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Regulator Challenges DVD Zoning 201

Posted by michael
from the my-name-is-inigo-montoya dept.
tahpot writes "The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) is about to challenge the DVD regional zoning system. The ACCC claim that the the system may breach the Australian Trade Practices Act. The ACCC claim that the zoning system prevents small film companies from distributing their movies around the world, with their sales generally too small to justify catering for region four. This reduces competition in the advantage of US studios." They've been thinking about this challenge for a while. Who knows if anything will come of it, but it can hardly hurt.
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Regulator Challenges DVD Zoning

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Regional codes are entirely optional for the maker of a disc. Discs without region locks will play on any player in any country."

    - From the DVD FAQ [dvddemystified.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    > The story doesn't even mention region-free DVDs. The story's author seems to be as clueless as you.

    Nope. The problem pointed by the article is not the distribution of australian movie.

    It is the artificial scarcity of zone 4 movies. Little non-australian studio will not release zone 4 DVDs, and australian consumer is prohibited of buying its DVDs from europe or US.

    The sole avalaible DVDs are either australian DVDs, big hollywood productions and zone free DVDs. Choice of australian consumer is 6 or 7 times smaller than choice of US consumer. DVDs prices are 20% higher.

    You should change your name to clueless_spork.

    Cheers,

    --fred
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Europe (except France) later adopted a different and somewhere better system

    France adopted SECAM, which is similar to PAL but uses Frequency Modulation rather than Amplitude Modulation for the color signal.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    As long as you use a powerful enough lens, even
    pornography made with extrememly small-anatomy

    actors (France, Vietnam, China, Japan, Finland,

    etc.) look fine on the screen.

    The little guys aren't really left out.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The problem was the new chroma harmonics caused audio distortion in old BW tv sets and since
    you couldn't change old BW tv sets, so they had to change the chroma harmonics...

    The prototype proposal was designed to have 227.5 cycles/line, and they carefully bandlimited the
    I/Q modulation to be lopsized to direct most of the energy away from the audio, but it turned
    out there was still too much interference between audio at 4.5MHz and chroma harmonics.

    Panic ensued... The "quick" fix was to slightly shift the chroma subcarrier frequency so that
    the 4.5MHz audio fit between the chroma harmonics. Since tvs have phase locked loops,
    the old tv sets would still sync to the "tweaked" line rate. This was deemed "compatible" color tv.

    Since there were always 525 lines, the frame rate slightly shifted to 29.97 from 30 (or 59.94
    from 60 fields/sec)

    And now you know the rest of the story...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There are region free DVDs. In fact it costs the producers of films more to have there work encoded for region & macrovision.
  • What's so sad about the massive politicized anti-region-encoding movement, is that VHS tapes are also "region encoded", in that there are at least two entirely incompatible standards for encoding the video signal (NTSC and PAL) which are used throughout the world

    Two responses:

    (1) All VHS players available in Australia except for the very cheapest and nastiest can play back both PAL and NTSC. Compared to the situation where, admittedly, many DVD players can do multiple regions with a cheat code or hack, but the DVD vendors are trying to outlaw that. Nobody ever tried to outlaw a VHS player that could play NTSC and PAL.

    (2) PAL/NTSC is a technical distinction. The daft Americans use a crappy technical standard, the rest of the world uses a superior one. It just happened that way. Whereas DVD regions are a deliberate and malicious incompatibility with no purpose other than maximising the profits of the DVD vendors at the expense of the consumers.

  • It is also a problem because Canadian retailers stock Region 1 (North Americian) DVD players [...]

    As a sort of a side question, can one legally purchase a multi-region DVD player in Canada? A good one? If so, where or how? It seems no manufacturer is willing to sell one here, and I don't want to order one from Britain or someplace only to have it confiscated at the border.

  • Well, any good mod job these days has no problems with RCE (the name of the 'feature' you describe). Plus, I believe natively region-free players (new ones) use the same method as mods to fool the DVD, that is they read what region the disc is for and set themselves for that zone (the RCE discs say they're region 0, and if the player goes along with it they refuse to play). It's all pretty sleazy, done mostly because it can be done.
  • Russell Crowe is a New Zealander.
  • by root (1428) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @08:20AM (#201655) Homepage
    The movie industry is different because the movies aren't launched at theatres in other countries than US until it has finished playing in the US

    Oh waaaaah! Well, I can't work as a programmer for two or more jobs in different places at once either, so I want a law to prohibit other places from filling "my" programming job until I decide to come... and to not fill it even if I never come.

    Why in the FUCK should the law be used to coddle emmasculated businesses that can't do their job right?

    (due to the high production cost of the film rolls, and the translation/dubbing/texting involved).

    (1) If they're not dubbed/translated, then it's not a problem because those people can't watch your movie anyway, right?
    (2) As for costs? Pay up or shut up. No one cuts me a break on paying simultaneously on auto insurance for my 3 cars even thought I can only drive one car at a time.

  • Although my player is region-hacked, so it makes little difference to me, I have quite by chance accumulated quite a few region 0 DVDs.

    The US Criterion Edition version of Brazil is region 0.

    The Hong Kong version of Naked Killer (what a film!) is region 0 (and I believe a lot of Hong Kong Cat. 3 movies are released as R0 DVDs).

    UK Playstation World Magazine has a monthly DVD video coverdisk, which is region 0.

    Also, check the documentary shelf in your local DVD shop: most documentary DVDs seem to be R0, as are the DVDs they sell in tourist traps (for example the Grand Canyon DVDs -- it makes sense if you're selling to people from all over the world; you sometimes PAL VHS tapes in the gift shops of American tourist traps)

    --
  • If a small film maker wishes a DVD to have worldwide distribution, then the zoning system doesn't prevent that at all. They can simply make a zoneless disc. They are, after all, a small film maker, and hence the arguments that the larger studios use to justify zoning don't apply. Of course, zoning is inherently evil anyway, but that's another matter. Using bogus logic is not the way to have it wiped from the face of the planet, and I'd expect a court to take the same view...
  • Is Australia signatory to any international treaties that automatically strike down laws that expropriate multinational corporations? If so, would not such treaties overrule any ACCC decision on zoning that threatens the studios?
  • Its not a question of international treaties I would imagine that Australian law also bans expropriation. It would be queer indeed if banning restrictive trade practices was considered expropriation!

    Australian law does, but could be changed. Normally, a country's government could pass laws to punitively tax multinationals, or nationalise their assets (as either India or Pakistan did some decades ago), and since that is the law of the land, the corporations would have no recourse other than withdrawing or lobbying their governments to apply diplomatic pressure.

