HDCP Hell

I should have known better… after all, I’ve blogged about the evils of DRM before, although not HDCP in particular (here’s a nice intro). HDCP is basically DRM that “works” (as we’ll see in a minute, I’m hesitant to say it works at all) over a digital hi-definition connection. All that BluRay/HD-DVD jazz works mainly with HDCP, supposedly to prevent unauthorized copying.

If you’re trying to watch HDCP content, every component on the way has to support HDCP. A simple example would be a BluRay player hooked up to an HDTV. If the HDTV doesn’t support HDCP, the BluRay player will refuse to play the disc (or it may reduce quality). For computers, it’s much more complicated. In order to play an HD-DVD on your computer, your player software, operating system*, HD-DVD drive*, video card, and monitor must all support HDCP. Any one of those are not up to par, and your HD-DVD will again either not play, or play at relatively poor quality (* I’m not sure about these components). Certainly not the Hi Def you paid for.

And of course, my friends, this exact situation happened to me. I purchased a very fancy-shmancy LCD monitor with HDCP support advertised. Then, to take advantage of my purchase, I bought an upconverting DVD player. Soon I would be watching my old DVD’s in high definition!

Well, no. My dvd player would simply not allow me to select a resolution higher than the minimum 480p, even though my monitor supports the much higher 1080p! Why not? Who can say? But I strongly suspect that one of the components is screwing up when it comes to the HDCP “handshake”.

Here comes the kicker – neither company is particularly enthused about helping me out with this problem. The monitor people don’t even seem to have a clue what HDCP is, even though it’s a selling point of the monitor! I’m going to call the DVD people, but guess who they’re going to blame.

My only recourse at this point, short of returning the DVD player, is to see if there are any 3rd party firmwares that disable HDCP on the DVD player.

Anyway, it’s an ugly, anti-consumer situation. Caveat Emptor…

–YY

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