Hollywood's Piracy Fears Turn Potentially Useful Product Into A $4,000 Brick

from the the-original-tin-foil-hat-brigade dept

Hollywood’s inability to see any new technology as anything other than a piracy enabler continues to cripple potentially great products. David Pogue has a review of a “set top” box that has the potential (remember that word) to make your home movie viewing instant and seamless.

You feed it all your movies and music on disc: CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs. The Cinema One copies each disc to its 4-terabyte hard drive. 25 minutes for a DVD; two hours for a Blu-ray.

And I mean it copies everything. Every deleted scene, director’s commentary, alternate ending. Every DVD extra. And it doesn’t touch the video — there’s no compression or anything; it copies every pixel of quality that’s on the disc.

Once these movies are stored on the drive, you can call them up instantly using the remote or the iPad app.

When you hit Play on the remote, the movie begins playing instantly.

Read that again. The movie begins playing. Not the FBI warning, not the MPAA screen, not the previews, not the DVD menu — the movie itself. You cannot imagine how delightful that is compared with what we’re used to now: Downloading or streaming movies is handy, but you don’t get anything like the quality of Blu-ray, and you generally don’t get any of the bonus features. And discs give you the quality and the extras but require you to sit there staring at stupid FBI and MPAA screens that you’re not allowed to skip. The Kaleidescape box offers the best of both worlds.

This convenience of not being told you’re a thief by your purchased product comes at a price. One is the retail price, which is an astounding $4,000. The other is a tax (of sorts) borne out of Hollywood’s stupidity and paranoia.

When you want to play a Blu-ray movie off the Cinema One, you have to hunt down the original disc you own, insert it into the Cinema One’s slot, and wait for it to load. You’re not playing the disc; you’re just confirming that you own it.

But you’re also losing 80 percent of the value of having a Cinema One! What happened to “any movie in your collection, instantly”?

That’s Hollywood crippling a device to ensure the $4,000 product never lives up to its potential. This is what happens when execs see nothing in the technology but a new way to pirate movies. Instead of a seamless, instant experience, you’re back in the position of hunting for the purchased discs you already “conveniently” stored on the hard drive. For whatever reason, you don’t have to do this with regular DVDs. (Presumably because that market isn’t where the money is anymore, although at one time, that ridiculous stipluation was forced on Kaleidescape by Hollywood lawyers — and that’s when the box ran about $10,000.)

You can also purchase movies through Kaleidescape, but at this point, the selection is woefully limited. For only $2, you can purchase what amounts to a digital license to play your purchased Blu-rays without having to load the original disc, but even that is hampered by a lack of upstream licensing.

That’d be a reasonably priced solution if it were available for any Blu-ray movie you own. But it’s not. In fact, it’s available for relatively few movies: only those from Lionsgate and Warner Bros. Kaleidescape says it’s working on reaching similar deals with other movie companies, but for now, it’s only a fractional solution.

So, the studios are more than happy to cripple the device, but not so interested in providing affordable licensing of their productions. It’s certainly had time to work these details out. It’s been fighting Kaleidescape since 2004, tenanciously combating every technological advance the company made. Along the way, it forced the company to require the insertion of every disc before playing (including regular DVDs) and dragged it to court on multiple occasions to claim its “circumvention” of disc-based copyright protection was infringement (even if people were “burning” movies they owned to the drive).

Now, Hollywood has been forced to accept this device, nearly a decade since it first began its attack. The number of licensed movies available for download barely clears 2,000 titles. There may be more to come, but it seems unlikely to be fully embraced by the same studios who spent 10 years fighting it. And who’s to say that any licenses obtained won’t be rescinded in the future, punching holes in your digital collection and putting you back in the position of hunting down Blu-ray discs you stashed away after burning them to Kaleidescape’s drive? It’s not as though that sort of “you don’t really own your digital purchases” bullshit has never occurred before.

As Pogue points out, the studios’ tampering makes this product almost completely useless.

But that copy-protection business is going to kill a lot of potential sales. It’s like having a TiVo that can’t record anything on a timer, or hiring a tax preparer who hands you the blank 1040 form and a pen. It just defeats the purpose.

That’s copyright protection for you. All the promise in the world negated by fearful Hollywood execs who see pirates hiding under every new technological advance.

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: kaleidescape, mpaa

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Hollywood's Piracy Fears Turn Potentially Useful Product Into A $4,000 Brick”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment

Re: Artistic megalomania.

The only real advantage kscape ever really had was that it was a legitimate ripper. Take that away and any $300 PC can do what a $4K kscape can.

