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The Great HDCP Fiasco 728

Toasty16 writes "According to an article on Firingsquad, our shiny new Radeon and Geforce cards won't be able to play HDCP-encrypted content, even though they have been advertising HDCP support as a feature for a few generations. Want to watch that new Blu-ray movie on your custom built PC at full resolution? Sorry, retail graphics cards won't be able to do that; only OEM-built computers from Dell, Sony, HP and the like will have that functionality built in."
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The Great HDCP Fiasco

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  • by countach ( 534280 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:04AM (#14703734)
    Many people saw this coming, but I never expected it to arrive so soon. If people accept this and bow to the content providers, then the DRM world is upon us.
    • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:25AM (#14703824) Journal
      I can hardly wait. The sheer ammount of money to be had will be astronomical.

      A few years of digital prohibition, where the more skilled among us can make truckloads of money building grey/black-market hardware, workarounds, etc.
      • by Ngwenya ( 147097 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:43AM (#14704686)
        A few years of digital prohibition, where the more skilled among us can make truckloads of money building grey/black-market hardware, workarounds, etc.


        A highly sensible and valid point. What the hell are you doing on /.?

        There is another method to get round the HDCP trap, which is to buy one of the Spatz boxes http://www.engadget.com/2005/07/15/spatz-techs-dvi magic-killing-on-hdcp/ [engadget.com] - there's no way that it could be embargoed - the point of the device is to enable legacy devices to receive HDCP output. That is not illegal, or unethical.

        Now, HDCP also allows a revocation method - but it is not at all clear how the revoked keys would be transported. It could be that a new HD-DVD/BD disk carries them and disallows display for that disk, or burns this data into the player's NVRAM. I cannot believe that the latter would be legal ("I put this disk into my player and it broke it entirely". "Oh, yes, sorry, 20th Century Fox has revoked your television rights for using a non-approved display device". "Mother of pearl - call my lawyers!"), so we have a situation where some DVD makers could choose not to allow display on HDCP-stripping devices.

        I think the way around this one would be to ensure that they lose as much money as possible on that. Every time someone discovers a non-stripper compliant disk, they post the name of the disk on a central web site (LiveJournal or some such), and we all go out and buy the disk. The next day, we all go back and return the disk and demand our money back - "Hey! This disk doesn't play on my projector. My other ones do!". Doesn't matter if you have a projector, HDTV or a HD-DVD player - we just all go out and do a consumer return. And clearly tell them why the disk is going back. This causes the studios and shops to lose more money than a simple boycott of the goods.

        After a while, they're going to notice that the HDCP-stripper friendly disks sell more than the hostile ones (which they've lost a boatload on). Companies, in the end, are amoral creations designed to make profit. They are, in the round, economically rational. They will shift.

        And once the device-discrimination stops, we can start the frame grabbing parties to P2P the contents of their disks. Hell, did I just say that out loud?

        --Ng
      • Save us HDVD John!
  • by Chordonblue ( 585047 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:09AM (#14703754) Journal
    The content providers, hardware and software people, everyone involved would have a lot more to gain if they'd simply make things easier for people. These kinds of roadblocks will only frustrate the average consumer more. For the rest of us, they'll be bittorrent or something else.

    The 'fair use' doctrine really needs to be looked at more closely.

  • Legallity? (Score:3, Informative)

    by massivefoot ( 922746 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:10AM (#14703760)
    Now over here in the UK I we have a phrase for this sorta thing: "false advertising".

    And I'm pretty sure we have laws against it too...
    • And in the US we have a term for the logical reaction. Sounds like this should be considered for class action lawsuit.

      If you were sold a car with brake pads, drums, and shoes but no brake line, pedal, and master cylinder and the ads read "Comes with brakes!" . . . But you couldn't use the brakes because the system is incomplete, wouldn't you have potential for a lawsuit?

      In other words, what is a brake? is it the shoes, the cylinders, or is it the complete and functioning system? What does HDCP support mea

  • Calling DVD Jon (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:11AM (#14703767)
    Looks like we need you again. Hope you haven't let those hacking skills get rusty.
  • Blame Hollywood (Score:5, Insightful)

    by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:16AM (#14703788) Journal
    What Hollywood appologist crap.

    "Hollywood gave you ample they were going to rape you, and yet you didn't bend over."

    Sorry, no. I'm extremely glad that companies are in direct opposition to HDCP. We'll find out, once and for all, if the computer industry needs Hollywood, or if Hollywood needs the computer industry...

