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"It hasn’t struck any deals with studios and doesn’t plan on doing so."
March 17, 2011 8:01 AM   Subscribe

New streaming entertainment service Zediva is streaming new-release movies, avoiding the waiting period you get with Netflix, Amazon or iTunes. How? Instead of converting movies to files on a hard drive, they're renting out actual DVDs being played in actual DVD players - remotely. That means if the movie you want is being watched by someone else, you're gonna have to wait. Launched in November, the company is supposed to exit its beta phase this week.
posted by jbickers (82 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm going to offer a service where a webcam over my shoulder allows you to read the book I'm reading.
posted by Babblesort at 8:05 AM on March 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


the dumb, it hurts.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:07 AM on March 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


That's some Rube Goldberg kind of nonsense there.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:07 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am continually amazed at the motion picture, television, and music(Thanks Apple!) industries' efforts to keep me from letting me pay them cash money for things that I would like to buy from them.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:10 AM on March 17, 2011 [27 favorites]


This sounds unnecessarily complicated, to say the least.
posted by afx237vi at 8:10 AM on March 17, 2011


It is definitely Goldbergian, but the fact that you're controlling an actual DVD means it has a couple of significant advantages over other streaming services: You can turn subtitles on/off, and you can activate different languages.

(Still probably too Goldbergian, but interesting, I think.)
posted by jbickers at 8:14 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Talk about a model that's not going to scale.
posted by penduluum at 8:14 AM on March 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wow this is just bizarre. I want to try it.
posted by Danila at 8:15 AM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


“It seems like a completely reasonable thing for people to do, and that’s how it started,” Mr. Princip later said of the incident.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:15 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It probably looks like crap as well.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:15 AM on March 17, 2011


This is actually also the way that most "Flash on your iPad!" apps work. You connect to a remote server that renders the flash. I think it's a clever way to handle it. And yes, it's "unnecessarily complicated", but so is getting around protection to play a DVD on Linux. Blame the complications on the movie industry, not on the people circumventing unrealistic restrictions.
posted by specialagentwebb at 8:15 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ooh, excellent, now I can get all the irritations of streaming videos combined with the forced commercials and unskippable disclaimers of a DVD.

Truly, this is the stupid future.
posted by quin at 8:17 AM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Blame the complications on the movie industry, not on the people circumventing unrealistic restrictions.

This. The roundabout technology is because the loopholes in the law don't line up straight.
posted by DU at 8:18 AM on March 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


It is definitely Goldbergian, but the fact that you're controlling an actual DVD means it has a couple of significant advantages over other streaming services: You can turn subtitles on/off, and you can activate different languages.

Again, this is where the industry is adding complexity where it doesn't need to exist from any technical standpoint.

There are container formats that include all of the goodies you get with real DVDs. If content creators were so interested they could easily use these formats and deliver directly to consumers. It wouldn't even cost them anything in licensing.
posted by odinsdream at 8:19 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm going to offer a service where I record Zediva's streaming movies onto Betamax, then take the videotapes and shoot them into space.
posted by box at 8:20 AM on March 17, 2011 [39 favorites]


Babblesort: I'm going to offer a service where a webcam over my shoulder allows you to read the book I'm reading.

I'm in as long as you enable chatting, wherein I can tell you I'm done with this page, or tell you you're reading too fast.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:22 AM on March 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


That means if the movie you want is being watched by someone else, you're gonna have to wait.

Cool. This seems like a really clever technical innovation that produces the same result as all the other "free" movie services - the only films available are the ones no one wants to watch even for free.
posted by three blind mice at 8:22 AM on March 17, 2011


I would use this solely for the subtitles and no other reason.
posted by desjardins at 8:38 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


> This is actually also the way that most "Flash on your iPad!" apps work.

Only in analogy, though. Browsers like Skyfire are playing Flash content uploaded to their servers from the original website, but there isn't the same kind of physical limitation, nor obvious degradation in quality. Digital content is digital content, and this Zediva thing really doesn't compare favorably to Skyfire
posted by Burhanistan at 8:43 AM on March 17, 2011


The irony is that it's an extremely clever end-run around the restrictions put in place by the MPAA, but that won't stop the MPAA from suing it out of existence. Would they win such a suit? Who knows. All that matters is, I bet they have a much bigger legal budget than Zediva.

