Mountain Lion, AirPlay, Screen Captures & DRM

I’ve been wanting to post this entry for a while, but I didn’t have the opportunity to compel an extra pair of hands to assist with some necessary, salient portions of it until tonight.

For those who were hoping Mountain Lion’s AirPlay would be a revolutionary step in the “your content, wherever you want it” battle, I fear you may be in for a bit of a disappointment. Quite by accident, I stumbled upon some eerie signs that location-aware video DRM will be alive and well as an integrated part of Apple’s forthcoming release of Mountain Lion.

Since I have a shiny, new 1080p Apple TV and a device capable of running Mountain Lion, I’ve been experimenting with the awesomeness that is AirPlay. Despite claims to the contrary, most of the time routing MacBook Pro Desktop video & system audio to the tiny black box of happiness works flawlessly (even more so since the recent Apple TV update). It’s been a treat to be able to play owned-backup copies of my favorite samurai videos (I should buy stock in Criterion) with subtitles via VLC.

However, on a lark I tried to play one of my Avengers : Earth’s Mightiest Heroes episodes (we subscribe via iTunes) using QuickTime Player and, much to my chagrin, discovered that there lies within the heart of the tame Mountain Lion, a DRM beast.

The easiest way to show this is with what happens when I try to take a fullscreen snapshot with Skitch as I’m playing the DRM-laden episode:

I managed to get #3 to help me record a video (albeit crappy) of what happens when I try to route the Desktop video to the living room TV via AirPlay: (youtube link)

In case it’s not obvious, the video plays fine on the Desktop (in QuickTime) prior to the AirPlay route, but goes equally as blank when the AirPlay device is chosen, yet reverts to playing when AirPlay is disabled.

This means the API hooks are there to prevent DRM-laden content from being used with AirPlay (or snapped via screen capture) and that, in turn, means your hopes of AirPlaying Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Video content may be dashed despite all of those services working now (in the betas).

Video is the last content area to understand the need to be open. Amazon & Apple sell untainted music and even Tor is going DRM free (joining #spiffy folks like O’Reilly Media).

I own that episode of The Avengers yet am not able to do with it as I please. Yes, I could have streamed it over the Internet from iCloud to the Apple TV or even routed it via the local iTunes to the Apple TV, but I wanted to use QuickTime (though, just for a test). What’s to stop Apple or other companies from requiring a special streaming license if you want the ability to use AirPlay or just disabling it altogether in favor of forcing you to use something as horrific as Google TV (full disclosure, I own a Logitech Google TV box, too)?

Combine these restrictions with the inevitable “you will only be able to use Apple-authorized apps in Mac OS” in a post-Mountain Lion release and your hopes of using VLC (or any other player that will not conform to draconian rules) to bypass this silliness will be equally as dashed as your naive AirPlay ones. If there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get your content to the screen of your choice, why would you choose to remain legal (moral arguments notwithstanding)?

I hope, in the long run, Apple manages to figure out an sane, amenable solution to this silliness. In the meantime, I’m going to pop in a DVD and crank through some Godzilla flicks. At least I can be fairly certain that should work for quite a while longer.

Street sign photo via jbonnain

3 thoughts on “Mountain Lion, AirPlay, Screen Captures & DRM

  1. Just upgraded my Mac Mini to Mountain Lion, and discovered this problem. I have the Mac Mini going HDMI into my television. There is no keyboard and mouse connected or paired with the Mini. Instead, I use an iOS app called TouchPad on my iPad to control the Mac Mini, which I use to watch shows on my TV. Touchpad acts as a keyboard and trackpad for the Mac, a great little app. Unfortunately it does so over wi-fi using the Screen Sharing mechanism on the Mac, so now I get checkerboards on my TV for iTunes and DVD videos while using it. The DRM enhancement has really disrupted my setup, very disappointing.

  2. Our video production lab was about to buy five new 2012 MacMini’s to replace our 2009 models. We run them headless and control them with OS X’s Screen Sharing from a MacBook Air. We bought one new 2012 Mini to do some testing and came across this checkerboard issue when using DVD Player. Infuriating. They wanna play this game? Fine. We can play too.

    Thanks to Apple’s DRM tactics, we won’t be buying the rest of the new 2012 MacMinis we planned to order, or anything from Apple anymore.

    Too bad that VLC in it’s current form is still not an adequate replacement for Apple’s DVD Player. Even in the year 2012, soon to be 2013, VLC can’t even reverse or fast forward video without flipping out or crashing. Completely craptastic piece of software. But at least it’s not completely crippled by DRM like Apple’s built in programs.

    1. Does MPlayer OS X Extended – – also have the jerky/crashing issues? I’ve pretty much made that my default player for all video at this point. It seems to be much more stable and plays (from what I can tell) all the same media types.

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