Apple's 24-hour movie rental limit? Easily hackable

Mess with your computer's clock, get unlimited time to watch your movies.


Farhad Manjoo
January 18, 2008 12:00AM (UTC)

Some of my fans are panicking at my having written a couple posts that don't mention Apple, so I've got to drop in with this awesome finding: Gizmodo confirms that you can get around the 24-hour time limit in Apple's new movie rental plan by simply rejiggering your computer's clock.

For the uninitiated, the time limit is a movie studio-imposed anti-piracy scheme that, as I've argued numerous times, nearly fatally cripples the much-heralded rental model that Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled on Tuesday. When you get a $2.99 or $3.99 movie from iTunes, you have 30 days to start watching it -- but after you press play, you get just 24 hours watch the full thing. After that, the file becomes unplayable.

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Well, that's the theory, anyway. Gizmodo checked in on a tip that you could do away with the time limit simply by setting your computer's clock back in time after you've rented the movie.

That is, if you rent a movie now, then set your computer's clock to ten years ago, iTunes will think you've got ten years and a day before your rental expires. Silly iTunes!

Now, you say, I don't want to keep my computer's date ten years in the past just to watch movies. Good point, so the folks at Giz tried another method. They set the computer's date to some time in the future, then rented the movie, and then set the date back to the present day.

That worked too! This way, iTunes thinks that your movie expires, say, a year from now, but your clock gets to stay at the right time.

As Gizmodo points out, there's no doubt that Apple, prodded by the studios, will mend this hole soon. Until it does, you can watch your movies at a more leisurely pace.

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Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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