Copy protection kills Blu-ray HD component video jacks

If you have HD-capable component video jacks that you’re currently using for video output, you won’t be able to do so for much longer.

In an effort to plug what movie studios and anti-piracy organizations refer to as the “analog hole”, the Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator (AACS LA) has imposed new restrictions on Blu-ray manufacturers to phase out HD-capable component video jacks over the next three years.

Copy protection kills Blu-ray HD component video jacks

Per the restrictions set in place by the AACS LA, Blu-ray manufacturers can no longer produce players with the HD analog outputs as of the beginning of this year. Models that are already on the market can still be sold only through the end of 2013.

“The reasoning behind these changes is the belief that analog video is easier to copy than digital video,” James Willcox of Consumer Reports explains. “All Blu-ray players use the AACS (short for Advanced Access Content System) copy-protection scheme, which employs a technology called High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection, or HDCP. Since component video is analog, it doesn’t support HDCP. So theoretically, someone could make an analog high-def copy, then create a digital version that could be replicated and distributed via the Web,” Willcox says.

HD analog outputs will also be disabled on existing units. An Image Constraint Token (ICT) embedded in video streams by movie studios will actually downgrade the signal quality.

There is a downside to the ICT for the industry, however, according to Willcox.

  • The use of an ICT has to be clearly disclosed on a Blu-ray disc’s packaging
  • The ICT is applied on a title-by-title basis by each studio, so some movies may contain it while others don’t
  • ICT can’t be applied retroactively to titles already released
  • Since the use of the ICT may be politically unpopular with Blu-ray customers, many studios might be reluctant to implement it

Those affected most will be people with older-generation televisions that do not include HDMI inputs as an alternative to the analog HD jacks.

I can’t really see how all this is going to significantly reduce piracy. It all seems like more trouble and expense for all involved than its worth.