AV Police Squad

It’s Not Illegal: Turning Off HDCP

The Scene

Huddled around a dark equipment closet, two figures are focused on a laptop screen. It’s late on Friday, and they’ve been in this closet for the entire day. Their client has been complaining that they can’t send content from certain laptops of the Apple variety to the far end. Lucas, the older technician, has a theory. Iris, the newbie, is trying to keep up.


Iris

But…but…isn’t that illegal?!

Lucas

Not at all. By turning off HDCP on the input, the Mac won’t protect the content automatically. If it sees an HDCP-compliant sink connected to it, it’ll turn on HDCP regardless of whether or not the content needs protecting. If there is no HDCP path, it will send only unprotected content. That should be the fix.

Iris

Oooooo…this is so exciting. Are we breaking copyright law? I think I saw a NCIS about this.

Lucas

What?! No. You’re not listening. If HDCP is enabled, the laptop will protect everything coming out of its HDMI port. Even if it’s a simple presentation that shouldn’t be protected…it’ll still be protected. The codec is not an HDCP-compliant path. That is why they are having issues. If we turn it off at the input of the switcher, the laptop won’t turn it on for everything it spits out and they’ll be able to share presentations with the far end.

Iris

But, how will the laptop show protected material?

Lucas

That’s the rub. If we turn it off, the laptop cannot send protected content to the system. But, we checked with the client, and they never show movies, TV or pay-per-view events from a laptop anyway. They have a cable tuner for that stuff that doesn’t get routed to the codec. So, there is no problem with disabling HDCP at the laptop input.

Lucas

But I can see the laptop on the screen Okay.

Lucas

The path from the laptop to the screen is perfectly fine. It is an HDCP-compliant path. They never had a problem showing the laptop locally. The problem comes in when they try to share the laptop. That’s when they get the HDCP error message, and the users get all angry and throw things at us AV people.

Iris

So, do we need to “cut the blue wire” or something?

Lucas

This is a bomb now?!

Iris

No. But it still seems illegal.

Lucas

It’s not illegal. Not even a little bit. We are assisting an overzealous/lazy manufacturer with their implementation of copyright protection.

Iris

Isn’t it just a tiny bit illegal?

Lucas

Not even a tiny bit.

Iris

(in a squeaky, high-pitched voice)

Not even an eensie-weensie bit illegal.

Lucas

Nope.

Iris

(in an even higher voice)

Not even just like a small lil’ smidgen illeg… 

Lucas

(cuts her off, exasperated)

FINE. Fine. Yes. It’s sooooo illegal.

(*sigh*)

 

Iris

I KNEW it!  This is so exciting.

(Author’s note: It’s not illegal.)

***Scene***

Previous ArticleNext Article

Send this to friend