Region-coding encourages piracy

Feeling guilty about regularly acquiring her TV and movies through other means, a friend of mine recently ordered some blu-ray movies from Amazon. When they arrived in Australia she discovered that some of them are blocked from playing here. There’s nothing wrong with her equipment: it’s just that the publishers have deliberately crippled their discs so that if someone in Australia tries to play them, they will not work.

Yes, this sort of crap didn’t just die with DVDs – it’s still going with the new format. And why? Hollywood movie studios don’t care that parallel importing is quite legal in Australia. They don’t care that customers are paying good money for the products in question, wherever they live. They don’t care that it’s unjust and corrupt to charge people more in one market for less content, and punish them for avoiding such discrimination.

Or there would be no such thing as region-coding.

A majority of blu-ray discs are not region coded at all. Those studios have realised that punishing your customers for purchasing something legally will not result in them coming back for more, at all. It will turn them to piracy.

But some studios – such as Disney and Lions Gate – are still stupid and greedy enough to think that they should arbitrarily prevent customers from viewing their purchases because of where they’re unfortunate enough to live. They want to protect the distributors’ ability to exploit their monopoly in our region to rip off Australian consumers – even though the government has made a point of refusing to grant such an absolute monopoly. And the way they want to do that is by crippling their own products and wasting customers’ money.

My friend won’t be buying a second edition of those movies that don’t work here. She will be selling them on, shudder, Ebay, and then getting them another way that doesn’t involve giving the studio in question a cent. And, once she figures out how to get that high-definition content on her television without paying for it (or at least, without paying the studio for it), I suspect she’ll be considerably more likely to do it again in the future. Once she’s taken the steps to figure out how to get what she paid for this time, what are the odds that she’ll do it again? They will not just have screwed themselves out of this particular sale (once she’s got rid of her purchased copy), but will have screwed themselves out of future sales.

And, really, it’s hard to feel too sorry for them.

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13 responses to “Region-coding encourages piracy

  1. What exactly do they have against buying DVDs from different regions?

  2. It lessens the “screwing Australians over” value of the local distribution rights.

    Which, of course, is precisely the sort of copyright monopoly the government should, in the interests of its citizens, utterly refuse to enforce. It should make mod chips with the purpose of getting around region coding entirely lawful to sell and own.

  3. You know, I agree with the point you’re making here, no arguments at all.

    My question is your “friend” – did they check when purchasing the movies if there was any region coding attached?

    If Amazon are flogging them without mentioning coding, then boo to them.

  4. She tells me that now she’s gone back and checked there was a warning in the fine print – but it was in the very fine print, didn’t make it clear which titles were the problem, and she’d been advised that US blu-ray content worked here anyway, because most of it does. All the discs she ordered were US region, and all but two worked fine.

    But, yes, it’s her fault she wasn’t cynical enough in her dealing with the studios, and forgot to check if they were going to screw her over. Technically she’s got no come-back against Amazon; she’s stuck with them.

    Nonetheless, she paid good money for the discs, and there’s no excuse for the region-coding existing in the first place. You shouldn’t have to check the fine print to see if the company you’re buying something on has crippled the product for you because of where you live.

  5. Yup, region coding sucks. Here’s hoping that region free bluray players aren’t too far away.

    Until then, here’s a couple of helpful things – first, blu-ray.com will let you know if a title is region locked or not. Second, amazon.co.uk ! We’re in the same region as the UK this time.

    I want to know which idiot thought a full restoration of Breaker Morant in bluray would be a smash hit locked to Region A and give them ONE! RIGHT UP THE BRACKET.

  6. Region coding is about as welcome as a yellow-bellied black snake at a barbecue.

  7. Yes, well, biting the hand that feeds is a common way to go. Maybe one day enlightenment will strike.

  8. The stupid thing is they not only lock the BluRay region – they lock the region for DVDs you play on the equipment as well.

    We need to pester the ACCC.

  9. It’s pretty easy to get around region coding on DVDs.

    On the PC you can use software like Anydvd.

    You can unlock players using codes from the web although this depends on the make and model. http://www.videohelp.com/dvdhacks has a bunch of codes…worked fine on my LG.

    The cheap Chinese DVD players you can buy at Coles and Woolworths are usually set to Region 0 and cost around $50 or less. No frills, but plays my Buffy S1 region 1 fine.

  10. Yeah, region-coding on DVDs is largely a thing of the past. I say “largely”, because the all-in-one systems like PS3s and Xbox 360s still enforce the idiotic DVD region coding.

    With blu-ray, region-free players are still hard to find.

  11. This whole issue really pisses me off something fierce. Warners haven’t seen fit to release Season 5 of “The Wire” in region 4 yet, even though it’s been available in every other territory for over a year. I got my “copy” from a friend who knows a thing or two about, er, downloading things.

    We haven’t seen Simon’s mini-series “Generation Kill” here yet or his 2001 mini-series “The Corner” either. Compare and contrast the Region 4 content of “The West Wing” to the content of Regions 1 & 2 – Region 4: no extras. Regions 1 & 2, hours upon hours of them. There’s a double disc special edition of “Network” available in Region 1, bare bones disc only for us. And so on and so on.

    I recently unlocked my DVD player using a hack from the site Ginnos mentioned because I’d had a fucking gutful. I’m lifting my self-imposed 2 year embargo on using my credit card and I’m buying these things from the States.

    Up yours, Warner Home Video Australia. If you don’t make this stuff available locally, you lose any profit you may have potentially made.

    Also, memo to Australian publishers – I’m buying the hardback of James Ellroy’s “Blood’s A Rover” for US$20. I’m fucked if I’ll fork over fifty bucks for it locally.

    Dickheads.

    Rant over.

  12. Everybody hates region coding. It is totally unjustified and contemptuous of the consumer.

    Recently, I discovered that a Region Whatever DVD (I haven’t yet had a problem with Blu Ray) wouldn’t play on my PS3 – I couldn’t believe it!

  13. Jeremy
    This happened to me when I bought my first DVD player, I bought a DVD at Readings which was region coded. I found out that DVD players can have their region coding can be set to “all” and that it is perfectly legal to do that. Even the makers of Games Boxes can’t stop you either rechiping or resetting the “code” you should have a little search. Me I went back to Myers and they gave me a printed sheet on how to reset the DVD player.
    That said it’s not just Games Boxes that are region coded, most DVD-Blu ray drives in PCs are region coded and Apple are just as bad.

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