Once content is “just files”. It’s trivial to present it in user friendly ways and there are no shortage of programs on every platform to do this with.

Ninja (profile) says:

Or you can be a pirate, get everything digital AND DRM free, build a XBMC box with one hell lot of HDD space for 1/4 of that price and enjoy the titles.

I could compare the MAFIAA to a soccer team trying to score against its own mark but at this point I’d say it’s a soccer team that is actively trying to murder the players, the owner and burn its HQ down into nothing. The only thing preventing it from happening is the Government.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yep, I used to be a pirate because I was too poor to afford much. Now despite the fact that I make more than enough money I am considering returning to piracy as a matter of principal.

I no longer feel sorry for the artists… they keep signing their rights away and not making a penny they deserve their losses.

I do however try to fun every Indie thing I can that interests me. I believe in people being able to get rich off of their works, but I do not believe that Legal Conglomerate Thug middlemen should be able to as well!

scotts13 (profile) says:

You have to see the studios perspective

There’s no advantage for them in having this device exist, and the slight theoretical possibility that it could be tweaked for “piracy.” Why WOULDN’T they try to destroy it? It’s not like they have any interest in what’s convenient for, or benefits consumers.

Sort of like when a thief smashed my car window to take 35? in change – why should HE care what it cost me, he’s got the 35?.

You’ll play your movie from a disk, like your father did, and like it.


Re: You have to see the studios perspective

A device like this makes physical media more valuable. It improves the utility and user interface surrounding use of that media. It may very well encourage MORE media purchases.

Although they’re too busy thinking it’s a good idea to put unskippable ads on that media.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: You have to see the studios perspective

Ah but you see, the studios don’t like physical media, for the very simple reason that a sale is a sale, rather than digital, where a sale is not a sale, but a license.

Customer buys a DVD, they can re-sell it, they can lend it, they can watch it on different devices without hassle, any number of things, and the studio gets nothing after the original sale.

With digital on the other hand, there is no resell, there is no loaning, there is no using it on different devices, none of that is possible without giving them more money, forcing the customer to ‘buy’ the movie multiple times to get the same results as a DVD gives you.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: You have to see the studios perspective

But even from that perspective, it’s nonsense. There’s nothing on this box thats not easily obtained by other means far more cheaply, except perhaps the easy and automatic ripping of bonus features – and pirates are traditionally far less likely to download those anyway. Add to the fact that you have to have access to an original disc from somewhere, making it far less convenient than downloading and this is really just the studio being scared of their own paying customers.

They’re literally refusing the chance to make discs more valuable because people who already build dirt cheap media boxes for downloads might use them. They’re idiots.

anon says:

Re: You have to see the studios perspective

If I could afford one of these devices I would probably go out and purchase a hell of a lot more dvd’s and blu rays when on sale though, so they are losing money, in fact, they are destroying an income stream that if the device got a lot cheaper would be encouraging even pirates to purchase discs again, but then again they make it so useless it is still easier to share dvd rips with friends online.

Anonymous Coward says:


Even at a nominal cost, most NAS devices now support DNLA for local viewing and many offer applications for iPhones/Android/iPads for remote viewing. Really the only thing this does is rip DVDs and BluRays, which is easy to do and free. (I did purchase a BluRay ripper, but the developer put some nice effort into the GUI and it works well with different titles.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Stupid design decision

They could have easily bought off the shelf Blueray players with all the licensing & decoding chips and stuck those inside their player. At probably ~$20 wholesale, it would not cut into their margins much. Given that they already had to include disc player hardware, it’s probably even less than that. Just image the disc, then on playback route the stream back through the decoding chip. Yeah, you might still have to sit through the pre-roll BS, but it would have been much closer to the play on demand promise. And you might have even been able to get around that through some clever firmware (e.g. go to root menu, or whatever the command is).

Instead, since they decided to engineer the whole thing themselves, they have to license the Blueray codecs and adhere to whatever the terms are.

Either way, this is largely the fault of the entertainment industry. Their stupid rules & geo restrictions push people to piracy and then they wonder why they are loosing so many sales…

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Stupid design decision

“Just image the disc, then on playback route the stream back through the decoding chip. Yeah, you might still have to sit through the pre-roll BS, but it would have been much closer to the play on demand promise. And you might have even been able to get around that through some clever firmware (e.g. go to root menu, or whatever the command is).”