    It's a ridiculous restriction anyhow. It's not like DVI-capture cards are a dime a dozen (or even possible with current hardware for that matter). It's not like anyone would WANT to capture the uncompressed digital stream and waste their time recompressing that back to it's original size. It's just another insane move by Hollywood.

    Stick to bittorrent, and/or standard DVDs, if they don't change their tune.
  • Pirated content (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DreamerFi ( 78710 ) <john@@@sinteur...com> on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:19AM (#14703802) Homepage
    As a result, pirated content (with the protection removed and recoded in h.264) will run at a higher resolution on your PC than content you bought.

    Anybody want to guess the effect of that on sales?
    • Re:Pirated content (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cheapy ( 809643 )
      "Anybody want to guess the effect of that on sales?"

      I'll take a guess.

      It won't do a damn thing. If the movies doesn't work right, then most people will assume it's the computers fault, and will remember not to buy it again. It won't occur to them that it could possibly be the content itself that is the problem.

      Now, if you had asked what the effect on sales from geeks would be...
      • Blame thrower (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Namarrgon ( 105036 )
        If the movies doesn't work right, then most people will assume it's the computers fault

        Not if the player software pops up a nice friendly dialog that says, "Your graphics card does not support HDCP, and cannot play movies in High Definition. Please contact Best Buy sales staff for a replacement." I imagine that would focus most consumer's attention on the real problem.

        If you're faced with the choice of buying a new graphics card & monitor to go with your new BD-ROM drive & copy of Vista (not to

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:17AM (#14704445)
          They'll probably connect it using a $20 "digital" S-Video cable too.

          That's why I bought the $189.95 digital enhanced S-Video broadband cable with gold connectors and OO-gauge double-shielded oxygen free wire for my 50" hi-def set. (According to the package, unlike normal cables, this one prevents the common waveguide harmonic interference that shears the digital encoding algorithm of the cable's colorspace.)

          I got mine for a pretty big discount -- for this kind of performance you would probably end up paying more like $240, but for some reason the salesman was in a really good mood the day that I came in. He even threw in an extended warranty on the cable for half price -- a $69.95 value!

          There's no point in dropping $6K on a tv if you don't have a good digital cable between it and the VCR.
    • As a result, pirated content (with the protection removed and recoded in h.264) will run at a higher resolution on your PC than content you bought.

      And here is what Hollywood is missing, and why I rarely even rent movies anymore. It is currently, and has always been, more convenient to pirate something than to buy it.

      There are very, very few exceptions. Multiplayer games are one -- even if you do get a pirate server going, you'll have a limited number of people on it, and if it's an MMO, you really have no
  • Good (Score:3, Informative)

    by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:22AM (#14703810) Homepage Journal
    If nobody can use it, then using blue-ray without it will be the standard.

    I dont see everyone going out and buying all new systems for this artifical mandatory key authorization crap.

    What isnt clear, so hardware H.264 wont support DRM'ed media either? Huh?! I thought that was just mpeg4 standards.

  • by masterpenguin ( 878744 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:23AM (#14703813)
    Microsoft made it public in March 2005 that HDCP would be required for Windows Vista - certainly the video card manufacturers were given this info before the public were. Moreover, what about companies who are already paying the $15,000 annual company fee because they produce HDCP-compliant products for televisions?


    This gives me the impression that not one custom built computer on the market can even RUN windows vista. This is not only disorenting but confusing. Perhaps Microsoft and DRM Gods believe the majority of 'hackers' that break their encryption are on custom machines and this is a quick method to lock some of them out. Furthermore, its much easier to track someone who buys a prebuilt computer than someone who buys parts and assembles them.

    Either way, I agree with previous quotes that a class action lawsuit might be in place.
  • by SysKoll ( 48967 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:27AM (#14703837)
    From TFA: Microsoft will eventually end support for Windows XP; already, their Games Division is planning Vista-exclusive titles such as Halo 2. It will only be a matter of time before other software developers follow suit, forcing anyone who's remotely interested in gaming to upgrade to Windows Vista.

    Is this really true? Game manufacturers cannot realistically expect much market penetration of Vista before 2007 at the earliest, and they'll probably want to satisfy the XP crowd for another couple of years and make sure their games work with the older OS too. After all, a guy with a $2000 blazing gaming PC will probably hesitate to buy a $250 Vista license just to play an MS game. Might as well buy a used XBox360 at that price.