Zediva, a team of five based in Santa Clara, California, says it doesn’t expect legal trouble over its service. The team says they are planning to spend millions of dollars to buy DVDs and hope that studios see the company as a valuable customer, not a potential defendant in an expensive lawsuit.

No, seriously, stop it. You're killing me.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:45 AM on March 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


If 'Zediva' was the name of a new medicine, what condition would it treat?
posted by box at 8:46 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Feeling tempermental? High-strung? Wearing a horned Viking helmet? Ask your doctor about Zediva."
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:48 AM on March 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


Zediva! That's where I'm a viking!
posted by mysterpigg at 8:51 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


The roundabout technology is because the loopholes in the law don't line up straight.

No, the roundabout technology is because someone is trying to profit from the loopholes in the law that don't line up straight. There are plenty of straight-forward technical solutions to the wait period problem, but only for personal use.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:52 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's hilarious is that the loophole they think they've found probably isn't actually a loophole. What they're doing, based on current caselaw (particularly Columbia v. Redd Horne, 749 F.2d 154 (3d Cir. 1984)) is probably still a violation of the public performance right.
See, e.g.
posted by Inkoate at 8:56 AM on March 17, 2011


If 'Zediva' was the name of a new medicine, what condition would it treat?

The uncontrollable urge to walk into your dressing room, see that you didn't have fresh fruit, and throw your phone at your assistant's head.

It has an, admittedly, limited target demographic.
posted by quin at 8:58 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is so fucking sad.

We are under the jackboot of such insane bureaucracy guided by greedy buffoons and elected officials who have no inkling of an idea of how technology works, and that's sad.

People come up with solutions like this, and that's sad.

It's all just sad. Sigh. Now I'm sad. And I'm going to lunch sad, so thanks a lot, Internet.
posted by kbanas at 8:58 AM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


So they're investing millions in hardware and basing their business model on a complex workaround that will likely be totally unnecessary in 2 years or so.

Who invests in this shit?
posted by chundo at 9:00 AM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Zediva, a team of five based in Santa Clara, California, says it doesn’t expect legal trouble over its service. The team says they are planning to spend millions of dollars to buy DVDs and hope that studios see the company as a valuable customer, not a potential defendant in an expensive lawsuit.

Given the fact that an individual could most likely be sued by MPAA for watching a DVD with their spouse, I somehow doubt they'll have much luck with this tack.
posted by odinsdream at 9:00 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like the idea of starting companies that are just elaborate "fuck you"s.
posted by Theta States at 9:03 AM on March 17, 2011 [15 favorites]


> It's all just sad. Sigh. Now I'm sad. And I'm going to lunch sad, so thanks a lot, Internet.

Don't be sad. You can always just steal it! VLC has a great subtitle interface.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:04 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is pretty ridiculous, but it's also absurd that the normal non-streaming Netflix business model involves physically shipping pieces of plastic with data recorded on them all over the place. It would be much more sensible from a technological standpoint for Netflix to simply rip all of the DVDs they have and post them online rather than using the postal service as a data distribution platform.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:14 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am continually amazed at the motion picture, television, and music(Thanks Apple!) industries' efforts to keep me from letting me pay them cash money for things that I would like to buy from them.

What's really amazing is that the reluctance stems largely from simply not being willing to do the work to determine who gets paid for what.

"Here's some money."
"No, thanks."
"Wha...? Why not?"
"Well, I don't really know what to charge you for it. I might not charge you enough."
"Yes, but it's free money. Take it. Tomorrow, you can charge me more, if you want."
"Nahh. And besides, if you give me money, I'm just going to have to pay a portion of it to someone else. And that's, like, rilly hard."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:15 AM on March 17, 2011 [13 favorites]


feels like dialup bbs service...
posted by tomswift at 9:17 AM on March 17, 2011


I think I'd better characterize "it as it feels like using dialup bbs service today."
posted by quin at 9:25 AM on March 17, 2011


> It would be much more sensible from a technological standpoint for Netflix to simply rip all of the DVDs they have and post them online rather than using the postal service as a data distribution platform.