    However, there are now international treaties which allow corporations to have such laws struck down by bodies such as the World Trade Organisation. This essentially removes parts of national sovereignty, placing the power in the hands of an undemocratic body with a history of siding with the multinationals. Moreover, the treaties are often so broad that any laws that impair profitability of local operations may be overturned. The NAFTA agreement has
    such provisions (which have been used, for instance, to force Mexican local governments to put up with polluting, environmental regulation-flouting multinational operations), and various other multinational treaties have been proposed applying such arbitration on a wider scale. Whether or not Australia has signed any of them, and whether they could be used by Hollywood studios to force the Australian government to overrule the ACCC, is the $64,000 question.
  • by Odinson (4523) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @06:40AM (#201660) Homepage Journal

    If you are fluent enough in english to fully enjoy all movies in english, can't you just get region 1 dvd's and players only?

    Isn't that a little unfair to people who don't want to/can't understand english well?

    Would it be practical to get a region 1 player/dvds in say Peru? I realize this is not ligit according to the MPAA, but aren't laws supposed to be based on moral and practical precident, not made to shape it? Do English speakers enjoy an unfair advantage?

  • There's no such thing as region 0. The regions are numbered from 1 to 8 and each disc stores a flag for each region indicating whether it is allowed to be played in that region. Region-free discs have all these flags set (or possibly all but the reserved one).
  • by armb (5151)
    Yep, the hi-fi shop just along the road from here has mostly multi-region players.
    http://www.richersounds.com/cgi-bin/search.cgi?i d= 13&sid=df2e280e2.123456
    (Lists about 30 multi-region, and five Region 2 (one of which has a multi-region upgrade disk advertised too).

    I don't know how well they all work with RCE, and having a significant market where DVD players legally have to multi-region will certainly help the situation for everyone (well everyone except the MPAA).
    --
  • that would IMO, only apply if YOU hacked the player. If you purchase a player with the ability to switch zones there is NO attempt to circumvent the (chuckle) encryption of the DVD. As an avid Anime fan in the US, a ZONE-FREE player causes many problems, you want zone "switchable" player.
    That way the player supplies what ever the DVD 'wants' to see :)
  • It has been a requirement in New Zealand that all players sold must be multizone for over a year now.

    Have you got a reference for that? I live in New Zealand, and I wasn't aware of this. It's certainly the norm for DVD players to get modified to play any region's discs when they're sold, though.

    It's interesting to look at Amazon's top 10 selling DVDs in NZ [amazon.com] and see that they're all region 1. It's the same for Australia [amazon.com] as well. I guess if you wanted non-region 1 DVDs, you wouldn't shop at Amazon, though.

  • Crowe was born in New Zealand, but has lived in Australia since he was a child. He currently lives in Australia with his cows, as readers of womens magazines should all know.

    --
  • > in fact I would think they'd be like mosquitos
    > picking at a Moose or something similar.

    Actually, in Alaska, the mosquitos _do_ kill moose. You just need enough hungry (upset) mosquitos (voters).

    Robert
  • Hooray! Somebody's figured out that region encoding is trying to accomplish parallel import restrictions by technical means, parallel import restrictions harm consumers (I would prefer the world citizen, but consumer seems to be the favoured term these days. Oh well), and we should try to remove such technical restrictions where we can.

    Now, if only somebody in government, or even the bureauracy, would work out that retaining copyright protection over Steamboat Willie and Rhapsody In Blue is equally harmful, we'd really be getting somewhere . . .

    Go you big red fire engine!

  • I believe that New Zealand is one place. It's even said (on OpenDVD.org [opendvd.org]) that there seems to be a clause in the WTO treaties that makes these sorts of things illegal. I'm not sure exactly what New Zealand does, perhaps they made it illegal to import or sell any DVD player that honors region codes.

    It's not hard to see why the ACCC would find this in violation of Australian consumer protection law. When you look at DVD region coding carefully, you find it's nothing more or less than an attempt by the MPAA to perform price fixing on a global scale. Why not all nations are up in arms against this yet is testimony to the power of these movie studios.

  • Wow who would've thought the Aussie govt would actually come out on the side of the CMITS for once?

    Of course the ACCC is generally a hot-air commision. The boss guy likes to hog the limelight by making bold condemnations of various anti-competetive scams but then it generally all fizzles out to nothing once the cameras are turned off :(

  • Hmm. I have a standard, off-the-shelve, mass market video player, that can play NTSC and PAL video tapes, and my TV can switch between the two.

    I also have a multi-region DVD player, advertised and bought as such, and have equal amounts of region 1 and 2 discs in my collection. Although I do tend to get the region 1s from Amazon.

    Effectively, regionisation has caused me very little inconvenience, and actually has the benefit that I now get to choose which of multiple versions of a film I buy.

    ~Cederic (in the UK)
    ps: are you the Vaxman that used to run geno?

  • http://www.scan.co.uk/ sell something they describe as "Scan SC-2000 Multiregion/PAL/NTSC/MP3 playback/Dolby/dts out"

    I own one, I know other people with one. They work superbly, take discs from region 1 and 2 with no problems (haven't tried other regions yet, but suspect so), can be upgraded using a firmware disc and cost just £165 + postage.

    As I mentioned elsewhere, I have equal numbers of region 1 and 2 discs - being able to pick and choose which release of a film to buy makes it much more worthwhile..

    ~Cederic
  • That's like buying a book to discover that it only opens within certain regions of the country.

    Apart from being a stupid concept its just penalizing the mobile.
  • by mjj12 (10449) <mjj12@bt[ ]nworld.com ['ope' in gap]> on Thursday May 24, 2001 @05:29AM (#201673) Homepage
    Virtually all electronics shops here in Australia do sell multi-region players, and it is perfectly legal for them to do so. However, the local equivalent of the MPAA pressures them (and the hardware manufacturers) not to do so, so you often have to ask the staff in the shop for a multi-region player. The local distributor of one major Japanese hardware manufacturer opens the boxes containing imported DVD players, modifies them so that they are region-free and then reseals the box before sending them to retailers, so that the warranty is still valid. However, when asked by the media about this, it denies this practice, as it doesn't want to admit publicly that it is doing this and so annoy the MPAA equivalent.

    In addition, I have seen threatening looking signs posted in shops that sell region 4 DVDs claiming that it is illegal to import region 1 DVDs. This is false. Placing such a sign in your store is very likely illegal under the same Trade Practices Act (which amongst other things, makes it illegal to tell lies in advertising). It is easy to buy region 1 DVDs over the internet from the US or the UK, and I do this all the time.

    The ACCC has a very fine record of standing up for consumer rights. However its job is to enforce the law. I have far less confidence in the government itself, which gets to make the law. My understanding is that negotiations are presently going on with international copyright bodies to give us a DMCA like law in Australia, which might even make modifying a DVD player to be region free illegal under anti-circumvention provisions. I hope not, but it could happen. Michael.

