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Comment: Kaleidescape’s decade-long legal battle

At first glance, the deal struck between Kaleidescape and the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) looks very one-sided: Kaleidescape has withdrawn its appeal against the last judgement that went against it, and has agreed to obey, from 30 November this year, the injunction to stop it from selling systems that play DVD content without the disc present. The DVD CCA appears not to have given any ground.

So why has Kaleidescape done this?

The key point is that the world has changed in the 10 years that this case has been rumbling on. And as the market has moved from DVD to Blu-ray to downloads, Kaleidescape’s offering has progressed with it. Its Blu-ray systems have always required the disc to be present (either in the player itself or in a connected ‘vault’), so the lawsuit has increasingly become a legacy issue.

It has always struck me as ironic that so much time and effort has been expended by the anti-piracy brigade going after a system aimed at wealthy residential customers. You don’t buy a Kaleidescape system to undertake copyright theft; you buy one as a convenient way of storing, cataloguing and playing back your substantial media library. It’s true that once a Kaleidescape customer had stored all their DVD content onto their home server, they were free to share or sell their content; but surely the DVD CCA had bigger fish to fry?

Although it never got the verdict it originally wanted, this is an outcome for which Kaleidescape has had a long time to prepare. And time has very much been on its side: it would have suffered a severe blow if it had had to withdraw or even modify its DVD-based systems 10 years ago (which, remember, was before Blu-ray emerged as the standard for high-definition media).

I reckon that Kaleidescape took a judgement call that, rather than having the lawsuit carrying on in the background, it was better to draw this affair to a conclusion and move on. The company was only founded in 2003, so the case has been an issue almost all of its lifetime; the management must surely feel like a weight has been lifted off its shoulders. The company will continue to service existing DVD-based equipment, protecting its legacy customers, but the future lies elsewhere.

Having said all that, I would be very interested to know the confidential terms of the settlement…