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EU To Investigate DVD pricing 257

Posted by timothy
from the suspicious-behavior dept.
traffosky writes: "At this address, the BBC says that the EU's competition commissioner, Mario Monti, is about to lauch an investigation into DVD pricing policies on the European side of the Atlantic. He is unhappy with the fact that EU consumers pay about 25% more than their US counterparts. He will also be asking Hollywood about the regional coding system. I'm not sure if the BBC 'get it' yet, though: they filed this story under "Entertainment: Film"." Perhaps this zoning thing will draw even more deserved scrutiny -- as it already has from a UK supermarket chain and from the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) down under.
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EU To Investigate DVD pricing

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Some things [wolfe.net] just ain't right!

  • so why do cds cost more than tapes which which cost much more to produce?
  • Ok, I work for an independent record label, and I think you'd be surprised how much money it costs to make a CD. sure it only costs about a penny in raw materials, but a CPU probably only costs about $1 in raw materials and we'll glady pay $400 for one. Ok so let's break it down to the cost of the label:

    $1 - to make the physical and Cd and jewel case.
    $1 - artwork (booklet and tray card)
    let's add 50 cents just to make it $2.50 to cover freight and all the other misc costs (mechanical royalties, shrink wrap, stickers, catalog insert, etc.).

    ok, now we have a physical disc.

    most stores mark up product about 50 percent right, so if a CD sells for $15 in the store, let's say they bought it for $7.50. but usually the stores buy from distributors, not the label, and let's say the distributor marks up 15-20%, so let's say the label sells it to the distributor for $6. minus the $2.50, we have $3.50.

    at our label, we split the profits 50-50 with the artist, so that leaves us with $1.75 "profit" on a CD sold at $15 in stores.

    that $1.75 has to make up the cost of making promo CD's, sending CD's to magazines and radio stations, placing ads, making phone class, paying employees, paying rent, etc. How can we possibly lower the price? unless you have a HUGE hit, or you keep losts really low, you can't even make money.

    and unless the band sells the label the publishing rights, the labels sees nothing of radio airplay.

    sorry if that was jumbled, but i'm tired, and this kinda thing really annoys me. do you honestly believe that record labels make like $14 off a CD sale. Well, Warner Bros. might because they own the manufacturer and the distributor and don't pay their bands crap.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    For example, the movie Titanic was distributed by Paramount in the US only, and Fox got the rights to sell it elsewhere.

    This does not require region coding. Paramount and Fox could just as easily have the same contract without region coding. The only difference is that people would be able to transport Paramount's version into Fox's turf, and vice versa; thus creating competition.

    Region coding exists to circumvent free-trade treaties, and thus to enforce selective pricing in various markets.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    You're missing the point here. This isn't about supply and demand - far from it. It's about large corporate conglomerates using technology as a means to forcibly control supply and demand. The "piracy" flag is always bandied about by these corporations in the name of some other pathetic way to fuck over the consumer. You shouldn't have to take the worst because that's what Hollywood decided your country is "worthy" of getting. You DESERVE the best choice your entertainment dollar should command on the truly free market, not the crumbs of bullshit they would have you pay for.

    Power to the people.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The movie companies abuse the region code in more than one way - several films that are long out of cinema are still being region coded without explaination. This is abuse, pure and simple.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 10, 2001 @09:46PM (#161342)
    Well we already have area-dependent pricing as part of a normally operating marketplace: gas prices. I'm not talking about the state-to-state variation due to various reformulation requirements; I mean that I can find unleaded regular for $1.85 in South San Jose, but most pumps in (relatively affluent) Palo Alto are around $2.07.

    That part isn't the problem -- if you want cheap gas you can drive a little farther to get it, and the market dictates that those prices will be set at exactly the point where profit is (locally) optimized. As long as the consumer has the ability to make that drive over to the next town (within reason), the marketplace works more or less as it should.

    The problem with the region coding limitations is that they place an artificial restraint on market forces -- making it nominally impractical, for example, for someone to import a crate of DVDs from, say, India, and resell them in the U.S., even though the numbers might otherwise work out profitably (i.e. net profits more than cover the costs of importing and order processing). I have seen various posts suggesting a lawsuit against the movie industry for exactly this restraint of trade, but to my knowledge no one has taken any specific action yet.

    As to your well-taken point about the evils of a fully encrypted end-to-end path, with users forced to buy "trusted client" machines, well, that is a different (albeit equally serious) problem altogether.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 10, 2001 @09:49PM (#161343)
    I always viewed region coding as essential to releasing DVDs, simply due to the various legally binding distribution contracts. (Note: I am not saying this is a good way to do it, but i feel this is the reason for their existence)

    For example, the movie Titanic was distributed by Paramount in the US only, and Fox got the rights to sell it elsewhere. To sell the same exact disc everywhere, both Paramount and Fox would have to agree on the disc features, extra footage copyrights, packaging, etc. Whereas if Paramount had one version, they wouldn't need Fox's approval. Compromise across corporate boundaries is often VERY difficult to broker.

    This brokering would lead to serious delays in releasing of the disc globally. And actually might cost more to develop in the long run.

    Tom
  • by rodgerd (402) on Monday June 11, 2001 @03:05AM (#161344) Homepage
    While I agree with the complaints about fair use, the zoning system has a lot going for it,

    The zoning scam has nothing going for it. These aren't complaints that places outside the States pay less, but that they pay more.

    But that leaves out the worst things about zoning. Try moving to Region 4. Then try buying movies. Say, oh, The Piano, The Dark Crystal, and The Princess Bride.

    You can't. In fact, you can't buy them outside North America. Like those movies? Want to pay for them? Too bad, fuck you. You can't have 'em. I'm in New Zealand, and I can't buy The Piano, even though it was filmed in New Zealand, written by a New Zealander, directed by a New Zealander, and starred New Zealanders in leading roles.

    There are literally *thousands* of movies that *cannot* be purchased outside of the US on DVD. There are hundreds more that are grossly cut back - sans commentaries, documentaries, interviews, you name it, even though they cost *more* than the same DVD bought in and shipped from the US.

  • by Chris Johnson (580) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @09:39PM (#161345) Homepage Journal
    "No problemo. From now on, they'll charge $29 in US, $45 in Europe, while BillDaCat gets a special price of $95."

    You know... he could swear up and down that he has no problem with that, and insist that they keep charging him $95, and it still won't make it inherently right. It would only illustrate who he sides with.

    You will _not_ necessarily get a economic-libertarian-randroid type to acknowledge they're being unreasonable by throwing extreme cases at 'em. They will simply annoy you by fanatically insisting that they don't have any rights to fairness either, and that if they WANTED to, they could become the MPAA too (presumably by working through weekends and holidays! o_O ).

