When Is 1080p Not HD?

The word is that the new high-definition disc players are not going show HD content over a component video connection. The problem is that this is an analog connection, and there is no way to provide digital copy protection. In other words, the movie studios are afraid that you’ll capture the HD stream and burn it onto DVDs in an unlocked format so that they can be copied and played without restriction. So these players will step down the resolution to 480p over the analog connection. In order to get 1080p, you’ll need to use the HDMI connection, and it will have to have HDCP support.

Many existing HDTVs don’t have HDMI support, and some have it but are lacking support for 1080p resolution signals or HDCP, or both. So these won’t be able to show HD discs in HD.

Some observers — including myself — wonder if the movie studios will actually be able to make this stick. Already, they have backed down in Japan where there is a large installed base of HDTVs with only analog connections. An agreement has been reached where the restriction on putting HD out over analog connections will not be enforced in Japan until 2010. This could well be the camel’s nose nuzzling under the tent of copy protection — oops, I mean “digital rights management” — and some competitor is going to be willing to take a risk on increased piracy in return for keeping access to all those HDTV sets that don’t have sufficient HDMI support.