Yeah, but millions of people are just using their DVD players hooked up to dumb TVs, and their computers aren't a satisfactory way for them to watch movies. I have a nice HTPC setup, but I'm still in the minority. When this shifts then they will stop shipping physical media.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:26 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wasn't this tried with MP3s already? Only people would rip their own CDs, upload them to a server for their own personal use ONLY, and yet it was still deemed illegal?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:35 AM on March 17, 2011


Hooray for eccentricities of copyright law!
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 9:37 AM on March 17, 2011


Wasn't this tried with MP3s already? Only people would rip their own CDs, upload them to a server for their own personal use ONLY, and yet it was still deemed illegal?

Sort of. The way my.mp3.com worked is that you popped the CD in the drive, the software scanned it to verify what album it was, and then you could download mp3 versions from mp3.com. But yes, they got sued and lost.
posted by jedicus at 9:43 AM on March 17, 2011


Wasn't this tried with MP3s already? Only people would rip their own CDs, upload them to a server for their own personal use ONLY, and yet it was still deemed illegal?

You may be referring to "My MP3.com." The issue there is that you wouldn't actually upload your tracks -- instead, you would verify that you had a physical disk, and MP3.com would stream you the tracks that appeared on that disk.

The record companies balked at that idea, because it meant that MP3.com was still ripping tracks and serving them up commercially, even if the recipient was a proven owner of an original disk. Plus, in theory, you could spoof the registration process, although MP3.com claimed it was as bomb-proof as you anyone could get at the time.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:44 AM on March 17, 2011


jinx!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:44 AM on March 17, 2011


Wasn't this tried with MP3s already? Only people would rip their own CDs, upload them to a server for their own personal use ONLY, and yet it was still deemed illegal?

Sounds like Winamp Locker to me.
posted by Servo5678 at 9:46 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to imagine how much energy is wasted by spinning those DVDs over and over. That's just sick.
posted by gurple at 9:50 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


You may be referring to "My MP3.com." The issue there is that you wouldn't actually upload your tracks -- instead, you would verify that you had a physical disk, and MP3.com would stream you the tracks that appeared on that disk.

I found out the hard way that they would only serve up the clean version of songs, even if you had the dirty version. That was annoying.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:53 AM on March 17, 2011


I'm trying to imagine how much energy is wasted by spinning those DVDs over and over. That's just sick.

First, the same energy would be used spinning the disc at home. Second, streaming video means spinning a hard drive, so it's a question of how much more energy the DVD player uses than, say, a Netflix server.

I wonder how the discs get cued up? Does someone go and physically place the disc in the player or is there a complicated automated setup? Maybe they're using some of those multi-hundred disc DVD changers. Or maybe they're using one dedicated player per disc? That would be kind of wild.
posted by jedicus at 9:56 AM on March 17, 2011


That's some Rube Goldberg kind of nonsense there.

If there exists a Rube Goldberg device whose function concludes with a big middle finger getting extended in the direction of the mendacious people buying legislation to prop up an antiquated business model then to that I say, sir, turn that crank as hard as you can.
posted by mhoye at 9:58 AM on March 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'd like to think that they bought thousands of cheap old DVD players at flea markets and WalMart loss leader specials.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:02 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would be kind of cool if they could do this with first run movies, get a theatre, set up a webcam and charge say 200 people to watch it, let people with mics stream audio so you can hear everyone else laughing, cheering, eating popcorn, talking on cell phones, babies crying. It would be just like going to the theatre!
posted by Ad hominem at 10:03 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


> It would be just like going to the theatre!

Or getting the latest CAM torrent from Russia.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:12 AM on March 17, 2011


I wonder how the discs get cued up? Does someone go and physically place the disc in the player or is there a complicated automated setup? Maybe they're using some of those multi-hundred disc DVD changers. Or maybe they're using one dedicated player per disc?

