Hollywood Hates You

The truth behind HDCP and video card support: Ars Technica has an excellent piece out on HDCP compliant components and the pickle of a dilema that consumers may find themselves in very shortly.

They point to a recent ruccus started by FiringSquad when earlier this week they reported that current retail video cards do not and will not support HDCP. HDCP is the spec requirement that you are going to need very shortly to watch your high def content on your new Vista PC.

The reason why we have to go through all this trouble? Content providers are afraid of you getting access to their HDTV content.

From Ars Technica: “We’re in the midst of a a top-down, all-points-covered attempt to lock down every part of the HD viewing experience. In a nutshell, the content industry wants to see video encrypted end-to-end and passed only among approved devices that obey content access rules defined by the industry. This is not limited to the PC. Our in-depth primer on CableCARD revealed that the lock-down will also come to include the video streams from cable providers, too. In both cases, we see a disturbing trend: not only is the technology all about locking down the content, but the implementation is becoming locked down as well. For example, while CableCARD has been heralded as the great breakthrough that will allow for Home Theatre PC nirvana, the fact that CableLabs has to certify entire machine designs means that the do-it-yourself market is likely out of luck.”

What does this mean for consumers? Well if you want to watch HDTV on your PC you very well may need not only a new CableLabs certified new PC (which would hopefully contain a HDCP certified video card), but *also* a new monitor as well in order to watch those hot new Blu-Ray and HD-DVD DVDs that you were hoping to be able to buy and watch.

In my case I would assume then that the $5,000 I paid for my Pioneer Plasma in my living room as well as the $1,100 I paid for my Dell monitor very well may have been spent buying obselete equipment.

This kind of sucks and when you read things like this it just keeps moving a middle ground view on DRM further and further towards an outright hatred of the DRM.

Has Hollywood finally gone too far? Should I have to pay another $5,000 to buy a new HDCP plasma monitor in order to view their content? Well I won’t do it myself. They can keep their Blu-Ray and HD-DVD and high def TV and I’ll walk.

Ars Technica has a pretty good description on how this might play out: “I suspect that the content industry may be in for a big, nasty surprise when all of this truly hits the public in the face. Never before has the rollout of the “next big thing” been so encumbered with built-in obsolescence, user-unfriendliness, and hypocrisy. Groans the world over will be heard when early adopters learn that their TVs won’t play Blu-ray movies. Folks who bought computers recently will be disappointed when they learn that their hard-earned money couldn’t buy them end-to-end support for HD content playback.

When you tell so many people that their electronics won’t do what they should do—what they paid for them to do—many of them are not going to like it. The content industry is going to walk away from this with a certain amount of egg on their face and a fat stamp of “greed” burned into their foreheads. And a few will will realize the ultimate inanity of it all: that while the studio’s HD content won’t play on their TV or their computers, the HD content put out by the pirates will.

And that, my good friends, will be a fine example of irony.”

Update: CNET has an article out on the topic as well.

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7 Comments

  1. Also fun is stuff like the fact that the RIAA doesn’t want you to rip your own cds for personal use
    http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=29733

  2. I’m glad to see that you NOW believe what I’ve been trying to tell everyone since July 2005. I love it when things that I write about turn into reality, which previously labeled as FUD by some (not referring to you).

  3. Sadly I predict that the vast majority of consumers will accept it and in fact won’t even realize how badly they are being screwed. Just like they accepted CSS and Macrovision before that.

    The content companies and the hardware manuafcturers aren’t going to say “We’re restricting this unless you buy compliant hardware” their going to say “You need to upgrade to the latest (and greatest) hardware to experience this”.

    The computer and electronics industry has already set the expectation that you have to constantly “upgrade” to take advantage of a the neat new goodies.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is why I still refuse to buy any “HDTV” hardware, TV or otherwise. I’ve been happy with DirecTV, line-doubled TV and DirecTivo — can’t see the need to switch to what Ed Bott is experiencing right now.

  5. TravisP says:

    I refuse to go to the cinemas because of the over priced experience it is (why would I want to pay up to £6 for a single cinema ticket when I can pay £4 for the DVD at Blockbuster and have as many people that can fit on my couch watch the movie). When they start to dictate that I can’t build my own Media Center to watch HD content then I am just not going to watch it. I am just not that desperate to see the crap that Hollywood puts out anyway. If Microsoft then make the horrible decision to ignore DIY’ers for MCE for HD content because they are bowing to the pathetic hollywood business then I will just dump my ‘currently’ beloved MCE machines and go back to watching free to air TV. Hollywood sucks, DRM sucks, HDCP sucks & RIAA sucks. Being that CSS & Macrovision took sooooo long to break, all they are really doing is making it more interesting for the crackers. Here in the UK it is taking ages for Digital TV to really take hold because it is just tooo hard for a good amount of people to buy a digital set top box and plug it into their TVs. This of course is government forced as the analogue signal will eventually be turned off, but digital versus analogue is nothing like ‘we are going to make it hard to watch HD tv because we are greedy bastards’. But then after years of slow take up, Hollywood will then try to force people to use the technology by reducing the output of normal DVDs, but will of course cite things like the capacity etc, not because of DRM. Oh yeah, and once it is impossible for DIY’ers to build MCE machines, I can see the price of the ‘name brand’ machines going up.

  6. The market for DIYers is so small that Microsoft can tell them to pack sand and it won’t hurt their bottom line in any measurable way.

    If you have old stuff (non HDCP compliance) likely you will still be able to view the new content but it will be intentionally donconverted to a lesser format, again most consumers won’t even notice and those that do will believe that all they need is an “upgrade” to fix it.

    Sure Macrovision & CSS are easily defeated, and no doubt I’m sure that anything new will be as well, but how many people do you know who have the tools & knowhow to make backup copies of their DVDs or even purchased VHS tapes? In my case not very many.

    The vast majority of cnsumers are already used to not being able to exercise their fair use rights to do things like make backup copies, I’d be willing to bet that a majority don’t even know that it isn’t illegal to make a backup copy of a DVD or VHS tape that you own.

    Also as I pointed out before the vast majority are also used to constant upgrades and will totally believe that their year old PC just isn’t powerful enough or something.

    As for boycotting the new media, you can try that but eventually as the old media becomes no longer available you start to look like the Unabomber to most of society? How would you feel if you met a guy who refuses to buy any videos except on Laserdisc? That’s what the guy who won’t buy Blu-Ray (or HD-DVD) will look like in 5 years.

    The worst thing is that while the stated purpose of DRM is to “prevent piracy” but any DRM scheme that is remotely useable by your typical NASCAR watching AOLer or Grandmother is going to amount to little more than a speedbump for pirates. The copyright cartell is well aware that DRM is essentially useless at preventing paracy yet they still shove it down our necks at every opportunity, for the express purpose of interfering with fair use.

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