Apple’s 4K iTunes content limited to streaming only, no downloads

“Apple has updated its iTunes Store on iOS devices and the Apple TV with plenty of 4K movies ahead of the launch of the Apple TV 4K, but as made clear in a recent support document, 4K content from Apple can be streamed, but not downloaded directly on a device,” Juli Clover reports for MacRumors. “According to Apple, customers can download a local copy of an HD movie, and on occasion, HD movies that support HDR and Dolby Vision, but 4K movies are not available for download and thus can’t be watched without an internet connection.”

You can download a local copy of an HD movie, and you might be able to download HDR and Dolby Vision versions, but you can’t download a 4K version.Apple Inc.

“It’s not clear why Apple is not allowing customers to download 4K content onto their devices, but it could potentially be a licensing issue,” Clover reports. “Apple is providing 4K content at the same price as HD content, though movie studios were rumored to want to charge more. It’s also possible it’s a local storage issue, as 4K movies have large file sizes.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s almost certainly a licensing issue.


  1. This is definitely not good, i have downloaded movies to watch on a plane or when travelling on Eurostar, i watch it on my Ipad or phone. This jist doesnt cut it. Also does it mean that 4k movies cannot be purchased on iTunes, or does it mean it cannot be rented? Because if a 4k movie is purchased outright, then a copy should be made to go on the HD and not on iTunes server. This is Eddy Cue being LAZY as usual. Also Lazy Eddy should have had the decency to say this fact of life during the presentation. Very economic with the truth, thats Lazy Eddy allright :angry:

  2. This is certainly disappointing. I agree it’s probably a licensing issue which could be corrected down the road potentially (hopefully), though I suspect it wouldn’t happen soon as it otherwise would have been in place when the Apple TV came out in the first place.

    Here’s what this does though – it incentivizes people to stream the movie and capture it through 3rd party software which allows recording of any audio/video source, thereby having end-users do the job for them. That alone is enough to piss people off sufficiently to decide to share said 4K sources which otherwise would have had copy protections built in to prevent such activity if they were downloadable. Way to go dumbfucks in the industry. Please excuse my language, but that kind of shortsightedness seems extremely stupid.

  3. Hollywood is still trying to fight the already lost war of local ownership of unlocked video files.

    If you buy a BluRay with 4K you can archive a DRM free copy with certain widely available software. Under the current understanding of the BetaMax Ruling by SCOTUS, you have a right to archive media. The removal of DRM is supposedly illegal under the DMCA- which is an unenforceable law of dubious value.

    1. The #1 Rule of Computing is: Make A Backup.

      The media oligarchs ended up agreeing by way of providing backup copies of their movies with Blu-ray purchases. When/if the backup issue hits the courts again, the mass rebellion of customers against DRM prevention of backups would eventually cause the media oligarchs to LOSE in court, again.

      Meanwhile, keep in mind that copying purchased media then giving it (or selling it) to others will remain illegal.

      1. My brother is an Intellectual Property Attorney (USPTO), so I have a good point of reference regarding these issues.

        Like I said:
        The BetaMax Case says you have a right to back up your content/data if you own it.
        The DMCA says it is illegal to circumvent data encryption, which is unenforceable.

        They have been playing this cat and mouse game for years. There is always going to be a hole to exploit. Any Cable Box with RGB outputs is streaming a 1080 signal that can be digitized with any number of devices legally available in the US. This is called the analog hole.

        Blu Ray DRM was supposed to be unbreakable, yet I can direct you to software on the public internet that will decode any Blu Ray you have and it can be easily done on a Mac mini- it does not require that much horsepower. The resulting file can be transcoded to any format you wish.

        One of the reasons Macs are seemingly blocked for certain content is because they are easily enabled to intercept and store streaming content. Parallels sells Toolbox, for example, that will download most any video you see on the internet. The stuff it cannot do by drag and drop is hidden in code easily found in Safari developer tools. You get the address for the file and you can intercept and store it. This is not as easily done on Windows and they know it.

  4. Perspective: Apple has had to contend with the DRM (Digital Rights Manglement) bad attitude of the media industry oligarchs. We watched Steve Jobs attempt to convince them to allow DRM free music downloads. We know Jobsless-Apple has the same imposed constraints on video media.

    Apple is not allowing customers to download 4K content onto their devices

    Technically, that’s incorrect wording. All streamed data is ‘downloaded’. The difference is that 4K media isn’t allowed to be kept on the computing device, at least not for very long.

    We know there are (illegal) ways around this situation. But 4K involves a relatively whopping amount of data. IMHO one is better off buying the physical media if one wants to keep it. That’s certainly what the media industry desires.

    1. This mess has been going on since the dawn of PCM tape recorders that could make a digital copy of any analog signal- a “perfect” copy. The industry looked at all manner of stuff including an audio watermark that would trigger a legally required (proposed but never passed) roadblock to recording the content. The watermark was actually a negative one (removed data) that diminished sound quality and triggered a backlash from the Audiophile Community.

      A company called Double Twist once had software that claimed to allow circumvention of DRM in the era of iTunes FairPlay DRM on audio tracks.

      Like you said, a streaming file downloads to your device, but it is not stored beyond a buffer. Find that cache, tap the buffer and the content is yours. That is the Achilles Heel of steaming.

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