Copy-Protected Content: More a Business Challenge than a Technical One?

Copy-Protected Content: More a Business Challenge than a Technical One?

Content: Someone invested time, money, imagination, and other resources creating it, and someone owns it. Most organizations own a great deal of original content. It comes in the form of data, images, publications, software, logos, branding, videos, and much more. In the daily operation of many types of organizations, they will also utilize content that was created by another person or organization. This content may or may not have been obtained with the permission of the original creator or the owner. This content may also be shared with others in the organization or outside of the organization. There are times when this type of sharing of the content of others isn’t legal. While this is not the forum to dissect what is legal with regards to content sharing, there are still considerations that relate to AV hardware and networks.

In relation to the work of professional AV installations, the heart of the matter is in audio, video, images, and multimedia content. Before the advent of consumer technologies such as VCRs and audio cassette tapes, there were limited ways in which individuals or organizations could physically possess a copy of a film or television program. Once the mass marketing of videos to consumers became a boon to the studios that created them, this all changed. Fast forward a few decades: we now have the ability to consume myriad multimedia on demand almost anywhere at any time.

Instant access to content can lead to a casual attitude towards sharing, but that does not mean that the sharing is being done properly or legally. There are infrastructure measures built into the hardware to help protect content, and this is where the worlds of copyright and AV technology meet.

HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Copy Protection) is a specification created by the DCP (Digital Copy Protection) Organization to help ensure that only devices that can display protected content are able to receive that content. At its core, the HDCP specification is intended to prevent content from getting to devices that can record or duplicate the content. In the early days of HDCP, the concern was focused on consumer devices. A DVD or Blue-Ray player would execute a handshake with a compliant display, and the content would be permitted to be displayed. If the handshake is unsuccessful, in the case of a non-compliant display or player, the screen may remain black or present an error message about unauthorized content or something similar. Even in the AV world, this consumer level of HDCP was fairly sufficient at first. But with the continuing trends of large, network-based systems, the old HDCP was no longer useful.

In May of 2016 the HDCP 2.2 Pro specification was released, greatly expanding the number of devices allowed to display, as well as the number of devices allowed between the source and the displays. This advancement goes a long way towards providing the professional AV industry a means to still have protected content function on the modern AV networks, while still adhering to the protections espoused by content creators.

As covered in AV Technology magazine earlier this summer, HDCP 2.2 protected content can be flagged to be one of two types: Content Type 0 and Type 1. The difference between these content types has to do with whether re-encryption with lower HDCP version (such as 1.4) is permitted by devices en-route to the display. Repeaters, Splitters, and Switches can conceivably accept HDCP 2.2 on their inputs and output them as HDCP 1.4 if the content is flagged as Type 0. So it may become important to know the content type of your HDCP 2.2 encrypted source video if all of your equipment in an installation cannot handle HDCP 2.2.

The new HDCP 2.2 puts a certain amount of administrative responsibility on integrators, and requires hardware that is HDCP 2.2 compliant. It is highly advisable to partner with integrators that are up to date on HDCP 2.2 and to be sure that specified hardware is compliant. As AV networks continue to evolve, the sharing of content to diverse users occurs more and more frequently, and it is an organization’s best interest to do that properly and also in a way that protected content isn’t blocked. AV networks involve notable investment in technology and infrastructure, not to mention time. Error messages or blank screens are unacceptable.

AV Technology magazine's technical advisor, Justin O'Connor, has spent nearly 20 years as a product manager, bringing many hit products to the professional AV industry. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Music Engineering Technology from the Frost School of Music at The University of Miami. Follow him at @JOCAudioPro. Subscribe today for The Agile Control Room newsletter sponsored by RGB Spectrum (distributed twice per month, every other Tuesday).