    The only real argument you have is the argument that going with the most utterly pure form of free-market laissez-faire is NOT beneficial to society- that it goes out of balance. There's tons of evidence for this (sometimes softened by the vestiges of regulation and control, like with the California power grid), but you're not dealing with someone who places a value on society, typically you're dealing with someone whose only concern is 'can I be one of the winners?'.

    If that's what you're up against, you can't win the argument, and you just have to over-rule them and shut them up. Talking of fairness only makes sense in a context where there is a society to be protected, and not everybody wishes society to exist. Some people want no rules and the death of the weak... which is a recipe for species extinction as the species charges into a local maximum, kills off all its diversity, and then croaks when conditions change and the finely optimised uber-people can no longer adapt because they're too inbred to what worked _last_ century.

    Yes, this is an unusual way to look at it- your point?

    And, _through_ looking at it that way, the reason they can't charge whatever the fuck they want is because it's bad for society for the biggest ass-kickers to be TOO efficient. We already have a somewhat limited set of choices for entertainment in the sense of 'movies to watch'. You're not gonna see big variety at your local movie house. The discriminatory pricing is only _part_ of a _pattern_ that also involves squeezing out other choices and dominating the public awareness completely. The more money they have to do that, the better they'll do it. Give them less money, they will be less able to do it- and that becomes a social good, allowing more options to arise over the long term, and take over from the MPAA if they really start to produce sucky products.

    THAT is why they can't charge whatever they want. Not because they couldn't get away with it- because they could, and are, and in so doing they finance ever more expansion, past what is socially useful.

    Of course, the EU just wants to get its DVDs cheaper ;) but this is why they should be _allowed_ to when the MPAA can successfully pull off cartel/monopoly pricing.

  • Presumably people are paying it, hence they think the CD is worth at least that much money.

    Isn't the RIAA upset now because a whole bunch of people don't seem to want to pay it anymore?

  • Which would imply either that prices could be lowered significantly for CDs and the Labels would still turn a profit, or that they're selling tapes at a loss, which makes no sense.

  • Your $15 CD's are sold in the UK, an EU member state, for 15 -- at the current exchange rate, that's US $22.

    Note that in many cases these CD's are pressed and packaged locally. Imports are flagged as such and typically sold for upwards of 20.

    The artists typically see only about 10% of the gross price -- the rest is divvied up along the supply chain, with the lion's share going to the record companies.

    If you haven't already read it, read Courtney Love does the math [salon.com] on Salon, where she explains precisely where the money goes ...

  • And yet, CDs in the states are still way cheaper than they are here in the UK. Chart CDs tend to be around £13 while less popular stuff goes up to £18.

    I'd prefer to be able to pay US prices!
  • If that were the real reason, they'd need *country* encoding. Region 1 is just the US and Canada (right?), so that might work. But Region 2 is Europe. Here we don't even speak the same language, so having the same distribution agreements would just be a pipe-dream...

    The reason they *say* they want region coding is to reduce cost(!). If they release a film on the same day world-wide, it costs more and takes much more organisation that doing one region at a time. With region coding, they can release the DVD in the states at the same time as they release the film to theatres in the UK without allowing DVD sales to encroach on ticket sales.
  • The prices for CDs at Best Buy have not changed substantially in the past 18 years I've been shopping at that chain(back when they were called Sound of Music).

    Most CDs I buy are around $12-13, I've purchased a few new releases there for $10.

    I honestly don't think Best Buy cared about that lawsuit. It dealt with the record labels forcing fixed prices or failing to provide advertising money to the stores.

    I rather doubt you'll ever seen prices of CDs go down from where they are today. But you can keep hoping, I guess.
  • by spitzak (4019)
    The problem is that the "enforcement at the point of a gun" is of the higher price, you have some delusion that the forcing is the reverse.

    Stop trying to say this is some Communist plot to steal movies. In reality it is the MPAA that is doing Communist/Socialist things, using government power to meddle with the free market. If it were not for government rules put into place due to the MPAA, DVD players from the USA would be imported and sold there, and disks from the USA would be imported and sold there, and region encoding would be useless.

    I would agree that the repair required is to get rid of these trade barriers, not further regulations like "you must sell the disks for the same price as in the US". Such regulations always have bad side effects...

  • by spitzak (4019)
    This post and most of the responses are stupid.

    Truth is, the depression was caused by hundreds of factors. There is at least one in there for every possible political persuasion be able to say "they didn't do it my way, and that caused the depression!"

  • by rho (6063) on Monday June 11, 2001 @01:19PM (#161362) Homepage Journal
    I wish that someone (or some group) would check out the prices of [System Administrators] in the states (and around the worls for that matter). I know that there are [training] and [teaching] costs that come with each [sysadmin] but to pay $ [85,000/yr] for a [bearded whacko who treats his fellow employees as if he's pissing on them from a great height] on is crazy. I think this is why [Microsoft] became so popular. If it was easy to [setup] and [make changes to DNS records from a GUI] I am sure we would see a rise in [Microsoft stock].
  • by Cederic (9623) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @11:08PM (#161368) Journal

    Hmm. On Friday Amazon (yeah, ok) delivered five DVDs to me at work.

    I live/work in the UK, which is in region 2. All five discs were region 1.

    Better yet, they are all the new improved "wont work on regionless players" region 1.

    Y'know what? I stuck them in my DVD player on Saturday, and they all work fine. And that DVD player can also play all the region 2 discs I own.

    So I'm a little confused by the zoning thing. As far as I can tell, its main purpose is to give me more choice of which DVD I want to buy - the overpriced region 2 disc with minimal extras, or the region 1 Criterion Collection version with four commentaries, outtakes, storyboards, etc. Don't forget the other regions (also playable on my player).

    Since I haven't had my player modified - even by the company I purchased it from - but use only its core built-in technologies, and since the player costs about half of a decent video player, anybody that gets caught by regionalisation either doesn't care or is too daft to know. And most people in the UK are not too daft..

    ~Cederic
  • by Detritus (11846) on Monday June 11, 2001 @02:41AM (#161371) Homepage
    Well, some movies pay for themselves. A lot don't. And even with the ones that you would think made vast amounts of profit, like "Titanic", the movie studio claims it 'barely broke even' in U.S. sales.

    This is the infamous "Hollywood accounting", a branch of applied mathematics that enables movie studios and record companies to sell a product to every carbon based life form in the universe, and still claim that they haven't made a profit, and don't have to pay money to people whose contracts entitle them to a percentage of the net profits.

