Are you a content creator? You must know how frustrating it is to have your content pirated and distributed through unapproved channels.
Intel developers took the initiative and designed a DRM (Digital Rights Management) system that prevents the piracy of copyrighted content during digital transmission.
This article gives detailed insight into one of the most prevalent digital protection programs, HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection).
- What is HDCP?
- How Does HDCP Work?
- Benefits and Drawbacks of HDCP
- How to Fix HDCP Error Message
- Does My HDMI Cable Need to be HDCP Compliant?
What is HDCP?
HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) is an encryption program designed to protect digital audio and video data while transmitting from one device to another.
Before HDCP, people could copy digital media while transmitting from a source device to a display device.
Now, you cannot transmit HDCP-encrypted media between devices that are not HDCP-compliant. If there’s an attempt to copy the encrypted data, HDCP will detect it and restrict the file transfer.
The HDCP encryption system takes effect in digital connections, like DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI.
Motion picture companies like Walt Disney, Sony Pictures Entertainment, HBO, and Warner Bros. embraced HDCP encryption early. Consequently, the DCP gives many manufacturers of media devices licenses to adopt HDCP compliance.
Many HDCP-compliant devices have their connection ports labeled as HDMI/HDCP or DVI/HDCP.
HDCP Compliant Devices
In this article, you’ll encounter some terms used to describe media devices based on their function. For the sake of clarity, we’ll explain them:
- Source Devices: These are devices that send out HDCP-encrypted digital signals. They include different media devices like cable boxes, DVD players, DVRs, and computers.
- Sink Devices: These devices receive and decrypt the signals transmitted from source devices. They include display devices like TVs and projectors.
- Repeaters: These are midpoint devices that receive encrypted signals from the source, increase signal strength, and send the signal to the sink. They include AV receivers, wireless transmitters, HDMI splitters, and soundbars.
How Does HDCP Work?
Every HDCP-compliant device has a special set of encryption keys, and a public key called the KSV (Key Selection Vector).
When a source and display device are connected, they exchange encryption keys to confirm their HDCP compliance.
Simply put, a licensed source device reaches out to the connected display device, requesting proof that it is also licensed to receive such precious digital media.
After this authentication, HDCP would establish a secure connection.
As an added security measure, the source device encrypts/scrambles the media signal before transmitting it, and the display device has to decrypt it after receiving it.
You will get an error message or a blank screen if you attempt to transmit HDCP-protected media from an HDCP-compliant device to a non-compliant display.
Using both source and display devices that are not HDCP-compliant does not guarantee that you can transmit such media files without interference.
As long as the media is encrypted and copyrighted, such devices are categorized as unauthorized and do not possess the necessary tools or permission to transmit the data.
Benefits and Drawbacks of HDCP
HDCP technology protects valuable digital media like movies, video games, shows, broadcasts, and audio from unauthorized duplication. It makes sure that you can only transmit protected media over HDCP-compliant devices.
The HDCP technology is not perfect, however. It comes with certain media display limitations, which can present a problem depending on the situation.
In its attempt to prevent unlawful duplication, HDCP limits the number of connections you can make at a time.
Source devices may be designed to authenticate a single key at a time. In this case, you can only connect and use one display device.
If you want to connect your source device to multiple displays simultaneously, this may present a problem.
How to Fix HDCP Error Message
Did you buy a new TV without confirming its HDCP compliance?
If one of your devices isn’t HDCP compliant, you may get an error message when you try to transmit HDCP-protected media.
Error messages on your screen may look like one of these:
- ERROR: NON-HDCP OUTPUT
- HDCP ERROR
When faced with error messages, there are three things you can do:
1. Use a Component Cable
HDCP protection works over digital connectors like HDMI and DVI. Component cables transmit analog video signals; hence they can bypass HDCP.
The downsides to using component cables instead of HDMI include a lower-resolution display and a lack of functions such as HDMI ARC and eARC.
2. Replace Non-compliant Devices
If the non-compliant TV/media device is old, cheap, or easy to replace, this is your best option. It’ll spare you the trouble of switching to component cable for every HDCP-protected content you want to display.
If this is not an expense you’re willing to take on at the moment, there is one more option.
3. Use an HDMI Splitter
HDMI splitters allow you to connect a single media source device (DVD player, cable box, etc.) to multiple display devices at once.
Some of them can stop the source’s request for HDCP compliance and key authentication from reaching the sink device.