    Overall, unless MS makes some co-marketing deals with game publishers and pays them to make Vista-only games, I don't see game publishers abandoning XP that easily.

  • by green pizza ( 159161 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:28AM (#14703839) Homepage
    The requirement of HDCP via DVI/HDMI is also a major issue for those who bought the first few generations of HDTVs equiped with component inputs, or in some cases, DVI without HDCP support.

    Cases in point, I know of several major HDTV purchases made about 2 years ago, late 2003 / early 2004. All of these were CRT or CRT projection based and have the ability to do full 1080i resolution, in fact most are currently being used with DVHS D-Theater, Dish Network HD, and XBOX360 at full 1080i, 720p or similar HD resolutions. Mostly via 3x RCA component input, but plain computer style DVI in a few cases. But since none of these TVs support HDCP, they will most likely be unable to display full HD resolution material from BluRay or HDDVD.

    Many Dell 20" LCD monitor users are in the same boat. They love their sweet pivoting DVI monitors. But without HDCP support, they will never be useful as, say, a bedroom TV connected to a BluRay player or a future Comcast HD cable receiver.

    HDCP is to protect the world from the pirates... who will work around this limitation somehow anyway.

    It used to be that one had to buy an illegal converter/filter in order to make copies of Macrovision protected DVDs and VHS tapes. Now we're going to need to buy illegal converters/filters just to *use* our older HDTVs to their full resolution potential.
    • by theLOUDroom ( 556455 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:55AM (#14703961)
      HDCP is to protect the world from the pirates... who will work around this limitation somehow anyway.

      Pirates don't need to break things like HDCP or DECSS.

      If you want to large scale pritate a disc, you just get the equipment to make a bit for bit copy.

      HDCP, just like DECSS is all about controlling consumers.
      • Exactly. These companies pushing all of these DRM schemes have got the technical people in a fuss because of libertarian platitudes, when they know just as well as anyone else that it won't prevent piracy. It's the hardware stupid. They keep pushing this stuff in order to SELL MORE HARDWARE. And if they manage to push a PARTICULAR brand of DRM, then they've LOCKED YOU INTO the whole line of THEIR products, or their PARTNERS' PRODUCTS. Once you decide you just have to have the Matrix Trilogy on Blu-Ray to play on your 100" plasma HDTV, then you've just lined the pockets of a particular group of people within the hardware world. And even if another manufacturer wants to jump onto that bandwagon, and sell compatible hardware, they're going to have to pay the first group a HEFTY fee to do so. Ultimately, it's about VENDOR LOCK-IN. I don't think these people care a whit about your STUPID "PIRACY." Vote with your dollars accordingly.
  • by Marbleless ( 640965 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:32AM (#14703858)
    How many other people are having trouble typing HDCP?
    My fingers automatically type DHCP instead ;)
  • by Majik Sheff ( 930627 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:38AM (#14703885) Journal
    HanDiCaP
  • by zakarria ( 948686 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:43AM (#14703915)

    The more I hear, the more I think both of these formats are toast.

    The move from tape to optical had a lot of obvious advantages for end users. By comparison, the only real advantages to either Blu-ray or HD-DVD are 1) resolution, and 2) disc capacity. That's really not much to start with.

    Capacity is only particularly relevant as A) the means to provide said higher res, and B) for people using these discs for their own personal data, which won't likely be effected by all these 'protection' racketsschemes. For raw data storage, BD or HD-DVD will take off when the drives are comodity items with decent burn times, and the discs have a comparable $/GB to DVDs.

    As for resolution, here's the thing: didn't I read a while back on slashdot that some study found that only 50% of US households with "Hi-def" capable TVs had their systems set up properly to view anything in hi-def, and from the sound of it most of them were oblivious?

    Now tell me... if the only really notable advantage of Blu-ray or HD-DVD over normal DVDs, when it comes to renting or buying videos, is resolution... and half the population can't even tell if their systems are set up to display hi-def content... and the DRM is such that nobody who's bought 'hi-def' hardware yet is going to actually get hi-def (my understanding is that if you don't have a fully HDCP compliant system, you get a degraded image, ie, lower res)... is it just me, or is most of the population going to buy a new optical drive, rent one BD or HD-DVD, not notice anything impressive cause their system isn't set up right, and go back to DVDs cause they're cheaper rentals?