  • American DVD prices bad?

    You sure could have fooled me [nytimes.com]. I still see VHS movies come out new for $25--and that's not even mentioning the practice of "pricing for rental"--selling VHS tapes at $60-100 or more for the rental market for a couple of months before dropping their price for consumers. DVDs haven't been priced for rental so far, though some of the studios are making noises about it.

    It's all in what you're willing to pay, I suppose. For me, $20 for a movie I really like is a worthwhile investment.
    --

  • It might have cost fifty cents or so to press the disc--but what about paying to produce the disc (telecine transfers are expensive, and anamorphic ones more so--which is why it's so rare for trailers or deleted scenes to be anamorphic even when the movie itself is), paying the salaries of all the people who made it, paying for the right to press the movie in the first place, and incidental costs like storage, transportation, quality control, advertising, and--last but not least--the shareholders?

    People keep whining, "Oh, but it only cost pennies to make it!" as if they feel they should only be paying a few more pennies to buy it. Pressing a disk is not all that's involved in making it. There are more costs, and plenty of them. And even with those, studios have done a bang-up job keeping DVD prices low. It's purely amazing how many DVDs you can buy for under $15 these days, and just look at all the extra stuff you get when you buy a $25 DVD instead of a $25 VHS, even not counting picture quality.

    And yes, it's true that you can get Hong Kong DVDs from the source [hivizone.com] for much cheaper than American movies--only $5 a disc plus shipping in many cases--but the economic environment is different over there, the incidental costs are often lower, and the $5 discs are usually second or third releases of titles that were more expensive originally.

    I'm not arguing that prices couldn't be cheaper--they could always be at least a little cheaper. But to expect to be able to get a newly-released DVD for less than $15-20 is a pipe dream.
    --

  • Have fun with your boycott. The MPAA won't notice you--or, for that matter, any of Slashdot's tiny but vocal "boycott the MPAA" crowd.

    I've said it before--I'll say it again. A boycott is going to have no other effect than to gratify your ego at the cost of missing out on all the movies the rest of geekdom are enjoying. The MPAA and movie studios aren't missing your money. They're not going to go bankrupt because you aren't buying anything from them. You would need to get a heck of a lot more people to join you in your boycott even to be noticeable over all the people who haven't yet gotten around to getting DVD, but plan to sooner or later. And in a world where only twenty people show up [linuxtoday.com] to a much-publicized anti-DMCA protest in Washington, and where DVDs and players are being bought so fast they've become one of the fastest-growing consumer technologies ever--I just don't see that happening.

    If you want to make a difference, then do something active. Donate to the EFF, write letters, tell people about the evils of region-locking and CSS (if you can explain it in terms that keep them from staring glassy-eyed at you--it's harder than it sounds). And by all means, boycott, if you don't want your money going to the MPAA. It's your money, do what you want with it. But don't you even try to present that as the overall solution. Boycotts rarely work; boycotts of popular products by a handful of people don't do very much. (I'm "boycotting" Pearl Harbor--not out of moral principles or anything, but because it looks like a really bad movie. Somehow, I don't think that's doing very much good.)

    If region-encoding is going to fall, it's going to fall not because of an American geek boycott, it's going to happen because of the efforts of governments and commissions in places like Britain and Australia that are starting to get fed up by being ghettoized by the trade-restraining system imposed on them by the corporations. In the stories /.'s run over the last week or so, I can see that starting to happen. The boulder is wobbling on its perch, and sooner or later it will start rolling downhill.
    --

  • by sethg (15187) on Monday June 11, 2001 @05:27AM (#161381) Homepage
    One must not look far to see examples of the RIAA disrespecting its customers. Case in point: $15 CDs. Back when CDs came out, the RIAA promised that the only reason that they were so expensive was because of the new technology involved, and that they would soon become less expensive. Did this happen? No it didn't.
    There are many good arguments against the RIAA, but this isn't one of them.

    CDs first appeared on the market in 1983, and since then, the Consumer Price Index (a US benchmark of inflation) has risen by two-thirds. If the price of a CD had kept pace with inflation, an album that cost $15 in 1983 would cost $25 now. So the real (inflation-adjusted) cost of a CD has come down.
    --

  • by maroberts (15852) on Monday June 11, 2001 @02:40AM (#161383) Homepage Journal
    I'm sure most of us view region encoding as anti-competitive, and indeed I have bought lots of region one DVDs to avoid UK DVD pricing, so what is the best way, as a UK citizen, to get our voice heard in this review ??

    Incidentally, I would be interested to know what UK/ EU law has to say concerning fair use, DeCSS, obtaining or hacking your DVD player to be region free, and other DVD related issues. I know the Designs and Copyright Act 1988 may be relevant.
  • You will probably find that people in Europe are probaly already buying from the US. I have a friend in the UK who orders all his DVDs from North America and still makes a saving when shipping is added to the cost.

    When I was in the UK the other day I walked in to what look like a good brand hi-fi & TV shop and was surprised that the shop offered a 'modified chip' standard - I didn't even have to the ask the guy.
  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Monday June 11, 2001 @05:51AM (#161385) Homepage Journal
    One other interesting thing to note is the price of DVDs in comparison to video tapes. Even taking into account the fact that there are all the different parties wanting a slice of the cake, a DVD is likely to cost less to produce than a Video tape. Sure there are sub-titles and dubbing to be added, but then again that work has usually already been done for the big screen. Also it probably costs less to produce a multi-language DVD than it does to create and distribute 5 different videos for 5 languages.

    The same argument can be given to CDs as compared to tapes, since CDs work out to be $5 more than you cassette tape.
  • It's only after you find that there are only one or two tracks that are worth listening to that you realize you were rooked.

    Then you must be buying shit music!

    I keep seeing this bandied about as if it legitimizes piracy/Napster use. Erm, how about being more selective? I don't run off to every single Hollywood crap fest, because most of the time they don't interest me. Similarily, I don't run off and buy every CD in the Top 10 because most of those don't interest me either!
    I must point out here that I haven't listened to the radio in over 3 years, so most of the CD's that I buy these days are back catalogue. IMO, any album that's over 5 years old should immediately be discounted to $10!
  • by BilldaCat (19181) on Monday June 11, 2001 @08:05AM (#161388) Homepage
    He's fucking right. You don't NEED DVD's, and there's no reason the MPAA should have to justify their pricing. It's their product -- if you don't think you are getting fair value for your dollars, DONT BUY IT. I don't agree with region-encoding, but thats another topic entirely. My point is they should be able to charge whatever price they want for their product.

