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Windows Vista, HDCP and Digital Rights Management

Windows Vista, HDCP and Digital Rights Management - PCSTATS
Abstract: Microsoft intends to support HD DVD and video on all its current operating systems and is building in Output Content Protection Management into Vista.
Filed under: Operating System Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Microsoft Oct 21 2005   M. Dowler  
Home > Reviews > Operating System > Microsoft Vista

Output Content Protection Management

The features of the OCPM suite are as follows:

The Windows Vista PMP (Protected Media Path) and PE (Protected Environment)

The PMP is Microsoft's assurance to content providers that their 'premium' content will be safe from illegal duplication when played on Windows Vista. The basic building block for this is the Vista PE (Protected Environment). The Vista PE is a system state that allows a Windows Vista computer to play what Microsoft refers to as 'premium content'.

The PE is built on certified hardware using certified drivers, and can be invalidated by the presence of 'un-trusted' software, drivers or hardware. What constitutes unsafe software will likely be decided by Microsoft and concerned interests like the RIAA and movie industries.

The Microsoft Vista operating system will check its hardware and drivers upon startup to establish that all components meet with current Protected Environment requirements. It will then periodically re-check the system state as protected media is played, to ensure that nothing has changed.

The introduction of invalid software, hardware or drivers will either be blocked by the PE or, more likely, cause the PE to be removed. This will disable or reduce the quality of protected media playback, but will have no other effect on the computer's operations.

Let's take a look at the four components which make up the OCMP suite and the Vista Protected Environment. Note that of these, only the first two, PVP-OPM and PVP-UAB are intended to be fully implemented in Microsoft Vista upon release.

The Protected Standards Emerge

Protected Video Path - PVP-OPM- Output Protection Management is the main feature of the OCPM suite and the one that has drawn the most negative attention so far. It provides Windows Vista with the ability to disable DVI/HDMI and TV-outputs unless they are certified for HDCP and Macrovision/CGMS-A respectively. This is intended to ensure that it is not possible to capture an unencrypted video signal from these ports. Support for PVP-OPM also mandates that video card VGA output also include a 'constrictor' feature to downsample HD video content if HDCP support is not present in the attached monitor.

A series of identifying checks will be performed on the drivers and the hardware at startup to verify that they are approved to operate under PVP-OPM. This establishes a 'safe state' for protected content to be played.

If this state is not reached, attempts to play protected media over DVI or TV-output will result in either failure or a reduced quality image.

Interestingly, HDCP cannot be enabled on component outputs. This has implications that reach a lot further than the scope of this article, but for the purposes of PVP-OPM, component outputs will always be either disabled or have their signals constricted. This is sure to displease owners of current generation ATI and nVidia video cards which feature component outputs for HD TV watching. If HDCP takes off, the death of component outputs (already in the cards because of DVI) will be hastened, especially in the computer market.

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Contents of Article: Microsoft Vista
 Pg 1.  Windows Vista, HDCP and Digital Rights Management
 Pg 2.  — Output Content Protection Management
 Pg 3.  PVP-UAB and PUMA
 Pg 4.  PAP and HDMI Compliance

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