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Renting From iTunes? Not so fast.

Mrs. Quip is heading out on a trip and decides to download a couple of movies from iTunes. She’s got her iPod all set, purchases a couple of rentals and starts the download at midnight. Her flight is at 6:00 AM, so she’ll grab the laptop on the way out the door, transfer the files to the iPod at the airport, and be all set for the flight. Sound great, right?

EXCEPT, iTunes rentals don’t work with just any video iPod. They only work with the current generation. If you’ve got the old 5G iPod, you’re out of luck. But how can that be? The iTunes movies work with the older iPod, so why not the rentals? Any difference between the formats should be a function of software, right?

Well, I was surprised to say the least and went trolling Apple’s site. Surely, given the millions of 5G devices in the hands of consumers, there would be warnings and caveats all over the site and iTunes store, right? Well, no. I found one reference buried at the bottom of this page.

Rentals to go.

Movies you rent from the iTunes Store transfer to your iPod1 or iPhone to watch on the go. Either device remembers where you stopped watching on your computer and picks up where you left off.

Notice that little subscript “1”? That points you at a footnote in about a 6 point font way down at the bottom of the page.

1. Movies rented on the iTunes Store will play only on the current-generation iPod classic, iPod nano, and iPod touch.

The best part of this little story, though, is buried even further down the hole. If you view the source code for the page, and look at the CSS style for that disclaimer, the style name is… wait for it…


Read that as a disgruntled customer who finds they just downloaded useless movies might and you get, “So, Sue Me!”

Not that I don’t appreciate Apple’s sense of humor at my expense, but it really is pretty crappy thing to do. Release a new function, limit it to only the current devices (despite the fact that it should be a simple software fix to enable it on the old ones), and force people to buy even more expensive hardware. It’s a brilliant move for a corporation, and one I would expect from Microsoft. Congrats, Apple. You’ve become everything you used to disdain.

Written by Michael Turk