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HDCP or High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection is a security feature designed by Intel and licensed by the Digital Content Protection LLC (DCP) to eliminate interception of data while it travels from the source to the recipient’s computer.  It is like a copy protection scheme for high quality digital content such as audio and video files.  The process works by means of digital signal encryption wherein the transmitting and receiving products both have to go through authentication.  If authentication fails on either end, the signal will fail.

HDCP involves an exchange of keys between the source and the display device.  In the case of video files, the source will check if the receiving device is HDCP compliant before it allows for video playback.  Today, many DVD players are compatible with the HDCP scheme.  And so are satellite and cable HDTV sets.  As for PC monitors, the HDCP scheme is not used as a standard yet.  Many other devices available on the market today are not yet HDCP-compliant.  Due to the different formats of digital connection among devices, loss of interoperability may result.

The most current version of HDCP is version 2.0, which was released last October 2008.  This version included locality checks and wireless capability.  Though products in the market today may contain older versions of HDCP, the whole system still works across all versions.

HDCP Products may be divided into three categories.  “Sources” include DVRs, digital tuners, DVD recorders, Blu-Ray players, and set-top boxes.  They are so-called because the HDCP signal originates from the product itself.  The next category is called “Sinks”.  This refers to products that receive the HDCP signal and displays them somewhere else.  Examples in this category are front projection, flat panel, and rear projection TVs.  The last category named “Repeaters”, receive the HDCP signal from the source and send them to a ‘sink’.  Splitters, switchers, AV receivers, and wireless transmitters are examples of Repeater-type HDCP products.