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Things to consider before renting films on iTunes

Don't end up like IT journalist Jeff Carlson...
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Movie rentals through the iTunes Store (opens in new tab) haven’t hit the UK yet, but before they do (later this year), it’s worth checking over your hardware to see if it’s compatible. Otherwise you could end up like IT journalist Jeff Carlson after his Apple TV (opens in new tab) ordeal.

Carlson details his experience on He accessed the iTunes Store to download a film to his newly updated Apple TV media player. No problems so far; the trouble began when he finally got around to watching the unspecified film.

Device set-up

"The Apple TV wouldn't let me [watch the downloaded movie], due to the way I have the device set up. You see, I don't own an HDTV, which is required for the Apple TV,” Carlson wrote.

“My Apple TV has been connected to a Dell FPW2005 20-inch LCD display (the same kind to which I connect my MacBook Pro (opens in new tab) at home and at the office). The two devices are connected by a cable that has an HDMI plug on one end (which attaches to the Apple TV) and a DVI plug on the other (connecting the Dell monitor).”

Error message

This is where the problem lay. When attempting to watch the movie, Carlson was hit with an Apple TV error message stating: "This content requires HDCP for playback".

HDCP, or High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection, is a form of DRM that prevents you from playing video over DVI and HDMI connections if you don't own compatible hardware that can decode the signal properly. So if your monitor is too old it may not include HDCP. This makes it impossible to display movies on the monitor.

You can bypass this by ordering additional connection cables depending on the output offerings on your monitor. Carlson found that his monitor couldn’t handle the component-to-DVI adapter needed to watch Apple TV content.

No transfer

As movies rented directly from the Apple TV can’t be transferred to another device, Carlson was left with no other choice but to ask Apple (opens in new tab) for a refund (which he received).

If you rent a movie on your Apple Mac via iTunes, the movie can be transferred between an Apple iPhone (opens in new tab), iPod (opens in new tab) or Apple TV (opens in new tab). But content bought and downloaded straight to the Apple TV can only be watched by hooking up a compatible TV or monitor.

So if you have your eyes on the Apple TV and iTunes movie rental service, make sure your TV or monitor supports HDCP, component video or the correct DVI connections to avoid disappointment.