Only big companies’ PCs will play high-def DVDs

PCs with expensive video-cards won’t be able to play high-definition DVDs unless they’re built by big companies like Dell and Sony. PCs you build or upgrade yourself with “HDCP”-compatible high-end video cards will be locked out of high-def DVD playback by the copy-restriction system on the discs.

HDCP is a system for crippling PCs so that they are incapable of copying some digital files. It is overseen by a licensing authority that controls whose HDCP implementations can play back files that are locked with its restrictions.

The world’s supermajority of “high-definition” displays are connected to PCs, and many PC owners have attempted to future-proof their investment in this equipment by buying video-cards that advertise HDCP compatibility.

However, true HDCP compatibility is controlled by an inter-industry consortium of giant CE companies and Hollywood studios, and these companies have ruled that merely buying a HDCP-compatible graphics card is insufficient for gaining access to HDCP-locked video. Only systems designed from the ground up by OEMs (such as themselves) will be able to gain access to these videos.

We’ve been able to confirm that none of the Built-by-ATI Radeons support HDCP. If you’ve just spent $1000 on a pair of Radeon X1900 XT graphics cards expecting to be able to playback HD-DVD or Blu-Ray movies at 1920×1080 resolution in the future, you’ve just wasted your money.

NVIDIA, being a GPU manufacturer was unable to discuss the plans of board manufacturers. We contacted all six of NVIDIA’s Tier-1 board partners. None of the GeForce 6 or 7 video cards available on the market, including the most recently released GeForce 7800GS, have HDCP support. So if you just spent $1500 on a pair of 7800GTX 512MB GPUs expecting to be able to play 1920×1080 HD-DVD or Blu-Ray movies in the future, you’ve just wasted your money.

Tech companies don’t really care about stopping you from making copies. They can’t sell more units by advertising that their cards are crippled with DRM. The only reason for a tech company to play the DRM game is to lock out competitors who don’t play it as well as they do. We’ve seen that in the lawsuit against Kaleidascape, a company that makes DVD jukeboxes — the tech companies that sit on the licensing board for DVDs don’t want an upstart offering a better product than they have.

The only good news here is that this will spur unauthorized P2P systems into developing the capability of sharing high-definition video more reliably. After all, you may not be able to play Matrix Impossible 2000 at high rez on your PC if you buy the DVD, but you’ll sure be able to do so if you download it instead.

Way to fight piracy, guys. Link (via /.)