  • I've noticed that Region 2 DVDs (aside from being PAL) include many subtitles, and frequently more audio tracks. I have been quite upset by many of the region 1 DVDs I get from NetFlix because they don't have English subtitles, or even closed captioning. (yes, I turn on English subtitles even when the language is English. You'd be surprised how much more you can get out of a film this way.)

    It's unfortunate that even with legal threats from countries like Australia, nothing will be done about region encoding.

    I can just hope that compression gets better and pipes get fatter so I can move to a different way of getting my moves. (too bad so many DivX;-) users out there strip out all but the tracks they want. hopefully that will change too.)
  • Good points. I don't think they are unsolvable. They just make for a more interesting challenge.

    The censoring thing could well be something that prevents many movies from ever showing up there (just because of the process involved, not because they might get a bad rating). Smaller producers simply may not be able to deal with it.

    If the movie producers went ahead and launched a world-wide campaign to promote a new movie, and the the Australian censors dragged their feet on the movie, or worse, nixed it due to rating, then the movie industry could then, in the last day or 2, add a notation "not available in Australia". It would put more pressure on the censors. It's not like there isn't time to do that; I just don't know if they do or don't do their thing quickly enough there in Oz.

    Your DVD players may be more expensive as a result. There will be a gray market in reselling them back to other parts of the world if multi-region players aren't available there. And the power differences won't be a problem in most cases (I can transform to most any voltage, and most 50 Hz stuff works fine at 60 Hz, and a 60-to-50 UPS isn't that hard to build for those that don't).

  • If so, would that let me ship my pr0n CDs into Oz?

  • Take DVD out of the picture for a moment, which is most of my point.

    Sure, there is a cost to doing a world parallel release. I won't deny that. But now there is a cost to NOT doing so, and that cost is because the world is become less and less regionalized, especially with the Internet bringing it all closer together.

    I'm saying this issue has to be solved by the motion picture industry. They have to balance their costs and they are encountering new costs in terms of market reductions that they don't even realize (because they are still clueless about the Internet).

    Perhaps digital projection will be a solution here. I'm sure that will take a while before the theatres adopt it due to the high initial costs. But maybe by that time, the distribution will be via the Internet itself (hopefully, the MP industry will have their clues by then).

  • Perhaps. There is more than one interference mode that can do that. Most TV systems use negative modulation, meaning, white reduces the carrier envelope. If it goes down too far (something out of adjustment) it can introduce an amplitude modulation onto the 4.5 MHz audio subcarrier. It's slightly worse with color than with monochrome, depending on the chroma level of the title. Another possible mode is that a non-linear stage in your TV is creating additional harmonics that stretch into the 4.5 MHz range. If those harmonics have opposite phases on opposite sides of the 4.5 MHz carrier, they can introduce frequency shifting that would get through the FM limiter.

  • Thanks. I never did know all the history in how it came about. I knew most of the technology back when I was dabbling with building video circuits (before computers took over my mind). I do know that the harmonics can cause problems with the FM carrier. One problem was that there was LESS freedom to move the 4.5 MHz audio carrier around than moving the horizontal sync frequency. Moving the audio subcarrier even as much as 5 kHz could cause problems.

    A lot of people think of frequency modulation as being immune to interference. That is not the case. It is relatively immune to amplitude modulation changes, but coordinated multi-frequency (e.g. from harmonics) interference can introduce changes in the effective frequency of the carrier (effective when working with the whole waveform, which is pretty much what you have to do). AM has one set of sidebands on each side of the carrier, and thus little redundancy. FM has more sidebands and more redundancy which is re-integrated by the demodulation. Introducing a single low level interfering signal will have minimal effect. Introducing another will add to the effect slightly. But if those 2 interfering signals are phase coordinated they can introduce either amplitude or frequency modulation, depending on the way they are coordinated. Harmonics are always phase coordinated. By putting adjacent harmonics (58th and 59th harmonic of horizontal sync above the color subcarrier) around the audio subcarrier, they cancel out each other's phase shift relative to 4.5 MHz, leaving just a minor amount of amplitude modulation which the FM limiter can remove.

  • by Skapare (16644) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @05:43AM (#201684) Homepage

    The NTSC color subcarrier actually overlaps the monochrome baseband signal. The design was done so that the harmonic sidebands of the quadrature modulated color subcarrier will have a minimum of mutual interference with the baseband harmonics, and the audio subcarrier which was fixed at a 4.5 MHz offset in the US. The color subcarrier was made to be exactly 63/88 times 5 MHz so it could be very tightly syncronized everywhere and still fit into all the constraints. There are 227.5 color subcarrier cycles per line, meaning the little bumps are offset 180 degrees in the next line, and less objectionable. The horizontal and vertical frequencies were then syncronized to the color subcarrier to control the artifacts.

    Here [google.com] is a starting point for more info.

    For its time, the design was quite good, considering the requirement that the color system must work on existing monochrome TV receivers, and fit in the existing TV channel, which had a "lopsided" modulation sideband pattern. It wasn't perfect, but it worked. Europe (except France) later adopted a different and somewhere better system that solved yet another problem (phase shifting in color syncronization). South American retrofited the European PAL system into their 525 line 60 Hz TV system.

  • by Skapare (16644) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:52AM (#201685) Homepage
    The system aims to protect cinema ticket sales by preventing people ordering DVD movies yet to be released in Australia.

    Hey Jack Valenti. I have a free and open clue for you. Release the damned movie at the same time in Australia. And everywhere else.

    It's a global world now. Back in BTI (Before The Internet), releasing a movie a year late in Australia would have no major consequences. People there didn't carry on daily conversations about all the things they love with people elsewhere in the world. But today, the world has changed, and you, Jack Valenti, need to catch up. You need the above clue so seriously.

    Every movie that is released late in any part of the world isn't just going to suffer from world wide DVD distributions; it's going to suffer from world wide talk, and plot spoliers. Once a movie is out for a few weeks in the US, everyone will be talking about the ending (be it fantastic or utterly stupid) in the chat rooms, on the web boards, and in inter-office and intra-office memos of all the people working in international business. But among the participants will be people who live in regions where the movie hasn't even been released, yet. DVD won't be the only thing that can gouge into your precious first release theatre ticket sales. The Internet will, and you can't stop it.

    But you can work with it. By simply doing world parallel releases, where each movie produced is released simultaneously in theatres in every country, then you'll beat even the Internet talk that can diminish your sales. And then release the DVD version later with yet another world parallel release.

    Of course there will be difficulties with arranging that. As you should know, the movie industry is still entrenched with old BTI distribution methodologies that make a world parallel release difficult and costly. So change it. It only takes good leadership to steer the motion picture industry back on course into the future. Do you have it in you? Prove it to me. Or will I be watching "The Rise and Fall of an Industry: Major Motion Pictures" 10 years from now?

  • Region-free seems to be one of the selling points of porn DVDs. The ones I have seen on the shelf have a "Region Free" notice displayed prominently on the front of the case.

