HBO Decides It Still Isn't Difficult Enough To Watch HBO Shows

from the drm-doesn't-work dept

We've recently discussed the fact that HBO severely limits the availability of its shows to non-subscribers, and I've speculated that the success of HBO-style programming owes a lot to piracy as a way around those restrictions. But HBO is terrified of piracy—so terrified, in fact, that they're willing to toss roadblocks in the path of their subscribing customers as well. Ars Technica saw some complaints on a satellite forum, and discovered that DirecTV users with older DVRs and TVs are suddenly unable to watch HBO shows, thanks to newly-activated encryption:

"No problem until today trying to watch HBO," a standard definition TV owner with an HR 20 DVR noted on Saturday. "Get message that the program is content protected. I can view every other channel except HBO. This wasn't the case last week. Something new?"

Ditto declared another poster a few hours later: "Noticed something strange this week also regarding HBO. Although my Sony is connected via HDMI I get the message that my 'set is not compatible with..... ' displayed too briefly to read in its entirety. It is displayed when changing between HBO channels. Same TV, same HR20 for nearly six years, never a problem prior to this."


"As of today, I can no longer watch HBO over HDMI to my television," another consumer disclosed. "I get an error message that says 'HDMI connection not permitted. Press SELECT for more information.' (And pressing Select does nothing.)."

Turns out the problem is HDCP encryption, a newer part of the HDMI standard that premium channels are requiring pay TV operators to implement. Ostensibly this is to stop people from obtaining high-definition copies of movies and TV shows—but of course, HDCP was cracked a while ago and this will do little or nothing to stop the dedicated (and highly organized) groups that make such copies available. Meanwhile, it forces a bunch of paying customers who were happily and habitually enjoying the content to suddenly go out and get expensive new equipment (or, quite reasonably, turn to piracy to replace what was taken from them even though they still pay for it). DirecTV suggests a workaround—switching to component video instead of HDMI—but as Ars points out, this is a pretty weak response: component video is much lower quality, and some content still won't work, because first-run movies employ selectable output control (another silly DRM restriction) to prevent analog output.

It's truly amazing that companies like HBO still pursue such strategies. There is not, and never has been, a form of DRM that effectively prevents piracy—but every single form of DRM reduces the value of the product to legitimate subscribers. It's pretty bizarre to continually punish the only people who aren't engaged in the behavior you want to stamp out.

Filed Under: drm, encryption, hdcp, hdmi, piracy
Companies: directv, hbo

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  1. icon
    AzureSky (profile), 19 Apr 2012 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re: Component vs. HDMI

    this was assumed to be true for a long time, but I have had a couple reliable sources tell me 1080p is quite doable over a proper component setup, note, i said component not composite, I have been told its "possible" to use composite to push 1080p BUT its not reliable in real world use because it requires very high grade cabling and shielding or you endup with signal noise.

    Component video is fine IF your equipment and cables are good, if not, dont bother.

    HDMI has some advantages, it can carry both digital and analog data, you dont need pricy high grade cables(we have tested this ourselves with cheap monoprice cables vs monster and other high grade cables, no diff at all...)

    the biggest problem is that not all devices seem to properly comply with HDCP standards so they will at times not work...

    a friend of mine has a brand new 56" plasma tv(beautiful unit, actually does 1920x1200 when hooked to a computer rather then 1080p) BUT his receiver dosnt see it as having HDCP....his ps3 however has no issue with it....from what we can find, hes going to have to buy a new box OR use a hacked firmware on his receiver to get around the problem....

    personally I wish they had gone with the cat5e/cat6 idea would have made custom cables easier to make...and could easily move as much or more data then HDMI can....(i have used dvi-d to cat5e converter boxes to move data to HD projectors on a few jobs, they work great, even up to 2,048 1,536 (need good quality DVI cables and proper powered converters, will not work over a computer network, MUST be END TO END direct line)

    still, Im really hoping display port catches on for PC, I like the demo's i have seen (in person) of what it can do....amazing stuff :D

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