HDCP is a digital-only content protection technology associated with HDMI and DVI interfaces.
Specifically, it’s a security feature that can be attached to a piece of digital content, like a high definition DVD. The only thing that unlocks this secured content is a license key, which is located within the HDMI or DVI interface.
Products known to contain HDMI or DVI include televisions, Blu-ray disc players, cable/satellite set-top boxes, splitters, switchers, video recorders, and computer. The problem for consumers is that not every product with HDMI or DVI is HDCP-compliant.
What does HDCP stand for?
HDCP stand for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection.
Who invented HDCP?
HDCP was invented by Intel Corporation but the Digital Content Protection LLC (DCP) is that organization that licenses it to content producers and manufacturers.
What is HDCP’s purpose?
HDCP provides content producers, the companies that create the programming you watch on your HDTV, a sense of security knowing that their digital content can only be displayed on HDCP-licensed products.
It’s purpose is to prevent piracy or illegal display of that image.
The current specification of HDCP, version 2.0, limits the number of components that can be connected together and still display a HDCP image to "four levels of HDCP Repeaters and as many as 32 total HDCP Devices, including HDCP Repeaters.”
How HDCP Works
Let’s say you want to watch a high definition DVD on your HDTV. The Blu-ray disc player is connected to the TV with a HDMI cable. The instant you start playing the HDCP-encrypted disc is when the authentication process begins.
The way it works is that the transmitting device sends a ping to the receiving device, much like a submarine might do. If the receiving device doesn’t return the ping to the transmitting device within that period of time then the signal stops.
In our scenario, the transmitting device is the Blu-ray player. The HDTV is the receiving device. If our television is HDCP-compliant then we would see the movie. If it isn’t then we would either get an error message or blank screen.
What this essentially means is that if you use HDMI or DVI cables then you must have HDCP-compatible components in order to see HDCP-encrypted content.
How to Fix HDCP Compatibility Issues
The only way to fix HDCP compatibility issues is to either replace the product that doesn’t have HDCP with one that does or stop using the HDMI or DVI cable. Since HDCP is digital-only, it doesn’t affect non-digital cables like RF coaxial, RCA, component, s-video, etc.
What I would like to see developed is a type of dongle or plug that you can stick into your HDMI port that is nothing more than a HDMI/HDCP or DVI/HDCP converter. That could keep all HDCP-less televisions and devices useful with Blu-ray and other digital media.