A Quick Look at the DRM restrictions of iTunes Movie Rentals

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So, I decided I was going to rent a movie in iTunes and review the process, including video quality, here on the site. With that in mind, on Tuesday I rented ‘The Simpson’s Movie’ for $3.99.

I chose to rent this on our Mac Mini because that is the Mac that syncs with our AppleTV, and I wanted to watch it on my television, not the computer screen.

Well guess what? Apparently until the software upgrade for the AppleTV is released, you can’t watch these rentals on the AppleTV.

No big deal, it’ll be fixed next week, and then it’ll work fine.

So, I decided to load it onto my iPhone…but wait…I can’t do that either. Why? Because even though both of the computers in the house that have iTunes are working off the same account, my wife’s iPhone is the one connected to the Mac Mini so she can have all her playlists and music preferences. That means my iPhone can’t connect to it at all.

Well that shouldn’t be a big deal. iTunes on my Macbook Pro is under the same account as the one on the mini, I’m sure I can move the file over to the iPhone through iTunes and our shared library…but no. That doesn’t work either.

I could load it onto our 5th generation video iPod – but I have no desire to watch a feature film on a device that small, and since I’ll only have 24 hours after I start this video to finish it, I’m not going to start it on a tiny screened video iPod.

The DRM here is too over the top. I’m not a terribly “anti-DRM” person – especially with the concept of rentals – I get that these big giant companies need it to sleep better at night. I understand its purpose, and I can live with it – but there is a level of inconvenience here for households with more than one Mac that I find very frustrating.

If my two machines were under different accounts in iTunes I could understand why the video wouldn’t go from one to another, but if its the same flipping account and you’re only giving me 24 hours to watch the damn thing – make this easier.

I’m into the idea of iTunes Movie Rentals…but the DRM is going to have to lighten up just a bit. It’s going to choke itself to death if it doesn’t.

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Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

11 thoughts on “A Quick Look at the DRM restrictions of iTunes Movie Rentals

  1. The 24 hour limit is bad enough. I can’t watch a movie in 24 hours as I watch movies on the train in half hour segments, 2 per day. That means at least 48 hours are need to watch even an average length movie. It’s disappointing. I was really looking forward to iTunes movie rentals. Oh well.

  2. Actually, I don’t think rentals work on the 5th generation iPods. I think you have to have a CURRENT generation iPod (iPod Classic, iPod Touch, iPod Nano).

    Very restrictive

  3. Apparently you can not copy a rented movie to a 5G or 5.5G iPod. Why Apple has not enabled this to a huge market, I am clueless. Now I must buy a new product if I want to watch rented movies from iTunes on the go, I can’t use the 5.5G 30 GB iPod I bought in July (what a waste).

  4. @Hells

    “Thoughts on Music” is fine – but it doesn’t apply to video. Music was already being released DRM free in the form of CDs. DVDs are not copy-protection free – and it would be completely impossible to have a rental market where you pay $2.99 to $3.99 for a movie and then just get to keep it forever.

    DRM is necessary for rentals to work – I don’t have a problem with that – but if they don’t free them up a bit, I’m not going to mess with them.

  5. Rent a movie from iTunes and you can’t watch it on AppleTV! Wow, thanks for the heads up. That’s just stupid. I’ve been tempted to give the rentals a try but I won’t even think about now. I’ll just wait for update! HD content for the AppleTV is what I’ve been waiting for… hope the studios don’t screw it up. Thanks again Michael for taking one for the team!

  6. Michael, have you tried making a 2nd user account on your Mac Mini? You can sync 2 iPhones on 1 computer, but they need their own library, I’d try copying over the movie to the 2nd user account and sync from there?

  7. I’ll never “Rent” a $3.99 movie at iTunes when I can get them cheaper at the video store down the road and keep them for 5 days.

    And besides, if need be, a rented movie can be copied……..and then watched as needed.

    This rental concept is flawed.

  8. “And besides, if need be, a rented movie can be COPIED”
    “This rental concept is flawed” that’s probably what the studio bosses were thinking when they looked at physical rentals. Then they came up with DRM and 24h hour limits 😉

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