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.