Do I Need Encryption For My DCP?

Encryption on a DCP has both pros and cons

One of the decisions to make when creating a new DCP master is whether to encrypt the movie.

A big advantage of the Digital Cinema Print format is their support for strong AES encryption. This is the same technology often used to secure financial and government data. A theatre can only read an encrypted package if they also have a special “key” to unlock it. These KDMs (or Key Delivery Messages) can be e-mailed to theatres. Each KDM only works for a specific theatre, at a specific date and time.

Encryption provides extra protection to filmmakers, but there’s also some downsides as well:


  • You can not play an encrypted DCP’s without a matching KDM “key”.
  • You can’t share or reuse a KDM – they only work for specific theatres, on specific dates and times.
  • Someone who steals or finds a lost DCP can’t view the contents.
  • No one can edit an encrypted DCP without a special type of KDM called a DKDM (“Distribution Key Delivery Message”).


  • Only some facilities can create KDMs. Some labs will create KDMs but won’t manage communication with theaters.
  • Every booking of the film requires a new KDM.
  • There are additional costs involved in encryption and KDM creation.
  • Encryption increases complexity for cinemas. Certain issues with theater equipment can cause screenings to fail.
  • Some festivals will not accept encrypted DCPs for logistics reasons.
  • Filmmakers can not edit their encrypted DCPs without a DKDM.
  • Many labs charge unusually high fees for DKDMs.
  • If someone loses the master encryption information, all copies of a DCP will have to be replaced.
  • Encryption issues often arise close to screening times and at odd hours. Most theatres load and test DCP’s late at night.

Piracy Prevention

An important point is that DCP encryption protects theatres from illegally showing films. It also prevents someone from viewing a lost or stolen DCP. It does not prevent audience piracy. The most common sources of piracy are “screener” copies of films and recording the screen with a video camera. DCP encryption does not protect against either of those cases.

To Encrypt or Not?

At the end of the day, every film will have unique challenges and requirements. We are unaware of any case of piracy from an unencrypted DCP, but there is no question Encrypted copies are more secure. As well, some distribution contracts require encrypted DCPs.

If you have questions about your specific project and encryption – drop us a line. offers a full range of encryption and KDM management services. Contact us to see if we can help you with your DCP needs, encrypted or not!

Do you have questions about the confusing world of Digital Cinema? Don’t worry Ask The DCP Master is here to help. Check out our most common questions, or ask your own.

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