FireFold Blog

What is HDCP and How Does It Affect You?

You might be wondering what is HDCP? High-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP) may sound like a topic that only computer programmers need to worry about. Nevertheless, HDCP can have a big impact on your daily TV or movie viewing. Intel created it to stop people from illegally recording copyrighted material. Like most technologies, this system has a few serious flaws. It might falsely detect piracy and prevent you from watching video content that you have no plans to record.

What is HDCP?

To understand how HDCP could affect you, it’s important to learn about the underlying concept. Machines like cable boxes and Blu-ray disc players scramble video before they send it to your television set. Before it can descramble and display a signal, the TV must exchange codes with the other device. This process stops you from recording video as you watch a copyrighted program.

To view a protected digital show or motion picture, all of your equipment must comply with HDCP. This requirement goes beyond movie players and TVs. A complex home theater system won’t support HDCP when you use a non-compliant splitter, tuner, wireless transmitter, repeater or audio-video receiver. If you want to enjoy a high-resolution video, you may need to replace older devices.

Keep in mind that HDCP only becomes an issue when you watch programs from companies that use this kind of protection. Disney, Warner Brothers, and Sony normally incorporate it into every show they produce. If you don’t own the right equipment, you could end up with an error message or blank screen when you try to view this content. Blu-ray discs, DVDs, pay-per-view events and satellite or cable channels may feature protected material.

Playing Movies

This copy protection system might block access to films if you have an entirely digital entertainment system but some components lack HDCP compliance. For example, perhaps you attached a high-definition TV to your Blu-ray disc player with a DVI or HDMI cable. The player won’t let you view a protected movie if you have an early HDTV that doesn’t support this technology. You’ll need to replace the digital cable with component video cords. If the only problem is a non-compliant cable, you can solve it by purchasing an HDCP-certified DVI or HDMI wire.

Pay-TV Services

People and businesses sometimes have difficulty displaying cable or satellite TV channels on older high-definition TVs. This happens because certain networks use HDCP to prevent people from recording shows. They include HBO and several Disney-owned channels. Unless you want to replace your TV, you can only avoid this problem by using component video cables rather than HDMI or DVI.

Unfortunately, component wiring has a comparatively low maximum resolution. This means you’ll have to accept poorer picture quality when watching protected TV channels and movies. The difference is more conspicuous on large screens. You can find out if a TV supports HDCP by reading its instruction manual or visiting Digital Content Protection’s website for a list of compatible equipment.

Loose Cables

If your television set supports HDCP but a non-compliance warning still appears, there could be a rather simple solution. You may see this message when an HDMI or DVI cable becomes slightly loose. Before you call a technician or start replacing parts, be sure to turn off your equipment, disconnect the wire and firmly reconnect it. Restart all of your devices to see if this solves the problem.

Handshake Issues

This technology could affect your movie or TV viewing when video devices fail to complete a successful HDCP “handshake”. You may see an error message or experience brief video interruptions from time to time. The equipment needs to exchange an initial set of codes before it will work properly.

Many people address this problem by turning on their devices in a different order. Always switch on your TV set first. Next, power up your audio-video receiver if you have one. Wait several seconds after activating each unit. Turn on movie players and cable or satellite boxes last.

Version 2.2 Arrives

Even if you have HDCP-compliant devices, you could eventually run into problems when trying to watch copyrighted 4K content. A 4K program features an especially high video resolution. Some companies protect these ultra high-definition shows with HDCP version 2.2. Sadly, TVs can’t display such content if they were designed to support earlier editions of this technology.

It isn’t possible to upgrade entertainment devices to HDCP version 2.2. Consequently, you’ll need to replace any non-compliant equipment if you want to benefit from 4K video resolution while watching protected content. The new edition affects sound bars and other digital audio devices as well. It requires every HDMI-connected unit to support this version of HDCP.

HDCP 2.2 has yet to pose a major problem for most viewers. Relatively few programs currently take advantage of ultra HD capabilities. However, many people currently experience “handshake” issues and problems with older equipment that lacks basic HDCP support. Potential solutions range from tightening a cable to replacing your TV or switching to component video cords. It’s usually not necessary to make any major purchases if you’re willing to sacrifice high-definition picture quality. For further guidance, feel free to contact our knowledgeable staff.