All of which would violate the license and render the product just as illegal.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Stupid design decision

It violates the license because you are, in effect, an OEM reselling the codec hardware. In order to do that, you have to have your own license, or adhere to the terms of the license the hardware was made under. Those terms specifically disallow the actions being described. I’m not sure about whether or not the stream source is covered, but things like bypassing region encoding or not honoring use restrictions (like being able to skip the piracy warning) are certainly against the license terms.

Geno0wl (profile) says:

This is exactly why I am a “pirate”.
Built my own NAS and XBMC media box to stream to for less than half the cost of this machine. Then just DL ripped versions of all the physical media and throw them on the NAS.
No disc switching, access to any device that can touch the NAS.
Why the hell would I pay more(an obscene amount more) for less features just because opening it up might enable piracy?


bshock says:

please explain

Even if Hollywood hadn’t lobotomized this device, why would anybody even want it?

If you own the media, just buy your own 4T HD and rip the media to it. There is a ridiculous amount of free software out there that does that for you, and is easy and intuitive to use.

For that matter, why even bother with the media? UseNet is your friend.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: please explain

If they’ve done work on the UI, it may be easier for the average user than some free software, many don’t want the effort if searching and many trust a prebuilt unit with warranty more than their own handywork. At a reasonable price with no silly restrictions this could be a winner for a certain market, even if more technically minded folk could do it much cheaper.

Alas, it’s dead in the water

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: please explain

“If they’ve done work on the UI, it may be easier for the average user than some free software, “

There’s a ton of extremely easy-to-use open source front ends for this.

You hit on the real explanation — convenience. But $4,000 is incredibly overpriced for this system. It should be in the $500 range at most.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: please explain

4000$ isn’t that exceptional for an “early adopter” price, really.

The problem is however, that the type of enthusiast that is willing to pays that, generally already has hacked together a vastly superior setup. If this device would have come out much earlier, when Blu rays started to become popular, it might have had a chance with these people. Yet still, the more money than brains crowd could still be a valid target audience.

quite frankly, right now the real value in this device is in highlighting the infuriating meddling of the movie studios. And that is invaluable.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Lots of comments around this point – that the Kaleidoscope costs too much.

I agree, but that is completely irrelevant. Bear in mind that early versions of successful products often cost too much, then they get economies of scale, then competitors take note of the market and build competing products, and prices normalize.

The iPhone first cost the full unsubsidized $600. It did OK. The first VCRs and DVD players were over a thousand dollars. Now they are $35ea. Laptops? $2,000 plus. Garmin Streetpilot GPS? $1,200.

That’s how it goes…unless some douchebaggery stops it cold, such as the MPAA is doing here. THEN what happens is it NEVER gets affordable, market tested, scale economies, improved, etc. And then so few customers notice or care, that John Q. Public doesn’t even know they’ve been screwed out of a good product category, even to the point of saying something like “What do I care. Darn thing costs $4k, who wants it anyway?”

Sound familiar?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Even taking into account the high cost of short product runs, this thing is incredibly overpriced. Excluding fancy injection-molded cases, you could easily piece this together with all new off-the-shelf equipment as a one-off for about $400 in hardware costs. That’s to make one, paying retail prices for the components.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“this thing is incredibly overpriced”

Doesn’t matter.

Early product runs prove a technology and attract competitors. Like expensive PCs attracted Wozniak and thousands of other assemblers. Some of those turn into businesses and sell better and cheaper products.

They’re not yet searching for customers like you or me, who can cobble together our own solution with NAS and software like Catalyst or Handbrake. They’re looking specifically for people who can’t, or don’t want to.

Early product runs start at high prices because THEY CAN. They seek rich customers, or customers that are specifically seeking the solution they provide, and then they seek to extract all the consumer surplus from these high demand customers, before lowering the price to sell to the larger mass market. It’s just basic price discrimination, and makes perfect sense when you don’t even have the ability to produce high volumes yet.

Elon Musk is doing just that with the Model S. First, a car with a high price, the next model will be cheaper and higher volume, and the third model is expected to compete with a BMW 3 series on price. I’ve been to the factory. They are barely using any of its capacity.


Re: Re: Lame excuse is still lame.

…except this is no “early version”.

You’re late to the party here. Very late. This company has been around for a long time and this is just the latest generation of their devices.

You’re trying to defend this 4K price tag but you clearly don’t realize that this 4K price tag is just the “dip your toe in the water” price. A complete system is going to be considerably more expensive.

This is an old product that’s just obscure because it’s priced for billionaires.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Lame excuse is still lame.

Listen. I don’t love the product. I don’t even know jack about it. But poking fun at the price is irrelevant. If the progress has been hobbled by the MPAA, and thus the only market the vendor could address is the Billionaire market, it just leaves me to wonder where this product might have gone if it were unhindered.