    And for the record, I do not own a DVD player (aside from the one my computer came with, which I have never used), nor any DVDs. Somehow, I have still managed to struggle through daily live without DVDs.

  • How about how the great depression came about because the government gave away everyone's gold?

    Then made it illegal to own gold bullion? (not repealed until 1974)
  • Yeah, explain the economics, how this is anti-trust, how the WTO should ... *yawn*

    But tell them that if they buy a movie they'll be forced to sit through up to ten minutes of trailers because their player won't repond to the FF or SKIP keys. Explain how the stores won't take it back even though it's obviously defective.

    Ask how many times they'll sit through a movie that forces them to wait through trailers for movies they don't want.

    That works! I've turned quite a few people off of DVDs.

    The same thing worked with divx, just explain how the player has a huge rebate, those companies must really want to sell them... why? Because you have to pay, every time you watch that movie. Want to skip to the end to play the credits, or watch a favorite scene? Gotta cough up again. And now, divx is dead.

    You can explain these things to people. But ignore the 'freedom' and 'rights' arguments. Explain the forced watching of trailers, etc.
  • by noims (23711) on Monday June 11, 2001 @12:43AM (#161391) Homepage

    I actually totally disagree with your second point there. In fact, that's the main point that I can't see a defence for.

    I can see an argument that They don't want people seeing movies on DVD before they're released in the cinema. I may not agree with it, but I can see a case. As for worldwide cinema releases, I don't think that's practical, but maybe that's just me.

    What I can't see a defence for is releasing the same movie on DVD with different features in different regions. For example, if I get the region 2 version of Crouching Tiger (I'm in Ireland), it has the movie and nothing else (more or less). The region 1 and region 3 versions have extra interviews, commentaries, etc. This means I have a choice between a sub-standard copy, or an 'illegal' copy.

    Incidentally, there are dvd players out there that get totally around RCE. They have several region modes: you can set them to a specific region or set them to auto-detect.

    disclaimer: maybe I'm wrong about CTHD, but there are plenty of cases like this, so I don't need to be corrected, thanks.

    Cheers,
    Noims
  • Your reasoning is based on a concept of intellectual property which leaves out one of the two reasons of its very existence. The first reason for intellectual property is based on John Locke: a man should be rewarded for his efforts (and women too, but they didn't matter that much in Locke's time). The second one is that the exclusionary rights are granted on the premise that artificial scarcity is needed to get people to produce works of art. The freedom to copy anything you like is limited in order to get something which can be copied in the first place. Along this line of thinking copyright is a privilige which should not be abused. Artificially high prices which are way beyond the level that is needed to sustain the productions of new works of art are such an abuse. If you take this into account, which you didn't, the whining about DVD prices sounds a lot less petty than it does according to you.
  • Well, the two reasons I mentioned are the only two mentioned in the vast amount of legal literature on the subject. I'd love to hear additional ones, since I am writing a thesis on the subject and would appreciate it very much if I could include lesser known doctrines in the field.

    On the subject of the 'right' price for works of art, I wouldn't dare to have an opinion on that since I am not an economist but a law student. Economists do have such opinions however. An interesting economic analysis on the current state of intellectual property can be found here [www.cpb.nl]. If you read it carefully, you'll see that copyright is supposed to strike a balance, contrary to your absolute view on intellectual property and also contrary to the anti-intellectual stance which is so much en vogue here.
  • Well, thanks for the reference to the other two theories. I intend to cover more than one theory in my thesis, although I personally am more in favour of the utilitarian one.

    Nonetheless, your subscription to the labour theory doesn't matter to the current copyright law, or droit d'auteur as it is called in civil law systems is based on the two I mentioned before, with copyright law having a slightly more utilitarian emphasis than the droit d'auteur. Patent law and trademark are strictly based on the utilitarian view.

    I definitely don't want to shove down a certain view by referring to an academic paper. The reason I referred to it is to prove that the current view on copyright is based on those two theories and that an economic analysis proves that at times the prices for protected works are too high. That doesn't require you to accept any of my views, only to accept that your view is one-sided, or at least oriented to copyright law as it should be in your opinion, not to what it is right now.
  • That's one of the important points here.

    The DMCA give large publishers the power to erect licensing regimes on content players. Protected/encrypted media is just a hook to force manufacturers to sign a license. Don't like the licensing terms? Too bad for you, since RE'ing the protection would be illegal under the DMCA.

    Macromedia'ed analog output, no digital output, region locks and no fast forward are not part of CSS, they are part of the DVDCCA license.

    What is scary, is that this license can be kept secret from the general public. That is, they can force-feed us use control technology without disclosing the terms.
  • by Flower (31351) on Monday June 11, 2001 @04:49AM (#161400) Homepage
    1. Define what makes a "good" movie.
    2. Piracy is bad. Your solution gives us all a bad name. It also gives the movie studios ammunition to justify their business model and lobbying efforts for laws like the DMCA.
    3. How about renting the movie first and if you really like it then buy it. You're out a whopping $3. Hell, I watched half of Charlie's Angels, returned it and felt gypped but wtf? At least I didn't pay $30 and felt like I had to force myself to sit in the theater because I blew all that money to take my wife out.
  • It's not like the record labels are robbing you of some fundamental right--it's a luxury item people.

    The problem is the record companies go beyond mere packaging to interfere with people's rights to use recording technology in whatever way they see fit. Examples are:

    • the tax on blank media that already assumes you're doing unauthorised copying - whether you are or not
    • the killing of DAT
    • the CPRM initiative
    Personally, I think CD prices are ridiculous. The problem is there is no alternative. As new technology emerged which promised efficient ways of distributing music, did the record companies embrace it? Of course not - they slapped it down with armies of lawyers. For the record, they still have yet to come up with an alternative. Reason: control. The CD is as equally friendly to control as all its predecessors.

  • by sph (35491) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @11:46PM (#161403)
    You know, there's more to the world than just the US of A. At current exchange rates full-priced CDs in Europe cost usually around $16-$22. I pay $17-$18 for my new CDs and $6-$10 for used CDs. A couple of years ago when EU hadn't yet crashed the value of the money the price range for CDs was more like $21-$30.

    As for DVDs, many people in Europe are aware of region modified players. Basically every PAL player can play NTSC discs by default, and region modifications are easy (but often not very cheap) to get. For many people (like myself) the reason is not the price, it's the number of discs available. About one third of my collection is not available in Europe, though some discs are all-region.

    Also, there are often significant differences between the different region versions of the same title. Some European discs have to give up some extras to get space for more audio tracks. Sometimes even the quality of video and audio can vary, though usually PAL video is superior to NTSC despite the slight speed difference.

