iTunes DRM – it’s still a thing

I’ve always been a fan of paying a reasonable amount of money for a good service or product. Platforms like Steam for games, iTunes for music and the AppStore for software have made it incredibly easy to purchase products from wherever you are. Ideally both sides profit as the consumer gets what he wanted knowing he supported the creator, who on the other hand can keep improving the product with updates or fund his next great project.

Why am I telling you this? Just recently a friend of mine recommended watching a specific movie which I hadn’t seen yet. A few days later I decided I’d like to watch it in the evening and checked if it’s available for rental on iTunes. As I’ve never rented a movie on iTunes before I carefully read the FAQ. Being able to watch the movie as often as I wanted in the rental period of 48h, in High Definition and most importantly with original english audio for 3,99€ sounded like a good deal.

So I went for it. Nearly a little bit excited by modern-day technical advancements, I pressed the buy button in the iTunes Store, typed in my password and watched the download bar fill up – convenient and easy, as I had hoped. But the moment it had buffered enough to start playing the troubles began:

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Displaying only a black video iTunes showed me this error message, roughly translated telling me that the movie can’t be shown on my current screen as it doesn’t support HDCP (High-bandwith Digital Content Protection). Lucky enough I understood why this happened: my screens were connected to my Macbook Pro via Thunderbolt -> VGA adapters – VGA, being analogue, does not support HDCP.

Now, the need for HDCP support wasn’t mentioned in the FAQ, also who in their right mind would pay 3,99€ to steal a 1.5-year-old movie from iTunes?

I didn’t want to watch the movie on the 13-inch internal screen – retina or not. But no worries, I thought, my desktop pc is connected to the same screens via HDMI and shouldn’t have any problems with HDCP. The movie should be available there as well as I use the same Apple-ID on both devices – we live in the days of the cloud, right?

Indeed we do – the movie immediately showed up in iTunes for Windows and I started streaming it without any troubles. But then:

drmI couldn’t believe it – another error message. This time telling me that the movie was authorized for a different computer or device and couldn’t be played back. Just because I had seen a few black frames of it on the laptop? Even deleting the movie from the other device didn’t change anything.

So in the end I was back where I had started out and had to watch the movie on my 13-inch laptop display – it streamed well, the quality of both audio and video was great, sadly the film itself wasn’t very good. But what really matters is that I was really disapointed in the whole experience. Of course I shouldn’t be using VGA anymore (sadly projectors in most places still do so I have the adapter for it) and I bet I could have found a solution to the whole “device authorization” problem. But as I said in the introduction: the whole process should be easy and plain-sailing. The consumer should be rewarded for his loyality and not restricted by DRM mechanics. It would have been far easier to google “movie xyz  hd rip torrent” and only minutes later double-click the downloaded file, free of charge, as often as you want and most importantly hassle-free. As I said – I wouldn’t go the last route, as I usually enjoy paying for good things – but it’s no wonder people go the alternative route. I won’t be renting from iTunes anytime soon – that’s for sure.