DirecTV Enables HDCP for Premium Channels

Apr 19 2012

DirecTV LogoCry  I don't know why, but I honestly was not expecting this to happen so soon.  Premium content providers like HBO, Starz, and Showtime are requiring DirecTV to enable HDCP on their HD signals.  This seems to have already taken place for HBO and DirecTV states that they will continue rolling this out for the rest of their premium channels.  This is really bad news for users of the Hauppauge Colossus.

What makes this even worse is the possibility that DirecTV may also limit the component outputs to just 540p for these channels, which would impact HD-PVR users, as well.  It would seem that the HDFury could practically be a necessity soon.

"This initiative may impact a small group of customers who have older model TVs that don't support HDCP through HDMI," [DirecTV spokesperson Robert] Mercer advised. "These customers should replace their HDMI cable with a component video cable (E.G. Red, Green, Blue) and a separate audio cable."

DirecTV enabled the feature on all HBO-owned channels last week, "and will continue rolling out to other premium services in the coming weeks," we were informed.

Ars Technica

Comments

Selectable output control is forbidden by the FCC, what makes you so sure that HBO is limited to 540p on component? If it is true, that is a violation.

bjdraw wrote:

Selectable output control is forbidden by the FCC, what makes you so sure that HBO is limited to 540p on component? If it is true, that is a violation.

The FCC regulation I think only applies to broadcast channels and not subscription channels delivered by Sat or Cable.

Aside from that, are HDFury still around? Or would the Geffen device be another way which would send back a HDCP confirmation to the direct box.

John

It's stated in the article on Ars.  One of the editors at Ars even responded to someone in the comments of the article, restating what was written.  I haven't checked, but the stories on Ars are usually pretty accurate.

However, this wouldn't be SOC as all outputs are enabled.  It's just that component output is being limited to 540p on these channels.

Additionally, SOC is not illegal.

HDFury is alive and well, but at $400-500, it's quite an investment.  Which Gefen device are you referring to?  If you mean the HDMI Detective, then, no, that won't work.

I was thinking that the detective might work if it fed back a set id with HDCP.  I think at $500 for a HDFury that one should consider using that money toward a display that is HDCP compliant.

The detective only captures the display's EDID information, it doesn't touch HDCP.

I agree, with the rather ridiculous price of the HDFury, just get a new TV. Obviously there are exceptions to this. However I cannot understand why this is causing such a commotion. My first HDTV was a CRT based set with a DVI port, but it was HDCP compliant, this was back in 2004. That was 8 years ago! If your TV is 8+ years old, it's time to get a new one, so much has changed with HDTVs for the better over last few years.

I'm also interested that there's an outrage when AFAIK Comcast has had HDCP enabled on their cable boxes for years, so it's not like DirecTV is only one doing this.

If the downres over component is actually confirmed as true, DirecTV would be have the dubious honor of being the first (and only) TV provider to actually use SOC.

Looks like my decision to drop DirecTV in favor of FIOS was the smart move.Cool

You guys must all be WMC & CC users.  (Believe it or not, there's a whole other group of us out there!)  Otherwise, you'd understand the issue here.  For those of us not using cablecard (by choice or necessity--in the case of satellite), the HD-PVR and Colossus are the only solutions for an HTPC.  It has nothing to do with whether or not we have a TV with HDCP (in fact, I do).  Well, actually, it does, in that we can't even record most HD channels using SageTV, MythTV, or MediaPortal (etc), let alone get it to play back on a TV with HDCP.  If the HDCP handshake isn't there, you can't play it back at all.  So, we need to record via the analog hole (HD-PVR) or with an HDMI output which doesn't use HDCP (as DTV hadn't been doing, so the Colossus could be used).  This bypasses all the DRM and allows us to play the recorded content back wherever, whenever, and however we want.  No missed recordings because the show was set to not allow it; no PPV's that are useless after 24 hours; no limitation on which device to play it back on.

This changes all that for us.  The HDFury essentially removes the HDCP, thereby allowing the content to be recorded by the HD-PVR or Colossus and played back on any device.

Yes this is very disappointing.  All of my premium recordings come from DirecTV via HDPVR's. I haven't noticed a degradation in quaility yet but I am just currently recording Shotime programs for viewing.  I have some colossus that I don't use but it doesn't look hopeful for them - ever now.  I like DirecTV because I can tune with HTTP instead of irblaster which I find more reliable.  What a shame.  This is really putting a crimp on any home brewed tv watching experience.

I've been posting over in the SageTV forums, but here's a summary:

HDCP has been enabled for premium channels (if not all premiums yet, it will be all of them soon).  This has been confirmed by several people.

The Colossus can record unencrypted (i.e. non-HDCP) HDMI, so since the STB now expects to get an HDCP handshake from the receiving device, which the Colossus will not do, this renders the Colossus useless on the premium channels.

Ars Technica reported that the component outputs were also being limited to 540p. However, I confirmed that is NOT YET the case on both of my units. I can still get 720p and 1080i via both my STB's on HBO, Starz, and Showtime channels.

 

Ok, here's a technical question for DirectTv users with this problem. What if you get one of those "quasi-legal" HDMI splitters and feed the output of the box to the splitter and one side of the splitter to a HDCP enabled tv set and the other side to your Colossus.

My experience has been picture on both sets, but I was just wondering if .....

The box would negotiate with the splitter and determine that the splitter is HDCP compliant, thus the splitter can receive the signal.  The splitter would then negotiate with each individual output device and output the signal only to those devices that are HDCP compliant.

That's how it is supposed to work in theory anyway.  As we both know, what is supposed to happen in theory isn't always what happens in the real world.