The most sensible setup would probably be to use computers with DVD drives rather than actual standalone DVD players, especially since according to the Wired article they have a rather convoluted system to skip through chapters and whatnot. That way they could just hook up a ton of DVD drives to a server with the DVDs preloaded in each drive, and use software on the server to read the DVD from the drive, handle automated control, and stream the video and audio over the internet. I disagree with the article's contention that the automated DVD navigation proves they are using real DVDs though, they could easily rip the full contents and store it as a virtual drive rather than having physical drives.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:24 AM on March 17, 2011


I wonder how the discs get cued up? Does someone go and physically place the disc in the player or is there a complicated automated setup? Maybe they're using some of those multi-hundred disc DVD changers. Or maybe they're using one dedicated player per disc? That would be kind of wild.

From the FAQ:

"When you rent a movie on Zediva, you are renting both a DVD and DVD Player in our data center. During the period of the rental, the DVD and the DVD Player can only be used by you."

So I'm picturing thousands of the smallest, cheapest DVD players they could source, each of which permanently holds a single movie. When someone rents that movie, the software connects the user with that player.
posted by jbickers at 10:26 AM on March 17, 2011


I disagree with the article's contention that the automated DVD navigation proves they are using real DVDs though, they could easily rip the full contents and store it as a virtual drive rather than having physical drives.

That's what I was thinking. I'd rip all the dvds to a server and mount them as virtual drives. In the front of the building I'd keep a rube-goldberg set up with robot arms switching dvd's and lots of led's and shit for the prosecution to look at when the MPAA inevitably sues.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:27 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obligatory Onion link.

yeah it's not quite on the money, but it's what I envision when you click "play" on the DVD remote software...
posted by Xoebe at 10:29 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder how the discs get cued up? Does someone go and physically place the disc in the player or is there a complicated automated setup? Maybe they're using some of those multi-hundred disc DVD changers. Or maybe they're using one dedicated player per disc? That would be kind of wild.

I believe the movies are rendered frame-by-frame by a little bird with a chisel.
posted by The Tensor at 10:30 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Zediva’s Fast Failure
posted by Burhanistan at 10:33 AM on March 17, 2011


Is there an automated system to remove the DVD and blow on it to get rid of the dust? If not, will they have to hire people to do it? Will they be able to resist the temptation to call it a blow job?

No, I'm sorry, this is all far too silly.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:01 AM on March 17, 2011


Reminds me of those awkward in-between species, like a proto-bird that's too heavy to fly or a fish with both gills and lungs. Paleontologists will dig it up in a few million years and have a good laugh at how stupid it was.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:20 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Am I the only person who thought this had to be an Onion link?
posted by tommasz at 11:25 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can always just steal it!

And just like regular theft, when you steal a movie from the Internet you deprive millions and millions of potential viewers from the ability to watch it for themselves. Or you don't, and there's a better word.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:27 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


from the ability. I really do know Enligsh very gooder.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:29 AM on March 17, 2011


it's also absurd that the normal non-streaming Netflix business model involves physically shipping pieces of plastic with data recorded on them all over the place

Actually, the bandwidth of a sneakernet like USPS is pretty fucking huge; it's not as absurd as it seems. Of course, the latency sucks.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:31 AM on March 17, 2011


Fine, fine. You can always "illegally download" it. Whether or not you want to then continue seeding it is another question.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:31 AM on March 17, 2011


So it's sort of like an EditDroid in reverse. Sort of.
posted by Relay at 11:32 AM on March 17, 2011


I'd like to think that they bought thousands of cheap old DVD players at flea markets and WalMart loss leader specials.

