BluRay, AACS and HDCP

Being a self confessed geek, not to mention the author of a weekly technology column, it might surprise you to learn that until this week I was still watching my movies in standard DVD format rather than in high definition [collective gasp].This was all set to change this week, however, as realising that I needed a new laptop I plumped for a shiny Sony Vaio with an inbuilt BluRay writer.

I swiped a HDMI lead from work, rented a BluRay film from Blockbuster, connected the laptop to my TV and at around 9pm the missus and I sat down ready to be left in awe at the improvement in picture quality.All was going well until after approximately 15 seconds of footage we were greeted with a message telling us that the ‘display configuration that we were using was not supported by this film’.

Somewhat bemused I started trawling Google and discovered that the problem was actually caused by the Digital Rights Management (DRM) built in to the disc.It employs a system called Advanced Access Content System (AACS) which prevents the signal being broadcast to a non High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) complaint device.Basically, the film wouldn’t let me play the movie back on my TV as it was worried that I might use the signal to create a high definition copy of the original.

I eventually discovered a solution by way of a free trial edition of the (completely legal) AnyDVD HD software ( which immediately removed not only the AACS protection that was bugging me but also the region protection and the BD+ copy protection.As a side effect of installing this software and removing the over militant DRM I could have also at this point made a backup copy for my own personal use.By the time I had reached this point however it was almost midnight and so not only was Hayley bored to tears but we were both ready for bed.

It should be mentioned at this point that my laptop did suggest at the very beginning that I could play back through the standard SVGA port rather than using a HDMI lead but if you hire a high definition movie you expect to be able to play it in high definition.I suppose the logic is that if I were to have used this method to create a copy then at least it wouldn’t be in high definition.

There are instances where I can’t help but feel that Digital Rights Management on all forms of digital content is starting to infringe upon the rights of the law abiding users while also pushing people away from the legitimate route.In this particular instance I just wanted to play the movie on my two year old non HDCP compliant TV set and it actually ended up actively pushing me towards a piece of software that while perfectly legal, would have also potentially given me the tools to create my own copies. Surely that doesn’t make sense?


About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.