    --
  • A week or two will pass. The ACCC will announce they've had a meeting with representatives from the major film distributors and now that they understand the purpose of zoning, they find no threat to consumers. They will not repeat the explanation given them by the studios. The issue will be forgotten. Some studio bank accounts show a slight "discretionary fund" drop in balance.
  • Because they count on many of those people going to the theatre and then buying the movie on DVD.

    Not that I give a rat's ass... If they can't run their business well enough to give people incentive to view a movie in the theatre, then they don't require any protection imho.

    It's not MY fault that they can't run their business very well.

    They can either get the movie to theatres in Australia faster, delay DVD releases here, or suck it up and accept that their mistakes will cost them money. But when they look for laws to be passed, specifically to keep them from having to change their outdated business practices...

    I personally don't feel bound to follow any law that a corp has paid for. That's not law, that's bribery and treason that we simply haven't punished yet. I'm not saying I'll break it in front of the police - that'd be like taunting a bully to his face, but I will work to circumvent the law and bring financial ruin to the companies that subverted the legal system I live in just to pad their pockets.

    IMHO people have the right to TRY TO make a profit, not the right a profit. That's a *big* difference.
  • by E-prospero (30242) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @12:52AM (#201695) Homepage
    The ACCC isn't trying to force US companies to produce Region 4 DVDs; they are making sure that Australians can view Region 1 DVDs.

    In Australia (and, I presume, in other countries), movie distributors have been trying like mad to get legal recognition of the DVD regions. This would make it illegal to import non region 4 DVDs into Australia, and illegal to sell players modified to play non region 4 discs. At the very least, the distributors are colluding with each other to prevent the import of Region 1 discs, and sale of Region 1 players.

    Region free isn't an option, as many region 4 players bork on region 0 marked discs. Don't ask me why. They just do.

    This gives Fox, Sony, Columbia, etc, effective monopoly control over their respective parts of the DVD distribution market, and prevents the `little guy' from getting access to the Australian market. The Trade Practices Act bans this sort of behaviour; the ACCC is just making sure that distributors know this.

    At this point, I've gotta be proud to be an Aussie.

    Russ %-)

    PS: as a side note, Russell Crowe is a New Zealander who just happens to have spent some time in Australia; Mel Gibson is an American who went to acting school in Australia, and most aussies are nothing like Paul Hogan. Given that we are in a australia + movie context, I just thought I should clear this up.

  • The various member nations haven't yet signed them into law, but in theory they have to at some point.

    The directive has to be implemented within 18 months.

    For those interested, an unofficial version of the final EU directive is available here [eurorights.org]

    the MPAA should have the ability to enforce the CSS licenses and prevent the sale of region-free machines ("circumvention devices").

    Not exactly. You could make an argument that the DVDCCA license is overbroad, since it bundles piracy protection with region coding and macrovision.
  • I've heard that some twisted offspring of the MPAA are suing the companies that import region 1 DVD's though

    I believe they just passed a law in France making import of non-region2 DVDs illegal.

    MPAA offspring in Norway are suing DVD importers. The latest rumour is that they want to drag this issue in front of EFTA. (www.efta.int)
  • by LarsG (31008) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @10:53AM (#201698) Journal
    If the EU would follow the Australian example (which is not unthinkable)

    The EU Directorate General for Competition is currently examining this issue. I don't have high hopes, though, since they are only examining price differences. i.e., they won't bother with first sale, fair use or the difference between private and commercial conduct.

    See here [eurorights.org] and here [eurorights.org]

    "In this regard, I should inform you that the Directorate-General for Competition is currently examining the issue of DVD regional coding, and in particular whether this causes significant price differences to occur between DVDs from different regions. If any price differences cannot be explained by differing tax régimes, production costs etc., but are instead facilitated by the regional coding system, it would be our intention to examine whether such a system was a violation of EC competition rules."
  • So, if they didn't have the zones, people could buy the DVDs before the movie had been shown at the theatres and so they would loose a lot of money on that.
    And how does that explain zoning "Princess Bride", or "Casablanca", or "Citizen Kane", or...? Just how long does it take to show the movie at the theatres?
  • Not just Francophones, there are also many Canadians who have Asian or Western European first languages, and would probably would like to purchase region 3, 5 or 6 disks.
  • In Australia almost all TVs support both NTSC and PAL.
  • by thogard (43403) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @04:37AM (#201708) Homepage
    Maybe the side of the goverment that deals with cultral preservation might want to go in as well. Currently there are mnay DVD's made in Aisa that can not be read by typical players in Australia and that could denys access of thouse people to information about their past. Doing that just happens to be illegal in Australia and might even be illegal in the US. Will someone who wants to play Asian DVDs call the ACLU and claim that the MPAA's actions discriminate and might even fit under organized hate crimes?

    Being an American in Australia, I am being isolated from my culture since American culture seems to revolve around real bad tv shows...maybe the ACCC will help. Now if they would get their act together about Telstra.... that would be real nice.
  • OK, just went through my Region-1 DVD collection. 131 discs. 106 have either French soundtracks or French subtitles or both. Granted, I'd be pissed if I spoke French and wanted to watch one of the missing 25...
  • *cough* DeCSS *cough*
    ------
  • I can't really speak for the rest of the world, but certainly in the parts of Europe where I'm from, hardly anybody buys a region coded DVD player. People won't buy them so the merchants don't sell them.

    In the US it's different. The main reason for the coding is to stop the rest of the world to get access to cheap US DVDs before the studios want it. This seems to be failing (see above). For people in the US, it makes little sense to try to beat that system, since they already have access to almost everythig, at among the lowest prices in the world.
  • Fine, Oz gets the raw end of the deal with DVDs, and the consumer protection people are planning to deal with it. GOOD FOR THEM!
    The film industry pundits that pushed for regioning seem to have forgotton one important point. This is a global economy! If I want to buy goods from abroad I should not be prevented from doing so. This is not restricted to DVDs. The computer console industry are just as bad too. (not that I own, or plan to own a console)
    Other examples include computer hardware/consumer electronics , why in the UK can they justify selling at $1=£1 ?
    We the consumer have been taken from behind by big business for so long, that big business will do anything (like push for DMCA-alikes all over the world) so they can continue walking all over "us"; Freedom of speech, constitutional and human rights be damned!

    Maybe I've read too much cyberpunk, but doesn't it look like the (Mega) Corporations run things now?

    *sigh* I'm tired of reading the same type of posts over and over again. Why instead of posting on /. Why don't you pester your elected representatives (Or alternatly just vote at your elections rather than sit on your asses being online) ? Do you really thing Blair, Bush, *insert your leaders name here* or their aides actually read this stuff? No I didn't think so.
  • by joq (63625) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @12:15AM (#201713) Homepage Journal

    Finally things start appearing which show the legal inconsistencies of DVD regarding law (decrypting DVD's, financial irregularities) however due to the fact that the MPAA has a lot of "juice" involved with the whole monopoly of it all... *oops* control of it, I doubt Australians could make enough of a dent with their case, in fact I would think they'd be like mosquitos picking at a Moose or something similar.

