posted by Thom Holwerda on Sat 20th Feb 2010 00:40 UTC
IconSigh. So, we have the music industry whose DRM schemes and other anti-piracy measures have thoroughly failed, and are only hindering consumers who stick to the letter of the law. Now we have Hollywood who's going to do it all over again: the AACS LA is busy killing off component video - even for existing, currently-owned equipment.

As most of you will know, HDMI is awesome. It carries both HD video and digital audio over a single cable, has a relatively sane connector, and has become the standard on just about any video device, ranging from TVs to DVD players. Sadly, with the coming of Blu-ray, coupled with HDMI, component video will be killed off.

Blu-ray carries an encryption scheme called Advanced Access Content System, which is a form of DRM to restrict access to and copying of content on Blu-ray video (or HD-DVD in the past). It is managed by the AACS LA, which has the most delightfully entertaining description on its website:

The Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator is a cross-industry effort that develops, promotes and licenses technologies designed to enhance digital entertainment experiences. This technology will facilitate the ability to offer exciting, new, flexible entertainment experiences for consumers to enjoy in stand-alone, networked home and portable device environments.

Anyway, the AACS LA is quite busy plugging the "analog hole"; you can copy content off Blu-ray discs using, for instance, the (analog) component video output on your Blu-ray player. However, after December 31 2010, manufacturers are no longer allowed to introduce new Blu-ray players with component video outputs capable of HD output; they must limit those outputs to SD (480i or 576i). Existing models may continue to be sold until the end of 2013.

This sucks enough already, but you could argue that at least you'll be able to prepare yourself by buying a capable player before the deadline, and then, you won't be affected. Wrong. Even existing Blu-ray players, even the one you may have sitting underneath your TV right now, will be affected, thanks to a lovely little piece of technology.

After January 1, 2011, the producers of Blu-ray disks will be able to include an "Image Constraint Token" with any Blu-ray disk which will disable HD over component video, limiting it to a 480i/576i resolution - even though your player is perfectly capable, and bought well before the cut-off date. They want to ensure that HD content only runs through HDMI.

In their provisions, the AACS LA actually refers to all this as the "Analog Sunset".

What makes this so much more incredibly frustrating than it already sounds is that this won't prevent copying of Blu-ray discs in any possible way, since AACS has already been cracked wide open long ago, and has been spread across the internet. In other words, this nonsense only affects normal consumers, who will see that their expensive Blu-ray players, connected over component video (contrary to popular belief, HDMI doesn't have to be better than component), will suddenly start playing SD content. It's doubly frustrating for countries like my own, where personal backups are perfectly legal.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: content providers are stupid ignorant idiots.

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