    In Finland most new full-priced DVDs cost around $20-$30, with some bargain titles being even $10 or less. A bit surprisingly, ordering new discs from Australia seems to be the cheapest option ($14-$18 including P&P), even cheaper than getting discs from the US. And many Australian discs are identical to European versions, even having two region codes (R2 and R4, Europe and Australia).
  • Umm.. Could it be that they cost 25% more because the people are prepared to pay 25% more? The price is set so that they get maximum profits from the sales. If they put a higher price, they would lose money because people wouldn't buy the DVD's anymore. If they put a lower price, they would lose money because people would buy just the same but for a cheaper price. It's quite simple really and I don't see what there is to whine about it. I own close to 50 DVD's and God knows how many CD's and it would never occur to me to bitch about the prices. If you can't afford it, don't buy it! It's not like we're talking about a basic life necessity here, like food or water or something. Do you also cry about that Ferrari's cost too much?

    DVD zoning sucks, of course, since it means you can't really buy DVD's from, let's say Amazon.com if you live in Europe but it's not like they put the zones there just to piss people off. There's a good reason for it and the Slashdot crowd that gets all music for free from Napster / Limewire / Gnutella / whatever and pirates movies with DivX is a good example of why the zones are there. They probably don't work too well since it's very easy to get a zone-free DVD player, but that's besides the point.
  • I think you just proved beyond a doubt why distributing music on CDs deserves to go the way of the dinosaur. It's so much easier just to download things.

    Yes, you're right that downloading is easier and more efficient for you, but there's something you forgot to mention (probably accidentally, I'm not accusing you of anything).

    We need to remember to compensate the artists! Musician/actress Courtney Love in her Salon piece says WHAT is needed -- tips (even Robert Cringely has finally, slowly, gotten it) -- but she doesn't say HOW. I have a way to solve the how question, and cut out a lot of middlemen (who won't be happy losing their trips to Scores, etc. that Courtney mentions).

    I know, I've said this over & over here on /., but it's still TRUE! e-gold (try it, and I'll click you some if you send me an account number) has been keeping the promises others made about the 'net since since the currency went online in 1996, with minimal hype. Is it perfect? No, but it's good enough to solve the problem of compensating musicians for downloads without compensating 4 layers of record-industry lard-asses in the process, and that's why I rant repeatedly about it. (I want to be the lard-ass who gets the trips to Scores, so I guess this comment rates "-1, greedy-as-hell," but who knows -- I don't care, I just know that we're more efficient with voluntary tips than the present system, and probably better for music, too.) Thanks for listening (again, in many cases).
    JMR

  • To give you an example of why any movie buff needs to crack regions:

    Citizen Kane [imdb.com], one of the most honored films of all times, the AFI's number one film on their list, is not available on DVD in the US.

    I bought my copy in the UK, and can't imagine a comprehensive film collection without this vitally important film. Why is every Adam Sandler film available on DVD in the US, and Orson Welles' masterpiece isn't?

    I own 500 DVDs, and love the format, but I can't imagine not being able to play any DVD I wish. Region coding is indefensible.

  • I can see an argument that They don't want people seeing movies on DVD before they're released in the cinema.

    Well, then, they have two and only two legitimate options: get it into the cinema earlier or release the DVD later.
    /.

  • As opposed to government price-fixing

    Inasmuch that the whole cartel arrangement depends upon novel notions of copyright law (extending it to cover restrictions on content access as well as content copying) enacted at the behest of industry lobbying, it is government price-fixing.
    /.

  • This is done so as to not rob the movie of any money to be made in its theatrical run.

    This language implies that the studios have some sort of natural right to continue making profits using their existing business models, forever and ever, amen. They don't.

    There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or a corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to the public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.

    --Robert A. Heinlein, "Life-Line"

    /.
  • There's a difference. In the U.S. prices are quoted exclusive of sales tax. In Europe, prices are almost always quoted inclusive of VAT. Also, not all of us live in a state with a sales tax. I certainly don't (Delaware).... It's a joy, let me tell you. Being able to go buy something for $9.99 and actually being able to pay for it with just a ten dollar bill.
  • Thank you. I see I got modded down. Typical. You can't state an opinion on slashdot without being modded down and being modded up is damn simple to do by stating something that appeals to your typical clueless moderator.

    Besides, making comparisions using current exchange rates is ridiculous. The pound is doing horrible against the dollar currently, which makes all the difference in the world. How about quoting how many hours an average worker in each country has to work to pay for a typical DVD. That would make far more sense...

    What I don't understand is why there aren't more outcries about stuff that is far more substantial, like why computers in the U.K. are priced about on parity with U.S. computer prices where a buck and a quid are equal. That's gotta hurt a lot more than paying an extra bob or two on a DVD...

  • by cansecofan22 (62618) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @09:00PM (#161422) Homepage
    I wish that someone (or some group) would check out the prices of CD's in the states (and around the worls for that matter). I know that there are marketing and royalty costs that come with each CD but to pay $15 for a CD is crazy. I think this is why MP3's became so popular. If it was easy to compress and move a movie over the net I am sure we would see a rise in movie sharing.
  • > 'If you cut off their XXXXXX XXXXXXX legs there ain't gonna be no more kicking'.

    You are right, a business without any customers no longer can afford to stay in business. But the problem is too many suck^H^H^H^Hconsumers continuing to buy something they think they "need."

    Myself is a perfect example :-( I'm trying to stop drinking soda. I know it's not good, but yet I continue buying it because I like the taste. And it keeps the soda companies in biz. In essence I have "voted" with my money.

    I can see the same thing with people buying DVD's.

    The root of the problem with "bad" corporations is ourselves. We need to continue active boycotting and show more people how to wake up from what is going on around them.
  • Because those dolphin laws were making it harder for fishermen to make money, and so the WTO went after them. The coding system allows publishers to basically sell movies three times, one for each market. As a Seattleite who whitnessed the stupidity of the WTO first hand (as well as the stupidity of all the protesters, but that's another story), I doubt they would ever put any effort into getting the codes revoked.
  • It's called an abuse of monopolistic powers. They provide probably 97% percent of DVDs to Europe. We do not live in a laissez-faire economy though. One of the factors that that lead to the great depression in the '30s was having no government intervention in the economy. It may feel like a violation of your rights to not be able to sell your product at your own price when you have a monopoly, but there is economic stability to be had. If you charge outrageos prices for something so popular, you can impact many other things in the process.
  • The problem is now what they charge for them, its that they charge different people different ammounts for them ... thats hard to justify
  • by chancycat (104884) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @09:17PM (#161443) Journal
    Just as long as the story keeps coming around I'm happy.