    Instances like this where a small market makes noise would quickly be hushed, what they should have done, is contact other countries facing similar problems with this and then make noise. And if all else fails!@

    They could always throw Russell Crowe in the Gladiator suit and send him to set things straight for those "mates" down under.

    Echelonomics 101 [antioffline.com]
  • by poiuty (66274) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @12:40AM (#201714)
    The Act itself is fairly wide ranging, it covers things like price collusion, misleading advertising,anti-competitiveness, warranties etc. It basically is designed to protect the consumers rights over other entities. Here is a link to the ACCC summary [accc.gov.au] of the act. I think the main objection is that the region system artifically reduces choice for the consumer, and gives a competitive advantage to the major publishers/distributors.
  • by poiuty (66274) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @12:27AM (#201715)
    Actually it is not illegal (in Australia) to modify a DVD player to make it multi region, it is only illegal if you modify it so that it will play pirated discs. This is similar to the situation with chipping Playstations. The Australian IT [news.com.au] has a more in depth article on this issue and also takes a look at DVD regions from the publishers side.
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:54AM (#201718) Homepage Journal
    Actually, TV's do NOT get their "clock" from the powerline, they get it from the signal.

    The original NTSC standard vertical frequency was 60.000Hz - this was done to minimize the effects of the power supply on the vertical retrace. For any given TV signal, the phase of the power line vs. the phase of the video signal would be a constant, and thus any distortion in the vertical scan due to the magnetic field of the power supply transformer would be constant from field to field, and thus much less objectionable than a wavery screen.

    When the color subsystem was added to NTSC, the vertical retrace rate was changed to 59.99 Hz. (Don't ask me why, I don't recall off the top of my head).

    This is not as much a concern on modern TVs: instead of a big wad of iron and copper transforming the power line at 60 Hz, the power supply rectifies the input to 300 VDC, and then uses a high frequency switching power supply to make the voltages needed from the line. The result is that you don't have the 60 Hz field off the power supply. As a result, an NTSC TV will quite happily run off 50 Hz (as long as the voltage is correct: remember that US power is nominally 120VAC, while UK power is nominally 240 VAC), and a PAL TV will run of 60 Hz (with the same caveat).

  • by Kanasta (70274) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @12:13AM (#201719)
    It was recently ruled here in Australia that parallel imports of CDs and electrical goods were legal, and manufacturers/distributors could not penalise retailers who sold parallels in addition to 'official' imports. DVDs would obviously be included.

    However, we also have relatively new legislation like the DMCA which makes circumvention illegal. If we have a multi region DVD player, that's fine. But it's illegal to modify the player yourself or for someone else to make it multi region, or even to buy a modified player.

    Now I wonder how this new development will affect that law.


    ---
  • If the EU would follow the Australian example (which is not unthinkable), I doubt that the MPAA would just forget about zone 2...
    That would almost limit DVD sales to North America alone.
  • How strange that they only focus on price. What matters, IMHO, is the price/quality ratio; price alone says nothing.

    Should the price be the same, but the quality less (which is often the case with region 2 encoded DVD's, lacking widescreen or good audio and other features, and also less and later availability) than I would say there is reason enough to intervene against regional coding.

  • I had a bad experience with a recently acquired DVD (Arnie's "Sixth Day") which refuses to play in my Sony "Region-free" player. Apparently the scripting language on the DVD now checks to see if the player is Region-free (i.e., region 0) then refuses to play. More info here. [inmatrix.com]

    There's apparently a workaround, but in my case I just played it on my laptop, which connected to the TV via S-VHS connection, and found the results just as good.
    --
    Paul Gillingwater

  • by lman (72936) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:51AM (#201725) Homepage
    I was actually at a Continuing Legal Education seminar the other day and Ross Jones from the ACCC was there. He had a bit to say on the DVD encoding and he made it sound like they were definitely going after it on a couple grounds. Firstly Australia has a worse selection of DVDs than the US, secondly there is evidence to suggest that region 4 DVDs are worse quality than their European and American counterparts. Also the encoding makes it difficult for consumers on holidays to places like the US to pick up DVDs legally and watch them here. Ultimately they see the region code as a matter of price discrimination and aren't pleased about it.

    He also ran through the possible counter arguments and gave some defenses. The argument that the encoding prevents movies on DVD been released in the US before they get a cinema showing here is pointless now as the cinema releases normally run to close together to make a difference. He also suggested that as most music DVDs are region 0 its definitely not impossible for them to do this and even pointed out that not having to provide local content maybe cheaper.

    I'm just happy to know that they will go after this because I'm sick of Australia having expensive DVDs and generally dodgy tech laws it also nice to see that they actually do know what they are talking about.... Oh and here is a link to the seminar material.. (its about 3/4 of the way down)
    http://www.accc.gov.au/speeches/2001/Jones_Intel le ctual_Property_11_5_01.htm
    or
    Link [accc.gov.au]
  • I believe the issue is not so much the film maker but the film distributor.

    Small independent film makers and the like rely on big distribution companies [generally an arm of one of the big studios] to distribute their material worldwide and then these people insist on region coding so that they can then control the distribution of said work, the small film maker simply does not have the network capable of handling the distribution. If that large distributor then decides that they're not going to release the movie in region whatever the film make is stuck with that.

    Theres probably an opportunity for a large region 0 distributor to step in but anyone who did that for anything toehr than adult material is likely to annoy the MPAA in some way and thus become subject to the legal machinations.

    J

  • Are there players which refuse to play 'region free' DVDs? This is news to me.

    The issue of disks that cannot be played in 'region free' players is actually a cute hack by the DVD consortium where disks are _intentionally_ created in such a way that they confuse 'region free' players, specifically to disable playing the disk on those players. It's no accident.

    But any player that refuses to play a non-region-coded disk is itself not in compliance with the standards.

