HDCP : Copyright Protection sneaked in on iTunes

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The blog world is buzzing with the news that Apple has included HDCP protection on iTunes movies and other video content purchased online. HDCP is an Intel Digital Rights Management technology intended to prevent unscrupulous users from copying content through analogue means – effectively bypassing any Digital protection on that content. For example, using the RF outputs from a video or DVD player to capture and record a film onto a PC for illegal distribution later.

What this means for iTunes customers – and I am an avid iToony – is that they cannot view purchased movies through external monitors connected to their Macbooks unless those devices are HDCP compliant. I can’t establish yet whether Apple’s own external monitors – ideal to get a wide-screen view of laptop content – are compliant but I assume so. Hence, users are into a closed market for the equipment they can purchase to supplement their Apple installation for home entertainment.

Stopping film piracy is one thing. Overly restrictive practices are entirely another. I am all for copyright protection but Apple has a duty to make the buyer aware of any viewing restrictions before that buyer parts with cash. The vast majority of Apple online customers are law-abiding – indeed, why else would they be purchasing content from iTunes as opposed to stealing it online elsewhere ? I do wish Apple or the Studios would think a little more before inflicting an un-announced and draconian technology onto an audience that are, by definition, first movers when it comes to online purchasing. A shot in the foot perhaps ?

It seems High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection was implemented by Apple on the latest release of the Macbook hardware. I will watch carefully to see which other equipment is affected. Also, check out this great article from Wired.com here.

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