    $40 will get you a DVD drive you can stick in any vaguely recent desktop computer. A stand-alone DVD player that can hook up to pretty much any TV is probably cheaper than that. A new format that offers basically nothing but higher res, and requires thousands (in the next year) or several hundreds (any time remotely soon) of dollars of upfront expense on hardware upgrades to get that one advantage, which you also have to re-purchace all your media to get... I'm just not seeing it.

    Fortunately, all the companies involved have put way too much into this to let it drop that easy, so hopefully they'll stick it out long enough to produce comodity priced products for those of us who are really just interested in the higher capacity optical media.

  • by d_jedi ( 773213 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @02:08AM (#14704005)
    So, they want me to "upgrade" my monitor which doesn't support HDCP, my video card which doesn't support HDCP, and my TV which doesn't support HDCP.. just so I can watch video in higher resolution?

    Sorry, to my eyes DVDs look just fine.. and none of my hardware needs replacing for any other reason. If it ain't broke..
    • by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @06:18AM (#14704786) Homepage
      Do you have a 30" or smaller TV? Do you sit around 10 feet away from it? There's a good reason why DVDs look perfectly fine to your eyes; you've reached the resolution limits of your retina, and HD would simply be a waste.

      <plagiarise victim="self">
      The average eye with 20/20 vision is capable of resolving one minute of arc, a sixtieth of a degree. This equates to roughly 300 dpi, when viewed at a distance of one foot. Let's say the average distance from a couch to a TV is 7 to 10 feet. At 7 feet, you can resolve 300/7 = 43 dpi, at 10 feet it's 30 dpi.

      So in order to fully resolve a 720p picture (1469 pixels diagonally) at 7 feet, the TV would have to be at least 34 inches diagonally to make out all the detail. At 10 feet you'd need a rather large 50 incher. For true 1080p, even at 7 feet, anything under 50 inches and you're missing out - and at 10 feet you'd have to get a whopping 74 inch TV! At 10 feet, you need a 30" screen even to make out plain old standard-definition DVDs properly.
      </plagiarise>

      So unless you've got a particularly large TV or a particularly small loungeroom - or a projector - you may find investing in a high-definition TV to be entirely pointless. You simply can't see the extra detail. Of course, watching high-def movies on a computer monitor is different; we sit much closer to them, say around 18 inches away. At that distance, you'd want a 200 dpi screen (at 24", that's an impressive 4183 x 2353). Or you could get one of these [wikipedia.org] - except it doesn't support HDCP...

  • by yeremein ( 678037 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @02:09AM (#14704009)
    At first I thought the studios were incredibly stupid. The only thing they'll accomplish with their asinine HDCP requirement is eliminate the market for HD content on PCs.

    Then I realized it was probably intentional.

    Hollywood wants their content as far from your computer as possible.
    • Then I realized it was probably intentional.
      Hollywood wants their content as far from your computer as possible.


      which is both stupid AND diametrically opposed to what the computer and electronic manufacturers want to do: bring the PC in the living room for added functionnalities.

      HDCP was supposed to bridge that gap (provide enough protection to satisfy Hollywood and allow their content on this computer hardware), but it seems the implementation failed, because most taiwanese manufacturers balk at the though
  • Anyone for a bet? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SilentJ_PDX ( 559136 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @02:13AM (#14704028) Homepage
    How many days will it take before someone files a class-action lawsuit?
  • by edgrale ( 216858 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @02:44AM (#14704161)
    When do we see the first one for false advertising?

    According to HotHardware [hothardware.com] ATI 9700 Pro was suppoused to support HDCP. And now we learn that they don't? I don't know about you, but in Finland it is illegal to market a product with false statements.

    Let the law suites begin!
  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @03:00AM (#14704227) Homepage
    The entire point of DRM is to forbid copying, saving, manipulating the content ... which is what a PC is for. The whole reason to jump from paper to PC was that it made it easy to save, copy, repeatedly print, and manipulate information.

    If all you can do is watch on your PC, what have you got? A $2000 19" TV! Big deal; most people will be doing their watching on the new 42" in the living room with the cable-company-supplied HD DVR.

    HDCP, in short, will kill any sales of PC equipment and content, save to enthusiasts like slashdotters, and to content makers - including everybody with home cameras. But nin Blu-Ray disks out of ten will be put into consumer boxes rather than PCs because the PC won't do anything special with it.

    This outcome is fine, for Hollywood; they don't see "available on PC" as a big selling point for their product. They're happy to just keep their content off the platform altogether.

