MacBook Pro users getting bitten by HDCP

Yesterday, our buddy David Chartier at Ars and Sam Oliver at AppleInsider both publicized an issue that's been burning up the support boards for a while now: iTunes video rentals and purchases in HD are flagged for HDCP control, and in cooperation with the new Mini DisplayPort connector on the MacBook and MacBook Pro unibody models, those movies and TV shows are refusing to play back on non-compliant external displays.

In this case, 'compliant' means HDMI or recent-vintage DVI, but even monitors or TVs that support HDCP may not properly negotiate with the DisplayPort connector to give iTunes and QuickTime the all-clear signal (if so, quitting and relaunching iTunes once the display is hooked up may clear the playback hold). Equally annoying: HDCP is only supposed to apply to 'high-value' digital streams, meaning standard-def purchases and rentals on the iTunes store should be out of scope... but some reports indicate that both the HD and SD instances are flagged, blocking playback on anything but the laptop's internal display or a straight-thru HDMI connection. Argh!

While Apple TV users with unconventional output setups have been dealing with this aggravation since the beginning of the year, MacBook and MBP owners have largely steered clear, even as the HD content on iTunes became available for playback on the laptops. Now that the hardware and software have come into sync on the unibody models, Apple's compliance with HDCP -- a necessary but appalling condition of the content companies that deliver the HD movies and TV shows -- is beginning to close out the 'analog hole' and cause real aggravation for laptop owners with legitimate use cases. Talk about a bag of hurt.