The more I thought about this, the only way it would work is if the Colossus didn't care about HDCP and only looked for a signal and the splitter only looked for one HDCP device. These devices will allow you to mirror graphic card outputs on two displays but I don't have a Colossus to test with.

Unfortunately, the Colossus will report to the splitter that it is not HDCP compliant, so if the splitter is working the way it is supposed to, the Colossus won't be able to receive any protected signals.

How about one of these? If you don't mind the image being shifted a bit, it works pretty well with the Colossus or HD-PVR.

But, you said it also distorted on one TV, so that's a possibility, as well.  While I'm not sure I'd even be able to deal with the shifted picture, the chance of having a distorted picture makes that almost a moot point.

Yeah, but you're not using it with a TV directly (so you can ignore that part).TBC, I'm not saying it's a perfect solution (HDMIFury II or III would probably be required for that), just that it gets you something better than nothing.

Take a look at pretty much any review I've included a video of something (like Netflix, or bizarrely the entire ATV UI) that requires HDCP for an e.g. of how well it works.

The ars article never states HBO is being down-ressed to 540p, other than that comment that is not part of the article. In fact it only mentions 540p in the paragraph about SoC, which it states in another article has never been used. 

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/04/hollywoods-selectable-output-control-has-it-gone-from-fud-to-dud.ars

Not to mention, Ars has been wrong before.

http://www.engadget.com/2009/11/10/hd-dvds-managed-copy-was-never-necessarily-free-was-always-man/

Not that any of this really matters, though, as any TV old enough not to support HDCP, also can't render more than 500 lines of resolution anyways.

bjdraw wrote:
The ars article never states HBO is being down-ressed to 540p, other than that comment that is not part of the article. In fact it only mentions 540p in the paragraph about SoC, which it states in another article has never been used.

Given the clarification they made in the comments, I took the article at face value, with a little checking of my own setup.  Just because it's not currently happening, doesn't mean it's not coming.  A few people with DTV DVR's have reported that HDMI is still working without HDCP, but I'm sure that will change in the near future.  So, I think being suspicious about what could still be coming down the pike is quite warranted at this point.

bjdraw wrote:
Not that any of this really matters, though, as any TV old enough not to support HDCP, also can't render more than 500 lines of resolution anyways.

I beg to differ.  Go back and read my 3rd response in this thread.

You are right, I should've said "matters to most."

And the FCC has issued a waiver for SoC for theatrical releases that have not been released on DVD, but only for 90 days. I'm not aware of any content on HBO that fits into this category. To date, this waiver has not been exploited. 

I'm not aware of any other SoC waiver from the FCC. Are you?

If this was a violation of the SOC ban, then a waiver would be required.  But it's not, so no waiver is required.

No waiver is required because this isn't SoC. For it to be, the content would either not be available via component or at a lower resolution than via HDMI. 

Tell me one example of a provider down-rezing component or disabling component? There isn't because the FCC has only issued one waiver and it is for first run content that hasn't hit Disc yet and then even for only 90 days. 

I'd like to clear something up before I proceed.  In American Library Association v. FCC, the US Court of Appeals (DC Circuit) ruled that the FCC does not have the authority to "regulate receiver apparatus after a transmission is complete".  That decision has never been appealed, nor has Congress ever granted FCC the authority to regulate what the receiver does after a transmission is complete.  The FCC's authority is limited to regulating what is in the signal that the device receives.

I said that to say this:  The FCC's SOC ban is not a ban on disabling outputs, and the down-resolution ban is not a ban on constraining output resolution.  As the US Court of Appeals ruled, the FCC does not have the authority to regulate what the box does after the signal is received.  The box can do whatever it wants.  The FCC can only regulate what is in the signal, and both of those rules ban the actual signals that perform SOC or down-resolution.  The FCC does not ban the actual performance of disabling outputs on the box, nor do they ban the actual performance of image constraint by the box.

There are two additional things that should be noted.  First, the down-resolution ban only applies to "commercial audiovisual content delivered as unencrypted broadcast television".  The inclusion of down-resolution flags in encrypted or non-broadcast content is not prohibited (in fact, the FCC recognized the viability of using such flags).  Second, the SOC ban does not prohibit the inclusion of signals in content that are not designed to perform SOC, but end up causing a box to perform SOC due to the way the box is designed to react to those signals.  Something many of us are familiar with is the copy protection flag in digital content, which Windows Media Center uses to perform SOC (WMC disables the HDMI port from outputting the content if HDCP compliance is not detected).  This is a perfectly legal practice, it does not violate the SOC ban, and no waiver is required.  Microsoft is allowed to do it, and so is DirecTV (and anyone else).

In summary, what DirecTV is doing does not violate either of the rules the FCC established.  They are allowed to require HDCP on digital outputs, and if they choose to constrain the output resolution of HBO over analog outputs, they are allowed to do so.  What they aren't allowed to do is embed signals in the content (or allow pre-embedded signals to stay in the content) that are designed to selectively disable any digital or analog output on the receiver (unless they have a waiver from the FCC), nor are they allowed to embed signals in the content that are designed to activate down-resolution of broadcast content (there is no waiver stipulation for this rule).

bjdraw wrote:

I'm not aware of any other SoC waiver from the FCC. Are you?

That's the only one I've heard of, as well.

According to user at DBSTalk, DirecTV is not down-ressing HBO over component.

http://www.dbstalk.com/showthread.php?p=3004062

bjdraw wrote:

According to user at DBSTalk, DirecTV is not down-ressing HBO over component.

http://www.dbstalk.com/showthread.php?p=3004062

I previously confirmed that my units weren't currently doing that, but, as I stated in my last response, I agree with this sentiment.

EDIT:  I also modified the 2nd paragraph in the news article to try and clarify.

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