High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) is the universal digital content protection system approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in August 2004. The security system prevents illegal piracy by prohibiting uncertified devices or those illegally modified to record encrypted content from streaming or playing HDCP-protected content.
HDCP is featured on nearly every device manufactured and released after the mid-00s. Each device commissioned after 2014 features 4K compatible HDCP technology, the HDCP 2.2.
While any version of the HDCP is compatible with any other resolution, devices specifically need HDCP 2.2 to stream or transmit 4K. Otherwise, 4K resolution is either downscaled to 1080p or won’t play altogether.
The downside of this otherwise reliable protection service is that you can’t upgrade or downgrade HDCP to versions other than the one you already have.
Below we will discuss the many aspects of HDCP technology.
Why Do You Need HDCP?
Major distributions like streaming platforms and digital players are configured with HDCP chipsets. These chipsets not only protect the content played on the device itself but scan for HDCP technology on other devices linked in a viewing chain. Each device requires HDCP authorization to access legally distributed and protected digital content.
Illegal piracy occurs when the device plays digital content and does not prohibit internal screen-recording or external recording software integrated into it. When HDCP security is featured on the device, that feature cannot be transmitted through multimedia cables.
The digital content can be transmitted through link cables. When neither the cable nor the display content is transferred to features HDCP technology, pirates can illegally record the audiovisual data transmitted from the external display.
Devices without HDCP are not compatible with devices that possess the technology. These incompatibilities lead to errors in the digital handshakes of devices. HDCP works around this by implementing requirements and restrictions into each chipset that prohibits data transfer to or by devices that don’t have the security.
Errors in “digital handshakes” lead to blurs, lagging, lowered resolution, and green screens. When content does not play on the external display, either the cable or the monitor is not HDCP compliant or possesses the compatible version.
Since its invention in 2000, HDCP has had eleven different versions.
What Are The Different HDCP Versions?
|HDCP 1.0||February 17, 2000|
|HDCP 1.1||June 9, 2003|
|HDCP 1.2||June 13, 2006|
|HDCP 1.3||December 21, 2006|
|HDCP 1.4||July 8, 2009|
|HDCP 2.0 IIA||October 23, 2008|
|HDCP 2.1 IIA||July 18, 2011|
|HDCP 2.2 IIA||October 16, 2012|
|HDCP 2.2 for HDMI||February 13, 2013|
|HDCP 2.2 for MHL||September 11, 2013|
|HDCP 2.3 for HDMI||February 28, 2018|
Do You Need HDCP 2.2 for 4K?
The quick answer is yes. You need at least HDCP 2.2 to manage 4K resolution properly.
When at least one of your devices doesn’t feature 2.2, the display may downscale the 4K content transmitted to 1080p. The worst-case scenario is the 4K digital content won’t be transferred and will not play on the external monitor.
Ensure each device linked in the viewing chain carries HDCP 2.2 to enjoy 4K that’s true to form. Some TVs from less reputable brands claim to be 4K. However, they only feature HDCP 1.4 .
Full 4K devices come at a higher cost because they possess more up-to-date configurations. Don’t skip out on buying branded devices because you think you are just paying for the brand and their name.
When you buy something like the latest LG C1 OLED Smart TV , you aren’t just paying for its 120Hz refresh rate or its 55-inch wide display. You are paying for its guaranteed quality. The LG C1 and its gaming counter-part G1 OLED Smart TV specs include an HDMI 2.2, which features the appropriate HDCP version.
Industry-leading brands are more reliable and worth the extra few dollars. You know the saying, “buy nice, so you don’t have to buy twice,” you don’t want to spend a couple of hundred dollars for a lower-class 4K TV and find out later that you won’t be experiencing 4K in its entirety.
Is My TV HDCP Compliant?
If your Smart TV has streaming platforms built-in to the interface, your TV is HDCP compliant. No device that isn’t HDCP-certified can carry streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, YouTube, and others.
There are scenarios where you hook your laptop onto your TV via certified multimedia cables like HDMI, DisplayPort, or DVI, and the content wouldn’t play. In this case, it’s most likely a compatibility issue.
When you have a TV that features HDCP 1.4 and your laptop and cable both feature 2.2, 4K content won’t play in its native resolution. It will be downscaled and may not be “readable.” This is called Digital Handshaking Errors.
Check your display or your cable’s details if both are HDCP 2.2 compliant. It’s worth mentioning that sometimes, your previously HDCP compliant device that was “jailbroken” may have access to protected content revoked.
Jailbreaking your devices is opening them up to unverified sources and servers. It also lifts restrictions. As a result, protected content may prohibit your access. If you bought a device that you are sure was HDCP compliant and can no longer access copyrighted content, this might result from jailbreaking.
Altering one security feature may affect your device’s entire security suite.
How Do I Know if My Device is HDCP Compliant?
You can check your device’s packaging and the owner’s manual. It will state its compliance status within the manual or on tags and stickers found on the packaging.
If you can’t find it on the packaging or don’t want to go through the entire manual, you can do this instead.
- Step 1: Open your web browser and go to hdmi.org
- Step 2: Go on the quick-search bar on the top right section
- Step 3: Type in your device’s model name (laptop, display, cable) to check if it is HDCP certified
You can also run a quick Google search for the device’s configurations. You can type in your device’s model name on the search bar of any search engine, type in HDCP compliance, and find what you’re looking for from the ‘results.’
As you can see, while HDCP is a versatile digital content protection system, you cannot upgrade from an older version into the latest one. As of writing, there is no firmware update available to update HDCP chipsets.
If you bought your device with an HDCP 1.4, there is no way you can update it to 2.2 to manage 4K resolution. HDCP isn’t just software you can update. You will have to upgrade your hardware.
If you’re over having to read about HDCP to answer your question, below, we’ve put together a list of quick takeaways from this article.
- You can’t update your HDCP compliance to a later version.
- The HDCP chipset built into your device does not have any software you can update.
- You do need HDCP 2.2 to manage 4K resolution.
- Each device linked in the viewing chain must have compatible HDCP compliance to run smoothly.
- One device that runs an HDCP version that isn’t 4K compatible in the viewing chain will downscale the resolution.
- There are eleven different versions of HDCP.
- Most devices manufactured after 2004 is HDCP compliant.
- Nearly all devices commissioned after 2014 feature 4K compatible HDCP compliance.
- Major streaming platforms will not play on devices that aren’t HDCP compliant.
Vance is a dad, former software engineer, and tech lover. Knowing how a computer works becomes handy when he builds Pointer Clicker. His quest is to make tech more accessible for non-techie users. When not working with his team, you can find him caring for his son and gaming.