    One of these days enough common folks will know about the region coding that enough lawers and political reps will figure out that their hide will be thicker if they go after it. And until then, region-flexible players sound like the way to go.

  • It's all in what you're willing to pay, I suppose. For me, $20 for a movie I really like is a worthwhile investment.

    Basic econ:
    Monopoly-level pricing doesn't set prices at a level where goods are a bad investment for everyone; if you set pricing that high you'd make nothing. Monopoly-level pricing is higher though, and results in less consumption, more profit for the monopoly, and less consumer surplus--overall, less economic productivity.

    We should not be happy with prices that are just "good enough"; prices should by competitive markets, not industry associations.

  • I think an amusing governmental solution for the eu would be to open up trade in "modchips" for dvd players.

    Switzerland does that. If you can't buy access for it in Switzerland, you're entitled to break the protection. This applies to satellite TV, too, and third-party set-top box unlocking cards are sold openly and legally.

  • The key to this is that multiple companies are conspiring to impose the region coding system on users. This is "conspiracy in restraint of trade". In the US, that's illegal, but enforcement has been weak since the Carter administration. In the EU, it's also illegal, although the laws are different. The EU is getting more aggressive about enforcing the EU directives against such things.
  • It is possible to burn DVD movies, just not anything that is encryted. What needs to be done is the dvd must be decrypted, then burned onto the dvd disc. So no, it isn't a direct copy, but it is possible to copy movies.
  • Paying $20-$25 for a DVD is just as bad. DVD's don't cost that much to make. Movies pay for themselves in the theare, CD's don't have an analog. DVD's cost more to produce I am sure, but I doubt they cost more than $1. It's rediculous how much of a markup goes on there. Someone is checking up on the European prices? Jesus, as if the American prices weren't bad enough they mark them up even more in Europe? That's horrible. I hope this doesn't make people think that they are getting off light paying $20 for a "Super Special Final Mega Director's Cut"
  • The best way to get the price of DVDs down is to stop buying them!!!

    People have to be educated before boycotting will work.

    There is a perception that because a DVD is better quality (than VHS), that it should therefore cost more. Pretty much the same argument that CDs had over LPs and cassettes. This is hogwash of course. A DVD weighs less, takes up half the volume, and the cost to manufacture (even considering mastering). This combination of the weight, volume and price makes floorspace selling DVDs four times more profitable than selling VHS. People should be aware of that. Add to that the regional encoding issue which, especially outside of the US artifically raises prices even more and it all comes down to one thing:

    People are being ripped off.

    Once that fact sinks in, I suspect consumers will boycott or certainly be more selective of which titles they buy. Prices will come down if that happens.

  • You know I really don't like the idea of dvd regions, profit setting, higher prices in different markets... but guess what? There is something I can do about it. I will simply not buy dvd hardware. You people do not deserve a DVD player. You are not intitled to one by law. If you don't like what they are doing with them, DON'T BUY THEM. Guess what, if enough people don't buy a product it doesn't stay around, a new approach is taken to pricing and distribution until one that will work, well... works. This model works because all of you complaining still go out and purchase the hardware and the media. YOU are just as much to blame. YOU are part of the problem. If you want people to presure the MPAA, RIAA, Microsoft or whoever the random company or group that is doing something you don't agree with, then get off your ass and start educating. BUT DON'T FUCKING WHINE ABOUT IT ON SLASHDOT! Take five minutes the next time you're in your local electronic store and you see someone looking at a DVD play to explain what exactly the regional id system is all about. If you get the word out, and have a better way, people will eventually begin to listen. And finally as for music and movies going away if some lock down system comes, you are wrong. The system will work if people use, it however won't work if people don't and the big companies will come up with something that eventually will, and perhaps it might be something that would be more "Fair" as many have said.
  • Sony are holding out on out-of-the-box multi-region, because they own Columbia Pictures. The multi-region thing may help sell your player, but region lockout helps your bottom line more, it would appear.
  • by iainl (136759) on Monday June 11, 2001 @12:31AM (#161466)
    "The best way to get the price of DVDs down is to stop buying them!!!"

    Only partially true. No-one bought DiVX when Circuit City launched it. Result - the format dies a death. Very few people bought laserdiscs. Result - Special Editions costing over $100 and even bare-bones discs at $40.

    What you are saying is true to some extent, as I'm sure Paramount would drop their prices closer to some of the cheaper studios if they thought the numbers looked bad at their current price, but you are only getting your cheap discs in Walmart (or any discs in Walmart) because they are selling well.

    In any case, the issue here is that discs in the EU are significantly more expensive than US discs. What the EU are probably concerned about is that Region Encoding is locking the average consumer into buying the expensive local disc, rather than importing a cheap US one. Naturally, the clued in just mod chip their players round the problem, but thats not a solution for everyone.
  • the Slashdot crowd that [...] and pirates movies with DivX

    You mean i can do that?

    Better get up to date with my pirating skills - i need to feel that "i'm part of the gang" ...

  • by clickety6 (141178) on Monday June 11, 2001 @01:22AM (#161469)
    It's not just DVDs that are zoned. Many videogame CDs are also zoned and the US versions are considerably cheaper than the European versions. I know the companies will provide "reasonable" arguments for this ("wse don't want to have US gamers suddenly finding their games in Japanese", "we don't want European players fidning the NTSC disk won't work") but surely there is a difference between warning about compatabilities vs. actively preventing the disks playing, even though many people can play US disks on their Europan system, for example. I think this would provide them with a much argument against modchips as there would no longer be a "legal" reason to modify your game console.
  • by Srin Tuar (147269) <zeroday26@yahoo.com> on Sunday June 10, 2001 @09:22PM (#161470)

    CSS Region coding is a tool used to "extract the customer surplus". You charge a price in a given market which is optimal for profits considering the number of units that will sell and the margin.

    It is also the first step down a slippery slope. Its a tenative first step: right now the average person wont notice it, and will probably not even realize that it exists.

    But if its accepted then it will fester. Pretty soon the price for a movie or a song will be set based upon which state you live in. Then by which city. Ultimatly they will charge each customer the most they are willing to pay.

    We will each end up with "trusted" computers and electronics that use a "secure media path" all the way to the speakers and screen. Each individual will have to get their own copies, digitally signed to their account number and device id's. Of course when you buy a new Movie player youll have to buy your movies all over again- because the old ones will only play on your old player.

