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HDCP: The graphic card and monitor nightmare.
by Vincent Alzieu
Published on January 6, 2006

HDCP : misery for monitors and graphic cards
We have two bad pieces of news for you. Which one do you want first?

- The first is that almost all monitors sold up until now (CRT and TFT) won´t be capable of displaying HD movies.

- The second is that graphic cards suffer from the same problem.

The origin of this mess is a new indispensable norm called HDCP, for High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection.

How and Why
Those who control the market are panicking and they feel that piracy is harming creativity. There have been no real studies on its consequences, no figures, but they are convinced of this fact. So they fight back. The choices available were either the complete impossibility to read HD content on computers (already the case for some audio CDs) or else develop an encoding protection system, which makes it impossible to copy or even attempt of copy. They have entrusted the IT industry to themselves develop a reliable solution. Intel played a central part in the consortium, which finally launched a new HDCP norm. The entire image process will have to be certified for the movie to be read:

  • the reader, Blu-Ray or HD-DVD,
  • the graphic card, if the movie is read on a computer,
  • or the display, CRT, LCD, plasma or even projector

    The communication schema is the following: the OS COPP Driver (Certified Output Protection Protocol) verifies with the graphic card bios to check if it is legitimate or not. Once this verification is done, the card then goes to the monitor KSV, a unique 40 bit key, which will authorize (or not) the reading and displaying of the movie after comparison with a data base provided by the HDCP consortium.

    For example, here are all the steps of HDCP certification when a Silicon Image chip is involved:


    Certified products clearly claim their HDCP compatibility (HDCP Ready), or with the HD Ready stamp.

    Being HDCP also implies the utilization of a numeric interface. Only the DVI and HDMI (DVI + sound in a single cable) inputs/outputs can claim this certification. The presence of a numeric interface doesn´t necessarily imply HDCP compatibility. This is the reason for today´s major problem with monitors and current graphic cards, which will (with certain exceptions) never be HDCP.

    Before delving further into the subject, we offer for those who aren´t familiar with HD to see what HD will bring compared to the current DVD resolution and then 720p and 1080p. Those who don´t want to see this, skip "page 2". Go directly to HDCP from the monitor point of view.


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