  • What's so sad about the massive politicized anti-region-encoding movement, is that VHS tapes are also "region encoded", in that there are at least two entirely incompatible standards for encoding the video signal (NTSC and PAL) which are used throughout the world, and you can't buy a video tape from a region which uses PAL (such as Europe) and play it back in an NTSC region (such as the US). Apparently, the backers of this movement are so new to video, that they didn't experience this. And of course, it begs the question: how did small, independent film producers deliver their movies worldwide? A region-free DVD is, in fact, much less "region restricted" than a VHS tape, because it is 100% compatible with all playback equipment.
  • most all anime companies hate region coding and macrovision. usually when they are used its on the request of the japanese companies.
  • I think all bollywood movies are actually region free. Some of these are even distributed by companies such as Sony Entertainment, and distributors don't get much bigger than that. The distributors don't mind as long as they get the sales, because the production company decides release schedules, and in the case of small film companies, it's the companies themselves.
  • I hear ya! I used to be a Norwegian living in North America. I was cut off from my Norwegian heritage. TV shows that I grew up with made it on DVD, but I couldn't import them because of the region encoding. I even explicitly asked them if they couldn't release it in region 1, but they didn't see enough market there to justify doing so. I eventually decided to move back to Norway, which caused another problem; my entire DVD collection was region 1. What should I do? Sell my entire collection at a lower price than retail, and then buy the same titles again in Norway at a higher price than US retail? I don't think so! So I sold my DVD player, and got a region free player when I came home to Norway. Of course, this means that I'm watching my movies illegally, since the license says that "this movie can only replayed in North America" - even if I had brought my region 1 player with me to Norway and fixed the power the way I did with my surround sound receiver, it would still be illegal for me to watch the movie... figures! A friend of mine in Toronto claimed that region encoding was "good for the industry" and that was all that mattered. He didn't see that it could hurt consumers, even though I made a clear case to him.
  • This whole region system is a good example of the SNAFU situation the film companies have created.

    In Norway, the consumer authorites have very extended powers. The laws are also created in a way that protect consumers, since they are the non-professional part in a purchase or equal.

    The problem here is that the region 1 DVDs are being difficult to sell in stores. The film companies has challenged the smaller DVD stores and also some of the big chains of stores with the 'illegal parallel import' rule under the copyright act. This was a rule made to protect record companies from stores importing cheaper identical products from abroad.

    The consumer ombudsman is going to challenge this in court, claiming that a DVD from region 1 more often than not isn't an identical product. The region 2 DVD made for Scandinavia often has Pro Logic soundtrack where the region 1 has DTS (!) as the case is with the Titan A.E. DVD. That's why they're not identical, and the stores should be allowed to import them. Simple as that.

  • Some of us cinephiles aren't referring to English language movies dubbed in French, we are referring to movies that were made in French in the first place. And in the category there is a HUGE number of Region 2 films the are not (and probably will never be) released in Region 1. In the cases of French movies that do get released in Region 1, the region 2 versions are often vastly superior containing 16:9 support, better sound, supplements, etc. One good example is the Region 2 Francois Truffaut box from MK2 vs. the same movies from Fox Lorber in Region 1. You might as well be watching different movies, the R2 quality is so superior. Anyway, I am amazed the we here in the USA put up with someone telling us what we me or may not import and what we may or may not watch. Fight for your freedom! Ted
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @08:30AM (#201757) Homepage
    Region coding should be treated as an anti-competitive practice under WTO rules. If we have to put up with "global trade is good, even if it keeps wages down", it should apply when it keeps revenues down too.

    It would probably violate an EU directive to have more than one region code within the European Union. That approach should be extended.

  • I'm afraid not. There are several players out now that will not play region-free discs, and there are several discs that will not play on region free players.
  • There's no technical reason why this would cost more.

    Licensing. Remember DVD is owned my a corporation.

  • by The_Rook (136658) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @06:01AM (#201764)
    i think the article got accc's complaint a little mixed up. the complaint is probably not about australian filmmakers not being able to distribute their product around the world. they can always remove regional coding to do that.

    the complaint is about the fact that how commercial product is always coded and that australia's region 4 gets short shrift on releases and availablity. so australia only gets 750 dvd titles versus north america's 5000+ titles and region 4 dvds are relatively expensive because of the smaller quantities and the 'protected' market.
  • I think it would be wise to point out that the idea of corporate control over media is not exactly a new idea here. The vast majority of newspapers that (more than several) people read are owned by two men. Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer, both of whom also own large chunks of our commercial, free-to-air television (Packer owns Channel 9, for instance). Murdoch's News Limited company is also the part owner of Foxtel Australia (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

    Now both "media moguls" have been attempting to "modify" (ie. dissolve) cross-media ownership laws that control how much and what types of media that they can legally own. This is done through control of the print media, which involves being very selective, not about what you report (which would be too obvious) but how you report it. This involves things such as politically motivated editorials and the way articles, particularly articles concerning politics, are written. At election time, our government being the poll-driven, reactionary PR machine that it is (the Liberals more so), the media suddenly holds more power because the coverage of election-time events (particularly the election itself) can subtly influence the election results.

    This phenomena is particularly evident during the HDTV debacle, where the moguls wanted the proposed restrictions on datacasting lifted so that they could provide extra services besides just TV. So far, at least, these efforts have not been successful and as a result HDTV is simply not much more than glorified (and digitised) free-to-air TV broadcast about 10 seconds later. Hence, it makes this story about the ACCC (a government body) taking an interest in the legal conflict with DVD region encoding a little more interesting. Especially when the ACCC has in the past been regarded as little more than the government's toothless tiger. So I doubt that much can be done by the ACCC about this region encoding debacle, considering that the companies who instituted this system are US-owned. And since the practice of region encoding is deemed entirely legal in the US, the strategy we should be taking at this stage is not a direct legal challenge to the system of region encoding but a way around the system as is proposed here (ie. make all DVD players available in Australia multi-zone capable). Although given that the Australian media moguls are part of multi-national companies this may make things difficult. But I'd personally like to see it happen.

    Self Bias Resistor
    "If it's stupid but it works, then it's not stupid." - Murphy's Laws of Combat

  • IMO, that's too fuckin' bad.. when I hear of multimillion dollar takings in a single weekend, I don't see how they can stand there and whinge about making a few extra reels of film... they could even distribute it in digital format and be done with film (keep film for the studio).
  • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @06:31AM (#201779) Homepage
    Mr Gareton said piracy was another concern, because a DVD made a good master copy - unlike VHS video, which degraded with each copy.

    And this has what to do with region coding? Oh I forget we mix it into CSS so piracy protection == region coding. It has *nothing* to do with eachother, except in MPAAs smokescreen.

    South-East Asia and China each had their own regions because of rampant piracy.

    Well they can play their own pirated discs, but they can't export them around the world. But if there really were an international piracy organization, wouldn't you just buy a disc from each region to pirate??

    Another reason was compliance with national censorship ratings. "The Australian release could have cuts of scenes with violence and sex," he said. "The distributor might be happy to release a movie in Australia as MA, but the original movie would have been an R."

    And if that was the case, why not just make a different edition of the DVD. Then the censored one could be sold as MA rated. Not only that, but people would actually have the choice about getting the MA or R rated movie. Then you got two (2) versions of the DVD, not one for each region. And, regions != countries. Some countries might want the MA version, some the R version within the same region. What's wrong with choice?

    Warner had conducted market research and consumers did not seem to have an issue with region coding.

