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Why Does Netflix Say HDCP Unauthorized?


Once in a while, Netflix users will find themselves stumbling into a message that says, “HDCP unauthorized. Content disabled.”

Why does this happen?

Here’s a TLDR on the whole issue:

HDCP is a system that protects digital content from being pirated. A Netflix HDCP error usually comes up if your device or HDMI connector is not HDCP-compliant.

But don’t panic! We’re here to help you out. This is a normal issue that comes up for many Netflix users—or even to any digital media consumer for that matter. 

Read on to find out how to solve an HDCP error. 

What is HDCP?

HDCP words on a green circuit board background

Before diving into the nitty-gritty of things, let’s first define what HDCP is, what it’s for, and its role for Netflix streaming. 

HDCP stands for High-Bandwidth Copy Protection. It’s a system built for content creators by preventing other people from illegally copying or recording their content as it travels through a connector (usually an HDMI or DVI cable). 

Almost every audiovisual device and content are encrypted with HDCP. Video games, movies, televisions, cable boxes, DVD players, Macbooks, laptops—expect these things to harbor an HDCP encryption. 

Plus, with the internet making everything easily accessible with just a few clicks, it’s understandable why content creators would want to protect their work.

And with Netflix being a streaming platform for a huge audience, it’s also understandable why HDCP is implemented into their system—it gives a veil of protection for its content creators.

Keep in mind that HDCP is not the only system protecting digital content. It’s merely a part of a protection chain within the digital space. 

Why Do HDCP Errors Happen on Netflix?

There are many possible reasons why an HDCP error can happen when you’re watching Netflix content.

It can be anything from the browser you use, your current operating system, your television, your hardware, or even your cables. 

If you go into Netflix’s website to look up the causes for an HDCP error, this is what you’ll see:

“It typically points to a hardware problem where your device cannot play protected content. Follow the troubleshooting steps for your device below to resolve the issue.”

It’s a vague explanation of what goes on behind the scenes, so let’s try to dig a bit deeper. 

Cause #1: Your monitor may be too old

old computer monitor

As mentioned earlier, all HDCP-encrypted devices have a license. When you connect an old device to a relatively new source device, it can mess up the ‘handshake protocol’ that happens between two connected HDCP compliant devices. 

Your new device will detect the outdated license encrypted within your old device, which will then disallow it from playing HDCP content. 

Cause #2: Your operating system may be outdated

HDCP errors can be caused by software issues as well. If you encounter an HDCP issue on your computer or Mac, try updating it to the latest operating system. 

a woman looking at system updated screen on monitor

Cause #3: Your cable might just be loose

Funny enough, the reason why you’re having an HDCP error might just be caused by a little cable mishap. HDMI or DVI cables can turn loose once in a while, so unplugging then plugging it back in may solve your issue pronto. 

a man unplug a HDMI cable out of laptop with his hand

How to Troubleshoot Netflix HDCP Error

There are several ways you can solve your Netflix HDCP issue. Workarounds can range from easy, to cheap, to expensive. 

Let’s go through each of these solutions. 

Solution #1: Restart your device

a yellow restart button on a white keyboard

The catch-all solution for all things tech is to do a reboot. Whatever your device is, the first thing you should do is restart it. 

Restarting your device helps make it run more smoothly the second time. 

Solution #2: Check your HDMI cable

Your HDMI cable plays a huge role in your chain of devices, mainly because it’s the one connecting every vital component of your viewing experience. 

PowerBear 4K HDMI Cable 10 ft
Click image for more info

But some older HDMI models have limited HDCP support. If you have an old HDMI cable, it’s time to replace it with a new one. 

In some cases, you may be connecting your HDMI cable to the wrong port, or it may even be just straight up loose. 

If that is the case, simply adjust your cable to the correct port and make sure it’s fastened tight to the connector. 

Solution #3: Update your operating system

updating progress bar on laptop screen

Let’s say you’re watching on your Mac browser, and you encounter an error. If you reset and your Netflix still shows an HDCP error, it may be time to update your operating system. 

Incompatibility between your browser and OS can sometimes happen, so if you can afford to upgrade your system, then do so. 

Solution #4: Use an HDMI splitter

1x4 HDMI Splitter
Click image for more info

An HDMI splitter splits the signals sent from one device to another. What happens is this bypasses the HDCP encryption embedded into your devices, allowing you to play the content you want to view. 

HDMI splitters are usually used for TV-cable box setups, but you can also do so with your laptop and TV monitor. 

Solution #5: Purchase a new device

If you’ve exhausted all options, it may just be that your audiovisual components are due for an upgrade. 

It may be time to invest in up-to-date models for you to play your favorite film!

Conclusion

When faced with a Netflix HDCP error, you’re looking at many possible causes and solutions for it. 

The first and easiest way to get around that error is to reboot your device or unplug then plug it back in. Hiccups can happen, and restarting your device can help make things run more smoothly. 

Another option is to check your HDMI cable. Sometimes, HDMI cables can be outdated, which can mess up your connected components. Getting a new HDMI cable with the latest HDCP support may be an answer to your HDCP issue. 

If things still aren’t going well, you can also order a good HDMI splitter. This allows HDCP-protected content to be played by splitting the signals from the HDMI cable. 

More often than not, there are tons of criticisms that say the HDCP system is more of a nuisance to actual paying customers than legitimate criminals trying to pirate off content. 

Whatever your reason may be for bypassing HDCP, keep in mind that the HDCP is still continually evolving. In time, it may become a sophisticated line of defense against piracy.


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