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.