The much-discussed Analog Sunset provision put forth by the Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator (AACS LA) took effect January 1, 2011.
In talking about the upcoming analog sunset, it’s best to make clear what it is not: The analog sunset is not going to cause devices — like your TV — with analog outputs to suddenly stop working, nor will it necessarily prevent their ability to play back high-definition content.
Instead, the provisions advanced by the AACS LA in the AACS Adopter Agreement stipulate that after December 31, 2010, manufacturers can no longer make new Blu-ray players that have high-definition (HD) component outputs. The final “set” in this particular sunset will occur in December 2013. After that time, Blu-ray players that use analog outputs to play AACS-protected content cannot be made or sold. Here is the language taken directly from the AACS Adopter Agreement published in June 2009:
22.214.171.124 Analog Sunset – 2010.
With the exception of Existing Models, any Licensed Player manufactured after December 31, 2010 shall limit analog video outputs for Decrypted AACS Content to SD Interlace Modes only. Existing Models may be manufactured and sold by Adopter up until December 31, 2011.
Personal computers with analog video outputs and Blu-ray playback software created after 2010 would be limited to standard definition (SD) resolution when running Blu-ray discs. However, that same video output is still capable of delivering its full resolution with any other medium.
Bear in mind that this analog sunset affects Blu-ray players (both standalone and within PCs) only. Why? Because only those who produce Blu-ray discs have adopted the AACS for the purposes of digital rights management.
So if you already have or intend to purchase a Blu-ray player with analog outputs capable of HD resolution, you’re good, right? Not necessarily.
Digital-Only Tokens and Image Constraint Tokens
The analog sunset also has provisions with regard to Blu-ray discs that enable manufacturers to protect their digital content. They can enforce playback limitations via a Digital Only Token (DOT) and Image Constraint Token (ICT). Before going any further, it’s important to note that the language of the AACS Adopter Agreement does not require manufacturers to include these tokens.
An ICT, which can be added to Blu-ray discs after December 31, 2010, would constrain resolution via analog playback to 960 pixels by 540 pixels. A DOT prevents playback via analog outputs but can only be used in Blu-ray discs that are for sale within six weeks of the movie’s initial theatrical release. Furthermore, the content provider deploying the DOT must make a non-DOT version available within six months of the title’s theatrical release. In either case, the use of a DOT and/or ICT must be clearly marked on the Blu-ray disc’s packaging.