If the MPAA lawsuit against the VCR had succeeded, we still would have have had crippled functionality VCRs available to the Billionaires for thousands of dollars. And we’d have you telling us how stupid VCR makers are for their overpriced junk. Instead, Sony won, and the product underwent a common evolution.

Ten years later, this product is still $4k. Ten years after the MPAA-Sony lawsuit, VCRs were $50. See the point?

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“the only thing new this might have going for it is an easy-to-use software interface”

Oh. Is that all?

Did you really just write that? Do you want to post a retraction?

Cuz that’s all the iPhone did when it came out in 2007. And now anybody knows that “just adding easy to use software interface” can make a radical difference.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

No, sir. The Motorola Rokr (built in a partnership with Apple and Verizon) or any of some other devices, like the Nokia N95 had already married music with an 8GB smartphone. Heck, mine even had a removable memory card slot to add more music. When I worked for Korean telco SK Telecom in 2001, we had mp3 feature phones.

So, how did that work out for Nokia versus Apple, I ask?

Once again, “an easy to use software interface” makes a radical difference.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

An mp3 playing phone is not the same as the iPhone, which had a touch screen and compatibility with iTunes.

Well, compatibility with iTunes is software. I’m actually having trouble finding out if there was a touchscreen smartphone with an mp3 player before 2007 (when the iPhone was released). I think there were others that came out about the same time, but I don’t know if there were any substantially earlier. Anybody know?

I had phones that played mp3s before then but not touchscreen, and I had a touchscreen device that played music, but it wasn’t a phone.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

” I’m actually having trouble finding out if there was a touchscreen smartphone with an mp3 player before 2007.”

As I mentioned to jupiterkansas, my Nokia N95 is just one example of that. Resistive touchscreen, not capacitive.

The Windows phones of the early century also played music. PalmOS added media, and could also play tunes, making the Treo line another answer to your question. There were many.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

As I mentioned to jupiterkansas, my Nokia N95 is just one example of that.

Got it. I saw that, but it looked like it might not be a touch screen. Do you know if all the N series were touchscreen, like the N90 and N70?

The Windows phones of the early century also played music.

They weren’t all touchscreen though.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

Wow. I’m so sorry. My memory failed me, and I even had an N95 (wasn’t my daily driver, but was my travel phone). It was not a touch screen, you are correct.

So that just leaves the PalmOS phones, all the Windows mobile phones that were resistive touch and played music, as well as a number of Asian feature phones, the Motorola Rokr, etc.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

I’m arguing that the touchscreen (technology) set it apart from most phones of that time, and while iTunes compatibility is software, the iPhone’s success had to do with a lot of things including marketing and being part of an established ecosystem that people were familiar with.

And that’s not to say the software wasn’t important either. I’ve used music players besides Apple’s and the’ve all failed on the software side of things.

But since Kaliedescape does everything a computer can do at a 1/10th of the price, the only thing it has to justify that expense is a clean user interface. Even the iPhone would have failed if it cost over $2000.

Rikuo (profile) says:

And people wonder why I’m so deadset against copyright in any form? Because in order to enforce, you ultimately end up in today’s crazy world, where you deliberately retard technological progress? The price tag of this particular device is insane, but it does everything you would want in a blu-ray player. It not just plays them but stores them too in a local copy.
I can already do that. My PC has a blu-ray burner and I have about 4 times the storage space as this gadget does total, but I have heard in the past quotes from copyright thugs that no-one has a legitimate use for large hard drives. In other words, the rest of you guys can’t enjoy shiny things because my business model revolves around restricting what you can do with your shiny things backed up by government force.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Gigabyte micro SD cards can’t be that far away. A matchbox size device, with USB3 and slots for up to a dozen micro SD cards would store a lot of content. As it is used write rarely, flash write life is not critical. Just thing all you films and music in a pocketable device, easy to carry when visiting friends, and Hollywood’s nightmare.

Anonymous Coward says:

iPod 6 - Now with a built-in CD drive!

Where would Apple’s iPod be today if you couldn’t play your ripped music without also inserting the original disc into a built-in slot? Such a requirement would surely have killed the iPod, inconvenienced customers, and ultimately harmed the music industry as a whole.