    Well, that depends on what consumers you ask. Of course the average buyer that picks up his Region X player and Region X top-sellers from his local shop won't know the difference until he a) Wants a movie not released in his region b) Moves to another region c) Try to borrow a friends' DVDs who has a region-free player and different region discs.

    The issue of different formats for different regions was not new, because videos were released in either PAL or NTSC format, he said.

    Uhh.. try again. I got a TV card that can capture in NTSC and PAL, a TV that can play NTSC and PAL, a video that can play NTSC and PAL. They started out as different formats due to the net current 50Hz vs 60Hz, but there's no longer any reason to have a difference (look at HDTV). Trying to use a n obsolete technical difference to justify an artificial content controlling difference is just plain rude.

    Consumers keen to watch imported movies could always buy a second DVD player for the appropriate zone.

    No comment. The stupidity of that speaks for itself.

    Kjella
  • I, in the US, import a lot of region 2 titles from Japan. DVDs with appeal only to a niche US audience which will never see a region 1 release, because the limited number of buyers cannot justify the expense of production. This is not just an issue for people outside region 1.

    To the MPAA: The audio CD format is universal. Any CD plays in any CD player in the world. How has this "harmed" the music industry? How do you perceive the movie industry as being any different and in need of a protection scheme?

  • by uawcpm (187419) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @12:14AM (#201783) Homepage Journal
    I hate regioning as much as the next anime fan, but I don't quite understand how they have a case here. Can't these small outfits just make region-free DVDs?
  • Now (a) I'm probably preaching to the choir, and (b) I'm talking about the US not Australia, but wouldn't DVD region coding be a per se violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act in the US as an "agreement, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade"?

    Sure, the publishers have the right to distribute where they want, but making it difficult or impossible to use region 1 (or other region - eg. Japanese anime!) discs elsewhere sounds pretty darn fishy to me. Someone needs to sue them here, in the States.

  • The ones I have seen on the shelf have a "Region Free" notice displayed prominently on the front of the case.

    How about the ones in your home? What do they say? :)
  • This article is incorrect on one point. This is not the first challenge to the DVD zoning system. It has been a requirement in New Zealand that all players sold must be multizone for over a year now.
  • Another source of region 0 disks is the national parks. Their souviner DVD's are meant to be taken home. I have a wonderful one on Yellowstone National Park which is region 0. Don't look for the movie studios to release stuff that will do an end run past their distribution profit model.
  • The movie industry is different because the movies aren't launched at theatres in other countries than US until it has finished playing in the US

    Really. So explain to me why

    • "Jaws"
    • "Taxi Driver"
    • "The Godfather"
    • "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
    all contain Region coding. (Are you getting the picture?)

    If region coding was truly about theatrical release schedules, then movies that were released before 1996 wouldn't have region coding. No, region coding has been and always will be about trade restrictions and price gouging.


    -------

  • Here 100% of all DVD players and movies are Region 1 (U.S.), and yet since we're a spanish-speaking country we're supposed to be in Region 2.

    A few nitpicks. First, languages have no bearing on region codes. Even if they did, it wouldn't be Region 2, which has only one Spanish speaking country (Spain).

    You'll find the same language scattered amongst multiple regions. Spanish, to use your example, is found in half of the 6 regions. Region 1 (Puerto Rico), Region 2 (Spain), Region 4 (most of the South American countries).

    Second, the Dominican Republic is not in Region 2. It's a Region 4 country, the same as South America and Australia. A list of most countries in each region can be found here [capterjpn.com].

    Region 1 DVDs with no spanish subtitles,

    Most "mainstream" Region 1 discs are either Spanish dubbed or subtitled. French is also very common, those being the most common languages after English in Region 1. My girlfriend is Spanish speaking and we notice these things.

  • by ConsumedByTV (243497) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @12:12AM (#201801) Homepage
    That this will work, but I dont know what is going to put the MPAA in their place. What is to say that they wont just forget about zone 4?


    The Lottery:
  • While I have been unable to find anyone interested in the Canadian government to take up the cause, I have tried to suggest the same thing to them.

    Canada has a small film industry, and I believe that most of the smaller companies cannot afford to license DVD's region codes to competition globally. This should be setting off fireworks in the federal culture office (Canadian Heritage [pch.gc.ca]), but hasn't seen to trigger a trickle of interest. In fact the only DVD I have from a Canadian production is not CSS encrypted (thus not region coded either).

    The problem is, like in the DeCSS case, short- sighted people assume that any films will be both available and more common in VHS format, so DVDs don't really matter.

    It is also a problem because Canadian retailers stock Region 1 (North Americian) DVD players, yet I do not know of any french language DVDs with Region 1 code, thus interefering with francophones who wish to buy a DVD player and watch french DVDs (which tend to be Region 2).

  • The movie industry is different because the movies aren't launched at theatres in other countries than US until it has finished playing in the US (due to the high production cost of the film rolls, and the translation/dubbing/texting involved). So, if they didn't have the zones, people could buy the DVDs before the movie had been shown at the theatres and so they would loose a lot of money on that.

    What you meant to say was that they are able to milk less money from it than they would otherwise. Let's see here...buy a movie on DVD for $35 or pay $7 to go see it in a theatre. Tell me, where are they making the money now?

    And it's not that expensive to make another copy of the film. Even if it cost $1,000,000 (pulling a ludicrously large number out of my ass)to make enough copies to cover all first-run theatres in Australia, it's still a small price to pay compared to the potential of picking up another $10,000,000 in ticket sales.

    The bottom line is that the big studios and their puppets the MPAA don't want to compete with other smaller studios, so they have constructed a system to block everyone else out. They have no incentive to release in multiple countries simultaneously if "the system" allows them to milk each individually as they go.
  • It's most likely to mean legal zone modified players, however that would be in direct opposition to the new digital copyright circumvention laws.

    Isn't that exactly what we want? Don't we need governments to say that the new digital copyright circumvention laws are overbroad and protect monopoly interests while degrading the legal rights of the consumers? I can't think of anything more perfect.
  • "Regional codes are entirely optional for the maker of a disc. Discs without region locks will play on any player in any country."

    Sure they are. In theory yes, but in practice you won't find anybody producing region-free DVDs. Just because it's theoretically possible doesn't make it so, and Hollywood still holds the keys to DVD and region coding.
  • CodeFreeDVD.com sell DVD players which have been modified to play DVDs from all regions, Region 1 thru Region 6.

    So then my choice is to either a) buy a DVD player for $799 USD, or b) get someone to break the illegal stranglehold that the big movie distrubutors have on distribution and then buy one of the $199 USD DVD players. Sounds like I'm fucked either way. Long live VHS!
  • It costs from $30,000 to $100,000 to produce a single print of a movie onto film. Just think about how much you'd pay for enough 35mm film to shoot 24 frames per second for several hours continuously.

