The Computer Blog

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

“This movie cannot be played because a display that is not authorized to play protected movies is connected."

As someone who tries to play by the rules, imagine my shock when, after buying and downloading “Terminator 2- Judgment Day” from the iTunes Store, I got this message when trying to play it back:

“This movie cannot be played because a display that is not authorized to play protected movies is connected.

Try disconnecting any displays that are not HDCP authorized.”

I was using my brand new MacBook Pro hooked up to an aluminum 20 inch Apple Cinema Display via a “mini-Display Port to DVI” connector. I remembered reading a year or two ago how the movie studios were insisting, as we moved into the HD era, of getting into restricting HD playback at the hardware level. So, I went out to Wikipedia and looked up HDCP to get a look at the standard. As I read, I realized the standard is implemented so that the playback device checks the receiver to ensure it is HDCP capable, i.e., it protects content; if not, then it refuses to play and issues an error message like the one I received. As I was seeing, it meant I might not be able to play HD content bought from the iTunes Store, or anywhere else, if I didn’t have hardware that was HDCP compliant. In other words, the only way any of us can guarantee we can play the stuff we buy that is HD is to ensure we have the newest in hardware.

On the streets that means if you’re going in to buy a new LCD for your computer, you need to find the specs and make sure it’s HDCP compliant, or you could have a problem.

Luckily, the same movie plays just fine on my 23 inch Apple Cinema Display being run by my Mac Pro. I suspect it will work just fine on our Apple TV, though I haven’t tried it, yet. It better work on the two new 24 inch LED Cinema Displays my wife just ordered for the two of us, or me and Apple are going to have some words! I couldn’t find a specific mention that they are HDCP compliant, but I can’t believe Apple would be dumb enough to release them at this stage of the game if they are not.

At least for the iTunes Store’s TV shows, when you buy a show shot in HD, you get both the HD and SD versions when you download. iTunes seems to automatically select the right version when you launch the show using Cover Flow; so, you’d never know this restriction is there without someone pointing it out. Perhaps, Apple and the movie studios need to take the same approach with their movies as well. Forcing a user to buy new hardware to view your content will backfire, and no one will be able to predict at any point whether the explosion will be big or small.

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