All you need to do is purchase an HDMI splitter that is HDCP-compliant, connect the source to the splitter, and connect the splitter to your display device with an HDMI cable.
We recommend the ViewHD 2 Port 1x2 Powered HDMI Mini Splitter . It is HDCP-compliant and it is known to bypass HDCP.
Note: HDCP technology is not as predictable as we’d like it to be. Error messages may still show up with HDMI splitters, leaving you with just two options: sprinkle pixie dust over your devices or purchase HDCP-compliant devices.
Does My HDMI Cable Need to be HDCP Compliant?
Many HDMI cables in the market come with the HDCP label to indicate compliance. However, such labeling is just for advertisement.
There are no grounds to determine HDCP compliance or non-compliance in HDMI cables.
The HDCP technology is embedded in device software; it is not a function of one of the 19 HDMI connector pins. HDMI cables do not have special designs for detecting or transmitting HDCP.
You may use any HDMI cable that can create a connection between your devices. The cable does not need to have a certification of HDCP compliance.
The requirements for HDCP compliance apply only to the two devices on either end of the HDMI cable. If both the source and the sink are HDCP compliant, you can proceed with your connection regardless of the type of HDMI cable you have.
The only relevant label for choosing an HDMI cable is the high-speed certification label.
How Do I Know If My HDMI Cable is HDCP Compliant?
Technically, all working HDMI cables are HDCP compliant. You only need to have HDCP-compliant devices.
However, to put your mind at ease, purchase a cable that comes with an HDCP certification label. You may also visit the HDMI website and search for the brand of your HDMI cable.
In February 2013, the HDCP 2.2 version (high-bandwidth digital content protection) was released to prevent the copying of 4K UHD media over HDMI.
It is not backward compatible, which means that you need devices with the same HDCP 2.2 version to display protected 4K content. 4K content is not yet widely available, so don’t be in a hurry to replace your devices.
Unlike the former versions, HDCP 2.2 is not compatible with standard HDMI cables because they support 720p and 1080i maximum transfer resolutions.
HDCP 2.2 requires high-speed HDMI cables, which are compatible with 4K content. We recommend a certified Premium High-speed HDMI cable for smooth transmission.
1. Do all HDMI ports support HDCP?
HDCP is a built-in feature of media devices. Compliant devices implement HDCP via digital connectors, including HDMI.
All HDMI ports can support HDCP, provided the device is licensed and built with HDCP compliance. If the device manufacturer is unlicensed, the HDMI port will not support HDCP regardless of its version.
HDCP compliance is standard in new HDTVs and HDMI-enabled devices built within the past five years.
Older HDTVs and media devices built as far back as a decade ago often lack HDCP compliance.
To be on the safe side, when purchasing any media device, check to make sure it has the HDCP label on the HDMI port.
Some manufacturers do not add the HDCP label to their devices. In this case, you can check the manufacturer’s manual or website to confirm compliance.
2. Can HDMI cables/ports cause HDCP errors?
The HDCP protocol put into place to prevent piracy has proven effective. However, users encounter errors sometimes.
However, HDCP errors may also occur due to faults in the HDMI connection. The most common of these is the HDMI Handshake Error.
The HDMI Handshake is the ability of media devices connected over HDMI to exchange and authenticate encryption keys.
If there is an HDMI Handshake Error, one of the media devices does not recognize or accept the encryption keys.
Here are a few causes of HDMI handshake errors:
- A broken pin on either end of the HDMI cable or device ports can disrupt a secure connection.
- A slack connection on either end of the HDMI connection.
- An unsupported Power-On order.
You can quickly solve these issues by plugging the HDMI cable and replacing faulty connectors (cables and ports).
You can also change the order in which you turn on your connected media devices to fix the handshake error.
Device manufacturers widely embrace HDCP, so users need to be familiar with its function and implications.
Some HDMI cables come with a label that certifies their HDCP compliance, while others do not. However, you can use all HDMI cables to implement HDCP.
When shopping for media devices, look out for HDCP-compliant brands and models to avoid transmission errors over HDMI.
Some people have genuine reasons for needing HDCP out of the way. If you’re in this category, we hope the information in this article helps you avoid error messages.
Gabriella ‘Diogo is a content writer with a vested interest in tech hardware and equipment. She shares her knowledge and processes in an easy-to-grasp, lighthearted style. When she’s not testing or researching device performance, you’ll find her writing short stories or rewatching episodes of her favorite sitcoms.