  • by goldcd ( 587052 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @03:37AM (#14704338) Homepage
    There's no way I can go out and pay for a HD drive, a new monitor and then watch retail purchases HD content.
    It's going to be downloading rips for me it would seem.
    *shrugs*
    I remember stumping up for a DVD decoder card back in the day - seemed a fair wad of cash, but I did like the picture. Basically it would seem the cost of entry to the new HD DRM future is going to be astronomical - nobody is going to bother...
    For the average joe who watches movies on say a player in the lounge, a desktop and a laptop when out and about - exactly how much is it going to cost to upgrade from DVD to HD? How much do they possibly think I'm going to pay extra to replace my equipment that currently meets most of the specs with NEW - JUST TO GET ROUND THEIR F'IN DRM *slams head into desk* That's it - I'm sitting the next gen out.
  • HDCP will be DOA. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max Threshold ( 540114 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @06:01AM (#14704738)
    "Want to watch that new Blu-ray movie on your custom built PC at full resolution?"

    No thanks, I'll just wait for the pirated version.

  • by jilles ( 20976 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @06:02AM (#14704739) Homepage
    Vista won't be out until the end of the year. So I don't see the problem. This new standard is not going to be supported by anything else than vista. Aside from a bunch of tweakers, the only way people will get Vista is by buying a new PC. That's why nvidia and ati are not bothering to put useless hardware on their current boards. I'm sure that if there is any market demand for this standard, there will be some compatible hardware by the time Vista launches.

    Of course the big question is weather this standard will work at all. If you take a step back and look at what the industry is doing, you see a lot of vertical stacks of technology with none of them well positioned for long term success. IMHO neither blue ray or hddvd is going to have any long term relevance. The HDCP standard will add to this problem since it will complicate and slow adoption of the new technology. That in turn means lower demand for HD content.

    If you look at the long term, the only relevant distribution channel for any digital content is online distribution. Once the industry decides that online distribution is the way forward, the whole mess of vertical technology will more or less automatically ensure that any technology which restricts market share will be extemely unpopular with consumers and, ironically, content distributers. Why sell onlince content to only 1% of the market with compliant hardware when you can sell to 100% of the market with good enough hardware?

    The first company who gets this right will make lots of money real fast.
  • by steveoc ( 2661 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @08:41AM (#14705271)
    Call me a luddite, but I cant believe the amount of money people spend on all of this 'high end immersive home entertainment' crap.

    really - thousands of dollars for what can only ever pass as a semblance of reality.

    Want a real immersive FPS experience ? - drop $100 and spend a weekend out in the bush shooting paintball.

    Want a real immersive flightsim ? drop $100 and spend a weekend learning to hang-glide, and get a feel for what flying is all about.

    Want an immersive and memorable porn experience ? - drop $100, go out clubbing, meet dozens of attractive real people, have real conversions, get real phone numbers, and ... the rest is up to you.

    Here are some recent $0 experiences which no amount of 7800GTX SLI cards can come close to :

    - Hours wasted building sandcastles on the beach with a hot nursing student from china who doesnt speak the local language that well. Teach her a bit of english, learn a bit of mandarin, and engage your brain in the most complex real-time strategy game as you attempt to interpret her alien body language. Still on the beach as the hour approaches midnight, having built a full scale replica of a great white shark in the sand. Accidentally trip over the shark, catch her in your arms ... and kiss her for the first time as the tide laps against the beach.

    - Hang out at a mate's house with a dozen or so others and play an 8-ball tournament, music, fridge full of drinks, play with the pet lizards .. feel good and learn more about the people you thought you knew.

    - Go to a birthday party, get smashed, end up at a bizarre karaoke bar, get up on stage with complete strangers and yell your lungs out. Pile into a taxi with your new found friends and end up at a 5-star hotel for breakfast as the sun rises. Obnoxiously pile up your plates with everything on offer, and charge it all to room 315 before slipping out the back door.

    - Hand write an ultra-soppy card that you make yourself to an imaginary woman that you might have known for ages. Make sure you put your name and phone number on it. Go out, walk into a club or restaraunt and approach the most stunningly unbelievable waitress you can find. Hand her the card, and say 'Hi again - just wanted to say that im real sorry about the other night, I hope this card makes up for it'. Turn around and walk out, and dont look back.

    Dont know - I just dont even have time to turn the TV on these days.

What the gods would destroy they first submit to an IEEE standards committee.

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