I like to think that they're all hooked up in a gigantic, cavernous, poorly-lit warehouse somewhere, with one harried, impossible ancient custodian rushing about swapping discs between players while Yakety Sax plays over loudspeakers twenty-four hours a day.
posted by EarBucket at 11:46 AM on March 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


Zediva is really missing out on adding value to this service. They should hire former video store employees to be your movie companion and provide commentary throughout the film.
posted by perhapses at 11:48 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ima do this with Viewmaster and make a jillion dollars!
posted by Mister_A at 11:53 AM on March 17, 2011


Also, this has to be Yes Men-style satire, right? This can't possibly be an actual business model.
posted by EarBucket at 11:54 AM on March 17, 2011


Is the website going to have a button which has an icon that looks like a little pair of pants whose function when pressed is to alert the guy at the other end that the DVD is skipping so he should eject it and clean the gunk off it by rubbing it on his pants?
posted by digsrus at 12:01 PM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I get the feeling they probably have a bunch of women frozen in the Mad Men era frantically hooking up A/V cables from thousands of DVD players to ports for each user in a switchboard room, complete with Cold War era hardware.

With that guy from Fight Club occasionally splicing in some disturbing frames.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:01 PM on March 17, 2011


Can you pause it to go pee?
posted by Mister_A at 12:07 PM on March 17, 2011


If this is true they sure have a lot of movies playing right now, which means they have tapped some kind of market. Which means money. Cha-ching! Why not? If it works.
posted by Rashomon at 12:14 PM on March 17, 2011


They should hire former video store employees to be your movie companion and provide commentary throughout the film.

As a former video store employee I will happily make excuses for why all our tapes are unwatchable and I will have no problem telling people who want a new release we are out of "I'll check in the back for you", then going outside to smoke without even looking.

By the way, Bad Liutenant is a great film to watch with your grandma who is visiting for the holidays.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:41 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have to see a picture of this datacenter because this sounds insane.

The only way I can imagine it is like BackBlaze's "Petabytes on a budget" boxes that they custom built.
posted by wcfields at 12:48 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Maybe they're using some of those multi-hundred disc DVD changers.

I once went to a guy's house who had a couple dozen of these stacked up against a wall in his living room. He had them all full of DVDs so he could watch any movie he wanted at any time.

Because I was there as the result of asking a favor of his wife (advice on an art business) I resisted the urge to mention that I thought I could probably get all of those movies on a couple of terabyte drives.
posted by mmrtnt at 2:15 PM on March 17, 2011


It's like a business idea you might have seen on Max Headroom.
posted by adipocere at 2:33 PM on March 17, 2011


Believe it or not this is service is using a fairly well-known exception. At least one major digital music purveyor I know used to rip CDs to files and play back files ... got sued ... and dealt with it by installing a farm of CD players for direct playback of disks.

Copyright law in the US is quite defensive of one-audience-member-at-a-time re-use of physical media legitimately acquired. Hence libraries and brick-and-mortar video stores owing no sync fees, mechanical or performance royalties. (Some video rental outfits have deals revenue sharing deals with studios in order to obtain disks inexpensively, but those deals aren't required by law.)
posted by MattD at 2:47 PM on March 17, 2011


I took Copyright in law school a few years back, and one of the questions on the exam asked about a hypothetical business with a very, very similar business model. I took that class pass/fail, though, so who knows what the answer was.
posted by soonertbone at 5:32 PM on March 17, 2011


Actually, the bandwidth of a sneakernet like USPS is pretty fucking huge; it's not as absurd as it seems. Of course, the latency sucks.

My first boss (before the internet was fast) had a favorite saying: "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of backup tapes."
posted by chundo at 6:25 PM on March 17, 2011


chundo: The internet still isn't that fast.
posted by odinsdream at 8:00 PM on March 17, 2011


I took Copyright in law school a few years back, and one of the questions on the exam asked about a hypothetical business with a very, very similar business model. I took that class pass/fail, though, so who knows what the answer was.

Wait, law school lets you take pass/fail classes?
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:17 AM on March 18, 2011


> Wait, law school lets you take pass/fail classes?

Hey, why not? Trial cases are usually guilty/not guilty...
posted by Burhanistan at 8:18 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


In news that might surprise a small child who has spent their entire life in a cave, the MPAA has filed suit against Zediva.
posted by box at 7:15 PM on April 4, 2011


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