What is HDCP?
High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) is a form of digital copy protection developed by Intel Corporation to prevent copying of digital, audio & video content as it travels across connections. Types of connections include DisplayPort (DP), Digital Visual Interface (DVI), and High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) It works by encrypting a digital signal with a key that requires authentication from the transmitting and receiving the product. If authentication fails then the signal fails.
Products with HDCP are sorted into three buckets - sources, sinks, and repeaters:
- Sources are products where the HDCP signal originates from. They are the ‘A’ point in an ‘A to B to C’ order of events. Products in this category include DVRs, cable boxes, Blu-ray players, streaming devices(Apple Tv, Roku, Amazon Fire TV) and even smart apps(HBO GO, Netflix).
- Sinks are products that receive the HDCP signal and display it somewhere. They are the ‘C’ point in an ‘A to B to C’ order of events. Products in this category include flat panel, rear projection, and front projection TVs.
- Repeaters are products that receive the HDCP signal from a source and send it to the sink. They are the ‘B’ point in an ‘A to B to C order of events‘. Products in this category include repeaters, splitters, switchers, AV receivers, and wireless transmitters.
HDCP can cause problems for users who want to connect multiple screens to a device; for example, a bar with several televisions connected to one satellite receiver or when a user has a closed laptop and uses an external display as the only monitor. HDCP devices can create multiple keys, allowing each screen to operate, but the number varies from device to device; e.g., a Dish or Sky satellite receiver can generate 16 keys.
The technology sometimes causes handshaking problems where devices cannot establish a connection, especially with older high-definition displays.
Additional issues arise when interactive media (i.e. video games) suffer from control latency, because it requires additional processing for encoding/decoding. Various everyday usage situations, such as live streaming or capture of game play, are also adversely affected.
There is also the problem that all Apple laptop products, presumably in order to reduce switching time, when confronted with an HDCP-compliant sink device, automatically enable HDCP encryption from the HDMI / Mini DisplayPort / USB-C connector port. This is a problem if the user wishes to use recording or video conferencing facilities further down the chain, because these devices most often do not decrypt HDCP-enabled content (since HDCP is meant to avoid direct copying of content, and such devices could conceivably do exactly that). This applies even if the output is not HDCP-requiring content, like a PowerPoint presentation or merely the device's UI. Additionally, all Android-based devices and some later PC tablets exhibit the same behavior, being unusable with HDCP-enabled sink devices. Some sink devices have the ability to disable their HDCP reporting entirely, however, preventing this issue from blocking content to videoconferencing or recording. However, HDCP content will then refuse to play on many source devices if this is disabled while the sink device is connected.
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