HDCP2.2: The Next Generation of Copy Protection


Ultra HD or 4K TV is the next generation of high definition television. It is already available on the market, but what is out there is still early generation, there is much more on the drawing board geared to come out soon. Advances in technology also means that the next generation of copy protection, HDCP2.2 is on its way.

The Problem

HDCP 2.2 is copy protection for the 4K generation of technology, unfortunately it won’t work with the current HDMI 2.0, in fact the next level of copyright protection won’t even be backwards compatible. What makes it worse is that the current 4K TV’s on the market only have the HDMI 2.0 protection, which means that your new generation TV will not be able to receive future 4K content.

History of Copy Protection

Copy protection has been around since the era of cassette tapes, back then it was a missing tab that we could easily override with a simple piece of tape. When VHS came out there was a need for improved copy protection and Macrovision was born, thus in 1985 the first movie to be encoded with Macrovision was The Cotton Club.

With the advancement into DVD’s another era of copy of protection was needed and in 1996 the Content Scramble System (CSS) was developed for DVD’s. It took three years for this system to be widely compromised.

As we moved beyond DVD’s and into Blu-Ray Players and HDTV devices High-bandwidth digital Content Protection (HDCP) was created. This encryption required specialized connections, such as the DisplayPort (DP), Digital Visual Interface (DVI), and High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI). It took nine years before the code was reverse engineered and a hack released to the public.

The Latest Evolution

HDCP 2.2 is the latest copy protection programming out there, it is a new approach to protection. The primary level of protection is the cable itself, it is designed to create a secure connection between the player and the display, it creates a ‘key code’ between the units that must be answered on both sides of the cable, if the appropriate code is not received then no data will be transferred along the cable. This means that both units must have HDCP 2.2 or it will not work.

HDCP2.2 is on top of the coding that is already in the disc itself, creating layers of copy protection.

The new copy protection isn’t a big deal yet. It is designed for the 4K generation, which is not yet widely available, and what is out there doesn’t usually come with the HDCP 2.2 protection. We don’t need to think about upgrading until we start seeing UltraHD 4K readily available in the stores, even then it may take several years to fully implement.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The good news is that your old gear will still feed to 4K equipment, as long as the feed is not encrypted with 2.2. That means we can still watch our obsolete VHS tapes and low quality DVD’s,

The bad news is that this new encryption software will be applied to more than just the video feed, it will also apply to the audio, meaning that you will eventually have to replace your whole theater system. Sadly, there is also talk about adding the new encryption to wireless gear. Luckily for us, the planned move to 4K wireless is relatively new, which means that by the time it rolls around we probably won’t notice because everything else is already configured for HDCP2.2.

The ugly truth though is that eventually someone out there will also decode this meaning that once again copy protection will be upgraded and your equipment will follow shortly afterward. It’s a vicious cycle, but as long as there are hackers it will continue.

There isn’t a lot that we can do to prevent these upgrades so don’t worry about them until they are out there, it’s just something to keep in mind if you are looking at a new system in the near future.