HDCP 2.2 (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) is the latest in copy protection, designed to create a secure line between what’s displayed on your screen, and the source of that display. It’s purpose is to prevent piracy of high definition 4K content when being played by ultra high-def Blu-ray streaming boxes, and other devices that stream 4K content.
Film studios work hard to enforce the copyright of their productions, and HDCP 2.2 is an example of that protection for 4K media. Let’s take a look at what that means for you.
How does HDCP 2.2 work?
In a nutshell, HDCP technology works by checking if a device is authorised to play media content. The device that is sending the content does the check, and the device that is receiving the content must have the authorisation. Examples of transmitting devices are streaming boxes, Blu-ray players, or Playstations, and recipient devices are televisions, computers, or digital projectors.
From a technical standpoint, HDCP 2.2 is a combination of software technologies developed by Intel that work together to provide copy protection. These can be broken down into three systems:
- Authentication—this prevents non-licensed devices from receiving content.
- Encryption—data that is sent through HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI and other cables is encrypted using a stream cipher, to prevent eavesdropping.
- Key revocation—tracking legitimate devices with 56-bit keys, and removing them if they have been compromised. Devices without keys can’t receive 4K data.
Which connections does HDCP 2.2 work on?
HDCP 2.2 technology works for the following cable connections:
- DisplayPort (DP)
- DVI (Digital Visual Interface)
- GVIF (Gigabit Video Interface)
- UDI (Unified Display Interface)
These are the most commonly used connections, so HDCP 2.2 covers pretty much every device.
What types of HDCP devices are there?
HDCP devices fall into three categories:
Blu-ray player. Image from IEEE Spectrum
A source is a device that sends content. This includes Blu-ray players, streaming boxes, and Playstations.
Samsung TV. Image from Pinterest
A sink is a device that plays content. This includes televisions, digital projectors, and computer monitors.
A/V receiver. Image from What Hi-Fi?
A repeater is a device that sits between a source and a sink, and re-transmits data. This includes A/V receivers.
Who enforces HDCP?
HDCP was created by software company Intel. Any manufacturer who wants to make a HDCP-enabled device must buy a license from intel, pay an annual fee, and abide by a number of conditions:
- The device cannot copy content
- The device must frustrate attempts to defeat the content protection requirements
- The device must not transmit 4K content to non-HDCP receivers
HDCP 2.2 can prevent you from connecting your television to an ultra high-definition Blu-ray player, streaming box, or something similar. This can occur when the HDMI ports in your screen are incompatible with HDCP 2.2 technology. In those circumstances, you will get error messages which vary from one television brand to another, but are often a problem for televisions bought between 2013 and 2014.
Because HDCP 2.2 is the latest iteration of advanced protective technology, it’s designed to be compatible with the latest streaming programs, Blu-ray players, and HDMI connections. That means the only way around it is by purchasing newer products that are HDCP 2.2 compatible.
How can I tell if my TV is compliant with HDCP 2.2?
This is simple—just plug in a Blu-ray player or other device that plays 4K content, and see if it works on your TV. If a blank screen shows up, it’s unlikely to be compatible with HDCP 2.2. And if it connects to your DVD player (which isn’t 4K) without problems, it’s almost certainly not compatible with HDCP 2.2.
Can I make my TV compliant with HDCP 2.2?
Unfortunately, you can’t upgrade parts of an older television to work with HDCP 2.2, because it requires specific hardware and software to work. Your only option is to upgrade the entire television, being sure to double-check with the manufacturer or salesperson for HDCP 2.2 compliance.
One way of bypassing HDCP is with an HDCP stripper (also known as an HDMI splitter). HDCP strippers are an intermediary between the console footage and the audio visual output. Good quality strippers synthesize the HDCP signal from the console into a signal that can be transmitted across the non-HDCP compatible HDMI connection.
This may sound good in theory, but it’s far from the most reliable solution. HDCP technology has been around for a while (in various iterations), and keeps evolving. More recent televisions are capable of adjusting, but splitters can easily become unreliable as HDCP technology evolves. That means the best course of action is to update your television if it’s starting to display errors relating to HDCP 2.2 compatibility.
Aside from HDMI splitters, there’s few bypass options available for HDCP 2.2. Some people have bypassed HDCP by converting the signal into analogue. There are some pretty serious downsides to that approach though. Firstly, it’s complicated! Converting the signal to component, VGA, or even composite video can take some pretty serious technical expertise. On top of that, it will degrade your picture quality. The whole point of HDCP 2.2 is to protect high-quality, high-resolution 4K content. If you get around it, then you’re probably going to lose the benefits of high-definition.
What products are HDCP compliant?
HDCP 2.2 has been around roughly as long as 4K high-resolution, which means it started to hit the mainstream in 2013. As a result, most televisions and audio-visual products released since then will be compatible. Because the technology is usually implemented on HDMI ports, manufacturers who create HDCP 2.2 compliant TVs might include a “HDCP 2.2” label next to each of the HDMI ports, to show that the connections are compatible.
Still, before you make a big purchase on a TV, it’s worth asking the salepersons whether it’s HDCP 2.2 compliant.
HDCP 2.2 and piracy
Before you get too frustrated with HDCP 2.2 technology, it’s important to recognise its purpose: to prevent video piracy! We’ve discussed a few of the techniques that people use to try and bypass HDCP 2.2, but using those techniques for the purposes of video piracy is illegal. Our advice: get a good quality late model technique and enjoy the benefits of 4K without having to worry about HDCP 2.2 compliance.