And not having this limitation in big bold letters on iTunes instead of burying it in fine print is begging for as deceptive trade practice claim. Here that metallic ringing sound Steve? It’s Richard Blumenthal and Andrew Cuomo sharpening their knives. They already have pelts from Big Tobacco, Big Insurance, and the big investment banks; Apple is fish in a barrel.

  • Ken

    Add me to the list of Mac users who is REALLY TURNED OFF by recent decisions at Apple. They are now just shoving things down our throats and saying in effect, “Like it or leave it!” Of course, the fanboys all love it anyway.

    As the owner of two Macs and ipods, and the potential buyer of many more, I have a message for Steve Jobs:

    “I like your computers. But I can live without them. I don’t like PCs, but I can live with them if I have too. Your products are overpriced, monopolized, and over-hyped. Macs are nice. But your arrogance as a company is growing daily. I don’t like being told what I can do with stuff I have already paid for. Furthermore, I don’t appreciate being jerked around and being offered less choices while being charged out the gazoo for everything, right down to the remote and cables. Apple, you are morphing into Microsoft.”

  • Dave Gentkowski

    A lot of you need to get out of the house, and get LAID!!!!!

  • Dan

    Unfortunately, this frustrating hardware-based DRM stuff is due to the movie studios’ demands, not Apple’s. It’s something everybody is being forced to implement, and frankly I’m amazed Apple’s been able to hold off forcing these systems down our throats for this long.

    Still, I’m getting sick of DRMs as a whole – and I agree with everybody who says that this is why torrent use is going up… I’m quite happy to pay for media, as long as it doesn’t tell me what I can or can’t do. For now, I’ll just buy and rip the DVDs…

  • aw

    Well I must say that I am not happy at all to hear this.
    But that aside, it is a lot better than how it is done in the other world:
    Have any of you ever read this?
    A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection
    http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~

  • etarip4

    It may be time to Dump MacBooks & Run OSX on generic laptops- a move I was reluctant to consider… Until NOW… This is now quite Easy… & easy to learn about…

  • Zartek

    Alright, i like apple and all, but this is getting ridiculous. Big business strikes again.

  • JP

    While I’m anti-Digitally Restricted Media, I’m also surprised to hear that all monitors in 2008 don’t already have HDCP. I have a 720p projector from 2003 that has HDCP.

  • csbmonkney

    This makes me all the happier that I got one of the mid-level MacBooks before they went aluminum. It makes me quite UNHAPPY for my long-term prospects of using Macs.

    If this is where things are going for Apple, and I’m sure many others in the industry, well, it is easy to see why the DIY revolution has been surging the past few years. All of this crazy control over media is going to end in tragedy for the studios, labels and hardware manufacturers, not for the consumers. Consumers always find ways around these things, including having the enlightening realization that they do not need to buy things that do not work the way they want them to work. People always realize when they are getting the thumbscrews of a bad idea, and this is one that once the information is out there will pause more than a few purchases of the equipment (and it will be interesting to see if the low-end white MacBook has this on it as well and if not if the sales of that start to outpace the sales of the aluminum one).

    The back catalog of media created over the last 100 years is enormous and one could live a lifetime never, ever taking part in new media. The ability to search and procure old prints, old VHS, even old DVD is going to be there, and the ability to move it to new technology will be there as well. The less flexible the technology, the lower the demand for that technology over time.

    Apple is playing a dangerous balancing game with the studios and labels by doing this, but it’s not surprising given Jobs’ association with Disney. He’s is obligated to provide to the shareholders, NOT the customers. The customers that he has garnered since the release of Mac OS X, though, are many tech oriented geeks that will easily find ways to bypass this type of silliness, but moreover this type of silliness will absolutely cause them to pause and think a lot harder about whether or not their next computer will be a Macintosh. I have been a Mac user since 1990 and this certainly causes me to think more about alternatives in the future. Ubuntu gets easier and more robust and useful with every release, and there are a plethora of hardware manufacturers out there. I don’t WANT to trade off the great Mac OS X and the beautiful hardware engineering of the Mac for a cycle of cheap, disposable PCs, but if the hands get tied tighter and tighter, well, it will happen.

  • the Dude

    Hey Matt,having an HDMI port would not remedy the situation. You’d still run into the same problem with (HDCP) protocol on HDMI. If you hook up to an unauthorized display your movie won’t play.

    I’m a poet and don’t know it.

  • Andrew

    Makes me REALLY appreciate my early 2008 MacBook Pro, though I wonder if iTunes 9 will kill it for me too.

    Still, not matter how bad DRM is, nobody is forcing anyone to buy DRM content. You can rent the DVD, record the TV show on your DVR, or as many do, download the Torrent for free.

    Personally, I buy three of my four favorite TV shows on iTunes, and would buy the other if it was available. Since it is NOT available, I am forced to go torrent hunting as I do not have a television set, let alone cable, satellite or DVR.

  • theguycalledtom

    Almost a year ago I made a partition on my old macbook pro and installed the AppleTV OS so I could rent HD movies from iTunes to watch on my 30″ cinema display but guess what, HDCP protection stopped me.

    HDCP has been around for ages, you should be thanking Apple for holding off for so long. Don’t blame Apple, Apple is anti DRM, see Jobs’s famous letter.

    Blame the content producers who require Blu-Ray discs and iTunes movies to be coated in HDCP, not Apple.

  • J Meyerbeer

    This should be published very widely – the only way to make Apple respond and change it. It is clearly not a legitimate demand on the part of rights holders to control on which screens their content is viewed.

  • Rob

    Quit whining… This isn’t anything to do with Apple, nor something they can ‘change’ (aside from making it standard in all devices). HDCP has been around for AGES and is a requirement forced on the consumer by the studios. It’s not an Apple exclusive thing at all – I’d suggest the vitriol be directed at the Studios for requiring such constraining technologies, and the sales folk who (should) be pointing out the requirement for HDCP compatible connections and display devices. Bits to Photons, the whole content delivery path needs to be protected to be allowed to play out the HD protected content.

  • Dunc R

    I can’t blame Apple for this situation, but I can stick to buying and renting DVDs instead of buying into the whole iTunes thing.
    I had plans to simplify my life and slim my stuff down with a more digital life instead of all this hard media lying around the house. I don’t think I’ll bother now!
    Long live DVD and it’s ease of use.

  • Juan Nunez-Iglesias

    I’m gonna go with the minority here—nothing to do with Apple, it’s the studios that are pushing HDCP. As some posters noted, PC graphics cards have had HDCP for a long time now. Apple has somehow managed to hold off on it for a long time, and they should be applauded for it.

    That said, DRM sux bollox and everyone should stick to torrenting until the studios get the message.

About the author

Ed SutherlandEd Sutherland is a veteran technology journalist who first heard of Apple when they grew on trees, Yahoo was run out of a Stanford dorm and Google was an unknown upstart. Since then, Sutherland has covered the whole technology landscape, concentrating on tracking the trends and figuring out the finances of large (and small) technology companies.

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