    It wont be so bad, fairly well automated, all content downloaded online right into your player. $40 wont be too bad for a flick. And you dont really care that the rich guy down the street has to pay $400 for the same exact movie- thats his problem, right?

    Is this where we want to end up?

  • I remember the EU had an investigation into CD prices some years ago. They found that yes, we are being overcharged for CDs compared to prices in the states.
    However, they had absolutely no powers to do anything about this...
    I would imagine this is the same kind of thing. A load of people will be handsomely paid to sit on their arses for months, and finally say that, yes, we are being overcharged for DVDs, and yes, we are often getting an inferior product due to the regioning.
    But they will have no powers to do anything, and like the US CD companies, the US DVD companies will go "So what?" and carry on regardless.

    All this will do is keep a bunch of minor politicians in work for a while. It won't benefit anyone.

    Incidentally, less than half of my DVDs are region 1. They're either stuff you can't actually get in region 2 at all, or couldn't get in region 2 for a long, long time after they came out in region 1, or in one case it was cheaper to buy the region 1 and have it shipped over than it was to go to the shop and buy it in region 2!

    Hacker: A criminal who breaks into computer systems
  • CDs first appeared on the market in 1983, and since then, the Consumer Price Index (a US benchmark of inflation) has risen by two-thirds. If the price of a CD had kept pace with inflation, an album that cost $15 in 1983 would cost $25 now. So the real (inflation-adjusted) cost of a CD has come down.

    Good point. But still, $15 is way too high.

    ---
    DOOR!!
  • by AntiNorm (155641) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @11:37PM (#161477)
    I know that there are marketing and royalty costs that come with each CD but to pay $15 for a CD is crazy.

    What it all comes down to is this:

    Customers treat a business the same way said business treats its customers. IOW, a business that treats its customers with respect will in turn be treated with respect by these same customers. Conversely, a business that treats its customers like crap will tend not to be treated so well by its customers.

    This principle can easily be applied to the RIAA. One must not look far to see examples of the RIAA disrespecting its customers. Case in point: $15 CDs. Back when CDs came out, the RIAA promised that the only reason that they were so expensive was because of the new technology involved, and that they would soon become less expensive. Did this happen? No it didn't. So, in response to this and other RIAA actions, many of the RIAA's customers are becoming more and more pissed off with the RIAA. Just look at the proliferation of Napster-type music sharing services. Swapping music isn't all about getting free music; part of it involves compensating oneself for a perceived wrong committed by the recording industry.

    And naturally, this principle can be applied to the motion picture industry as well. They say their intentions are good, but with such things as 1) going after anybody who even thinks about cracking CSS, 2) region coding, 3) Macrovision, 4) etc., their actions start to become suspicious at best. And the affected customers take action in response, proliferating DeCSS, swapping DVD rips, etc.

    So why then is most of the public not concerned about the recent actions of the RIAA/MPAA? Simple. Because they don't know. Next time you go to the video store, ask the clerk...heck, ask the manager if they know what DeCSS is. Chances are you'll get a "no" in most cases. The public needs to be educated about things like this. Whether they'll care or not is a different story, but it would help a whole lot just to get the word out. The more people know about the actions of the entertainment industry, the better. And, the more people know, the more the entertainment industry will be likely to be willing to change its ways.

    ---
    DOOR!!
  • The problem is that the hardware people have to sign an agreement with the DVDCCA to get a license for CSS decryption, and that license forbids the kind of things that you mention (except "decent quality").
  • Breach of contract, naturally. Also, there may be action under the DMCA because it's not specifically copy control mechanisms that cannot be bypassed, but access control mechanisms.
  • You probably agree with Al Gore that Americans "deserve low gas prices" and Californians "have a right to cheap electricity." If life is unfair, let's get the government to fix it.

    Why not quit your whining and stop buying CDs? You don't "deserve" anything at all, and if you let the CD companies bilk you, you have no one to blame but yourself.
  • by CaptainZapp (182233) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @11:59PM (#161487) Homepage
    If airlines had to sell all their seats at the same price, it would hurt the poor and help the rich - but instead, they can charge vacationers less and business people more due to the fact that vacationers book long in advance, while business often books a few days before they fly.

    But then, this analogy is flawed.

    You see, a specific flight on a given route has a finite amount of space. If there are 300 seats for sale, it is just damn well impossible to stuff 350 people into a plane. (OK, theoretically it's possible, but you won't be in business very long).

    This also applies when you combine the capacity of all given carriers. There is so-and-so much capacity for a given route and if there is a lot of (over-)capacity, this potentially drives prices down. That's the reason why you fly cheaper from Los Angeles to New Yourk, then from Hicksville to Muskogee. Even if it's 8 time the distance.

    You also conveniently forget the restrictions attached to cheaper flight tickets. If I pay up to 5 times the price for a full fare business class ticket, that gives me the right to board or not board the booked flight at my convenience. I don't even have to call the airline to cancel and I can change my schedule at any time and at no charge.

    Now, the more cheapo an airline ticket is, the more strings are attached: Minimum/maximum stay, Sunday stay-over, No refunds, schedules can not be changed, or changes carry a stiff penalty, etc.

    What a business person needs is flexibility more then any thing else. Not only the flexibility to book four hours in advance, but also to change her plans at whim.

    This is very different with medias. Be it software, music or motion pictures. Once you payed for the production and/or development costs, the cost of a copy is marginal.

    Don't get me wrong; huge amounts where invested into those products and the production entities certainly have a right to make a fair profit on their investments.

    They definitely don't have the right to exploit customers, based on rules and backed by laws which are convenient only to them.

    Unless of course they can obtain the best politicians money can buy...

  • by gatesh8r (182908) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @10:16PM (#161489)
    To: European Union
    From: MPAA
    Subject: W3 0wnz j00!

    Dear European Union:

    Now you have pissed us off, we have hired the l33t3st hax0rs in the world. We won't get rid of our regional codes; we have to make a profit and rape your wallets. Moreover, we have an obligation to eliminate -all- our competition from the face of the earth, and we will no matter what it takes. See, our goal is to take over the world, just like what we depict in Hollywood. I'm very sure though that we are the good guys in this one; after all, we are protecting our intelectual property.

    Since you did send a letter from your competition department, we now see you as a threat to our existance. You fuckers are probably pirates, too! You and your open source coders like that Torvalds guy. We hate that; we refuse to lose a dime after all. We prefer ignorant americans just like ourselves buying into a system where we can rape wallets and pillage life savings; to protect our intelectual property.

    Now you see where we are coming from. Expect that your piddly servers with your pirated content be DoS'ed soon by our scr|p7 k|dd|3s.