    Talk about total nonsense! By your reasoning an opening weekend run of 2000 theatres (not uncommon for modern movie releases) would cost $60,000,000 to $200,000,000 just to make the prints! How pig-brained could you possibly be?

    Count up all the rolls of 35mm film it would take? Dude, the reason that a 24 exposure roll of 35mm film costs $4 isn't because the celluloid is expensive, it's because the packaging is expensive. It's a pain in the ass to cut huge reels of celluloid into 24-36 frame strips and then package them in a little canister with gears and then box that up and market it and sell it. If you're buying the stuff by the reel, it's much much much much cheaper.

    No wonder you posted AC...geez...
  • The MPAA is not stupid enough to admit that the reason they invented region encoding was for an illegal price maintenance scheme. The fairy tale that RCE has to do with different release dates is disproved by the fact that 90% of material released on DVD is from the back catalogue yet it is all region encoded.

    Unfortunately making region free players available has only a limited effect on preventing the differential pricing since retailers can only practically sell the disks from their own region. People like myself who buy 30+ discs at a time can go through Amazon.com but that route does not offer savings for foreign buyers of small numbers of discs. Perhaps people will start clubbing together to plaqce large orders (and swap the discs afterwards).

    Ultimately region encoding will fail since the cost of DVD players will inevitably plummet. There is no reason a DVD player should cost more than a CD player ($50 or less). Even a portable player with a screen is unlikely to cost more than $150 in a couple of years (LiIon battery extra).

    Standing up to monopolistic exploiters is what governments are for. The MPAA has a very US centric mindset in which all government problems are solved the way they are solved in the US - with large cash bribes (sorry campaign contributions).

    The EU and the Australian government will prove much harder to intimidate. The WTO treaty does not compromise their ability to punish an international cartel. The studios have extensive assets in the EU and Australia and no treaty stops a sovereign government imposing a fine for restraint of trade.

  • Actually I think it's 59.94 and I believe it was done on account of colour signals.

    When color came along, they had to add a high subcarrier to contain color information (3.58Mhz). This necessitated making a little bit of room in the frequency space, so the timing signal was reduced to 59.94hz (for a frame rate of 29.97).

  • by cryptochrome (303529) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @07:39AM (#201815) Journal
    I hadn't realized that Australia and New Zealand were in another region entirely from 1 and 2. If anyone is going to get this party started it will have to be folks like you and the quebecian francophones, who are really being hurt by the standard and have the clout to do something about it.

    Unfortunately I doubt if it would be easy to get the ball rolling on region elimination here in the US that easily, simply because it affects us the least. Sure, there are a lot of snipey anime fans and foreign film buffs, but they don't have much clout. Those folks also know where to find multiregion players (although I challenge you to find one current DVD-equipped laptop that can be safely modified) And as evidenced by the fact that the MPAA managed to push through a feature that really only served them (region coding) on a foreign company (Sony) whose entertainment choices weren't even protected by the regions (anyone in europe can get them if they don't mind Japanese), it will be an uphill battle. So make some noise enough to attract the press.

    cryptochrome
    • refuses to play in my Sony "Region-free" player. Apparently the scripting language on the DVD now checks to see if the player is Region-free (i.e., region 0) then refuses to play.

    Plus the disk reports itself as being region 0 to try and trick the player into setting itself to 0. It's a quick, nasty little bodge, justified only by the "because we can" argument. Fortunately, many players let you set the region manually with a simple handset hack. I chose my LG because the hack code is 314159. Easy as PI. ;)

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @01:49AM (#201819)
    Actually this could hurt the MPAA more than you think. You have to remember that governments have big resrouces, even governments of smaller countries (and Austrialia really isn't all that small). Also, governments have other kinds of resources. For example they can fine companies for violating their laws, etc (like France was considering doing with Yahoo). You can be that most of the heavy hitters that back the MPAA have Austrialian divisions.

    Now I'm not necessairly saying this will do anything, however if a major country decides they don't like something, other nations will listen.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @04:16AM (#201820)
    When the color subsystem was added to NTSC, the vertical retrace rate was changed to 59.99 Hz. (Don't ask me why, I don't recall off the top of my head).

    Actually I think it's 59.94 and I believe it was done on account of colour signals.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @01:56AM (#201821)
    I can legally dub a PAL video tape to NTSC. The equipment to do so isn't all that expensive, hoeever if you don't have it any pro video shop will bw happy to do it for a small fee, usually $5-$10. However I can NOT legally change the region of a DVD, at least not according to the DMCA.

    Also "region coding" with NTSC/PAL is something I doubt you ever saw. Remember, it's a good mix of countries on 60 cycle and countries on 50 cycle (which is what determines which format you use). For a movie studio to decide not to release ina given format is to cut off a huge market. However it's a little different with region coding, they can decide to cut out just a certian cubset of countries.

    Finally, the intent is different. The reason for the NTSC/PAL thing is first power timing, since a TV takes it's clock from the powerline and second differences in resolution (PAL is higher). This was just teh way things got developed. Region coding was developed SPECIFICALLY to let the movie industry make more money. This way they can decide when they want something introduced to a specific region and how much it will cost, and you can't import from other regions to get around this.

  • by eyefish (324893) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @04:31AM (#201827)
    It is interesting to note that DVD Zoning is not respected or enforced in the Dominican Republic. Here 100% of all DVD players and movies are Region 1 (U.S.), and yet since we're a spanish-speaking country we're supposed to be in Region 2.

    Note only that, but there is no way anyone can force people to change, since it is a cultural thing here for everyone to buy things from the US (half the domininican population in the world lives in New York), and besides people here do not like being last in getting movies out. In the end, this only helps american movie distributors as Region 2 distributors are already obsolete here.

    I have the feeling that this is the case also in many countries and the DVD Forum is blinded to this reality (which also affects their market perception, since they probably think for example that in the Dominican Republic DVDs have a low penetration rate since NOBODY buys Region 2 DVDs, while the reality is that in the middle and high classes VHS tapes are being quickly replaced by DVDs).

    The bad thing is that many people here do not speak english, so it is VERY annoying having to buy Region 1 DVDs with no spanish subtitles, which in turn hurts the whole DVD phenomenom.

    Proposal: We live in a GLOBAL economy, release the darn DVDs in a region-free state to ALL countries SIMULTANEOUSLY and avoid this control-freak stupidity.
  • "Their sales are generally too small to justify catering for region four. This reduces competition to the advantage of US studios," he said.

    By the end of 1999, there were 720 DVDs available in region four, but more than 5000 in the US.

    Australian Consumers Association spokesman Charles Britton said yesterday the zoning system imposed a "severe restriction of choice".


    So this is not just about the small Aussie outfits but also about the choice of DVDs they get in Australia. As mentioned in the article the region four doesn't seem to be om much importance to the US studios.

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