Anonymous Coward says:

what is worse is Congress building into law exactly what the industries wanted, so that you apparently never own what media you’ve bought, cant break DRM but can back up your media disks, somehow, God knows how and cant share what you’ve paid hard earned cash for! this is the sort of thing that happens when lobbying at politicians who are allowed to take ‘unlimited campaign donations’ and then do anything and everything that their previous political colleague asks after changing hat and becoming the head of one of the entertainment industries!! and dont forget the bull shit reasoning of thousands of non-existing jobs being lost and no new movies being made if these industries dont get what they demand, not want, demand!! and screw the customers along the way!!

zip says:


A key issue not mentioned in the article (or so far in the comments) is Cinavia, which is a DRM embedded in the movie’s audio, that when detected in a non-original disk or ripped copy, will cause the Cinavia-enabled player to red-card the (presumably pirated) movie being played.

All Blu-ray disk players made in the last year are required to support Cinavia DRM. This includes all multi-functional BD players with streaming or file-playing abilities, and these streams and files being played are also detected and blocked.

It’s this lack of Cinavia DRM that makes a media center pc -of any kind- greatly superior to any hardware-based Blu-ray player or combo device.

zip says:

Re: Re: Cinavia

The Cinavia issue affects much more than just copied disks. Ripping does not remove Cinavia. It’s still going to be embedded in the media’s audio stream, since no one so far has found a way to remove it. For instance, every .MKV or .MP4 file ripped from a Cinavia-infected blu-ray won’t play on a PC running Cyberlink PowerDVD software, (unless it’s played at half-speed or whatever).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Cinavia

Biggest issue I’ve heard about it was streaming to a Playstation 3, since that recognizes the watermark. There are companies that can remove the watermark, though with minor audio distortions. (I do believe they just had their domain registration pulled by ICE, though it’s a Chinese company.)

zip says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Cinavia

I think DVDFab had a workaround for PS3, by re-encoding its own copy of Cinavia onto a file ripped from a Cinavia-embedded disk. Or something like that. No wonder Hollywood is out for blood.


John85851 (profile) says:


On a related note, my wife and I watched a musical from the 1940’s on DVD recently.
The disc started with a “commercial” from the MPAA saying “Piracy is stealing”. How did we get to the point where the MPAA is brainwashing people like this?

First, how is downloading or copying a movie related to hijacking ships in the ocean. The events in the movie “Captain Phillips” show piracy, and it’s not about how a crew of Somalis downloaded a movie.

Second, how do we (as TechDirt) readers spread the word that downloading movies is not “stealing” and should not be likened to stealing a car, as the “commercial” shows.

Yet when everyone watches this DVD that they purchased, they’ll be treated to an unskippable message about how downloading movies is as bad as stealing a car.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Brainwashing...

Yet when everyone watches this DVD that they purchased, they’ll be treated to an unskippable message about how downloading movies is as bad as stealing a car.

It also reminds them that they can download movies, and if Hollywood is going to treat them as thieves they might as well download their next movie if they can find it on-line.

Anonymous Coward says:

Until an uncrippled network media device becomes available that requires no disks I will continue to use a NAS with xbmc setup to stream pirated videos from a central location to any room in my house. Once you have such a brilliant setup you won’t settle for anything less.

Such a product would decrease piracy for those who have no other choice at present. Those that want quality will happily pay for that convenience although the device should be sub $600 as that is all it currently costs for such a setup.

Some of us on the other hand refuse to pay for media ever again due to the actions of the media corporations and their control techniques.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don't give a shit!

I don’t give a shit about what Hollywood has done here. Why? Because I do it anyway! All my DVD’s go via my computer’s hard drive. My computer is connected to a 50″ HDTV. And you know what? A damn YOUTUBE VIDEO from my computer often times looks better than an upscaled DVD on my bluray player. It’s as if my computer knows how to upscale stuff properly. Plus I only copy the feature plus any extras that I decide are worth watching (which, quite frankly, is almost none of them!). It plays instantly, too. How instantly? I can have a PLAYLIST of movies or TV shows and the break between “features” is about two seconds – and that’s counting the built in fade-to-black on the actual video! So screw you Hollywood. Limit new devices til the cows come home. It will hurt those businesses but it ain’t gonna hurt me! And even if it does for new releases, I already own enough discs to keep me happy for years to come!

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Heck, Youtube even has more and more 4k content, with 4x the pixels of HDTV 1080p.


Netflix is carrying some 4k streaming content, and ESPN has said they will shoot 100% of their content in 4K.

A DVD is a relic from the awful past. From scratches and slow load times, to “no skip” flags and copious advertisements put before the film. And who can forget the fun of region locking? There is a place in my heart for VHS, but I curse and dance on DVD’s grave.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...