    Regards,
    The More Pathetic Assholes of America (MPAA)

    P.S. -- And you thought we were the Motion Picture Association of America.

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @10:12PM (#161491)
    > I'm not sure if the BBC 'get it' yet, though:
    > they filed this story under "Entertainment:
    > Film".

    As opposed to "getting it" Slashdot, which
    filed it under "Movies". Ummmm...

    Chris Mattern
  • Perhaps Dr Who's revival will evolve in to a feature length movie, and released on DVD. If this happens, I may begin to give a damn. The movie industry has consistantly backed new formats, but only if these formats are under their strict control. Is DVD better? Well duh.. but will I pay an extra $20 for it, give up my freedom to backup, archive, and record(at reasonable prices), or even to watch somthing my friend sent me from austrailia.. The answer to that is of course no. Eventualy DVD will either evolve in to a useable format, or go the way of betamax. Until then, my SVHS VCR works just fine.
  • They already did. The Justice department found that the major labels were in collusion to keep the price of CDs above $15, and cost consumers around $2 billion. The labels had to pay some insignificant fine and stop their collusion. It worked somewhat ($10 CDs at Best Buy at times), but the price can still come down further.
  • Last time I checked, contracts in restraint of trade were forbidden by the Sherman Antitrust Act.
  • by IngramJames (205147) on Monday June 11, 2001 @01:19AM (#161502)
    Absolutely. I ordered 4 DVDs from Amazon.com.. they got stopped at Customs and I had to pay some import duty. But I got them discounted at Amazon, and even with the import duty they were cheaper than here (just). I also got more features for my money.

    BTW, Brits should be aware that the Canadian firm: DVD Box Office [dvdboxoffice.com] don't charge for shipping. So you can order them singly, get 'em quicker and pay less. Nice.
    ---------------------------
  • by IngramJames (205147) on Monday June 11, 2001 @01:13AM (#161503)
    EU: "In that case, we demand that the region system is abandoned."

    Depends who is in charge though...
    Germany: We demand equality and freedom for our citizens. Ban region codes.

    French: Dirty Hollywood ruins our lovely film industry. Abolish region codes, and while we're at it, let's ban US films period. That should annoy the Americans and the British at the same time.

    Netherlands: Whatever the opposite of what Germany wants.

    British: America is our friend. They are very nice people. Let's do what they want. Another missile base, Mr Bush? Why of course! Treaties? Oh I'm sure nobody's really bothered about those old things. Plus, it'll really annoy the French. Let's make imports cheaper and compulsary

    Italians: There were rules about this?

    Eastern Europe (as one voice): There are non-pirated versions?

    Spain: Yeah, whatever.

    Switzerland: We're not in the EU.

    So it really depends on which contries sit on the comittee, really. And am I the only person in the world that is worried about the fact that all Switzerland's neighbouring countries would describe them as "shy, quiet.. keep themselves to themselves.. seem like really nice, polite fellows, wouldn't hurt a fly". It's only a matter of time.
    ---------------------------
  • by darekana (205478) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @10:21PM (#161504) Homepage
    The higher pricing is probably because of the distribution companies inside the local country or the local versions of the parent company. The stand in the middle and rip people off school of business...

    In Japan a "Pulp Fiction" DVD with Japanese subtitles is about $50... ow. Compared to the US where you can get them for $17. Hmmm... somehow I doubt the translator demands a 50% royalty. Of course you can get the Chinese version for $2 on the street. *wink* *wink*

    Recently Warner Brothers has cut all their DVDs down to about $20 in Japan, about half the price of all the others... pretty crazy. So I am in the interesting situation of only being able to afford or justify purchasing DVDs which are from WB. If I want to watch with Japanese friends etc.
  • but the availability of languages (even when all are using the same region code).

    And that's my gripe. My family is Italian and we live in the US. My father never studied English. He can speak it, but often has difficulty understanding especially when someone speaks fast. He enjoys watching movies in Italian - that is when he can get his hands on it. Most DVDs from our local rental shop only have French and Spanish tracks on them. Cost is not the major issue - although he can't justify paying extreme markups to get the Italian equivalent of American movies.

    Recently he purchased a bunch of DVDs directly from Italy. These were American movies dubbed in Italian. I had to rip the DVDs and convert them to VCD format so that he could watch his legally purchased DVDs. How annoying. He's considering buying a region free or a region selectable (better yet) DVD player. I just haven't found one that also has all the features of his current DVD player.

    The MPAA would probably consider me a pirate (under the DMCA)for bypassing CSS to get around their region coding. Too bad for them - sue me. I wish the MPAA would get a clue and realize that the region coding annoys people.

  • If the prices WERE ridiculous then people wouldn't be buying CD's. Sure, I don't like paying $15 a CD, NO ONE does. But at the same time, If the record labels want to sell CD's at that price, and people buy them (and they do!) then I see no problem with this situation. It's not like the record labels are robbing you of some fundamental right--it's a luxury item people.

    Scott
  • by mc6809e (214243) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @11:51PM (#161514)
    "You gots it. I wants it."

    Yes, its that simple. You will hear a great deal about social goods or justice or morality or how some price is "unreasonably high". It is nothing but an elaborate (often self) deception. The logic in the end is the same. They want what someone else has created. If they can't get it at the the price they want, this makes the owner evil.

    It is very difficult to reason with such people. There is an almost reflexive connection between their wants/feelings and judgements about what is right or wrong. The thinking very much resembles that of the religious zealot or homophobe. For them, the unconfortable feeling they get when they think of such things is enough to provoke a judgement that such things are wrong. There is no reasoning that goes on.

    Take the example of "unreasonable price." Just how is anyone supposed to determine logically what a reasonable price is? Is there some formula? No. "unreasonable price" is just a synonym for "I don't like the price" or "I feel the price it too high."

    My favorite is when people invoke the idea of a "social good." Again, most of the time, "social good" is just a synonym for "my good." In the end, they really mean "less good for them, more good for me." Really, how could it mean anything else? Values are ultimately subjective. How can anyone be in a position to determine objectively what is a "social good"? People who invoke the term "social good" really have no choice but to use their own values in deciding what is a social good and what isn't. For me, allowing people to charge what they what for what they make on the priciple that they are not slaves to society is a "social good." Others think this is incorrect. How can we decide objectively who is right? We can't. In the end issues of right and wrong come down to subjective judgement and personal value systems. I just wish people would be honest with me and themselves about where their own ideas of right and wrong come from and not hide behind elaborate abstractions like "social good."

    We can discuss how it is we can get what we each want. Some will conclude that giving people the right to charge what they wish for what they create, in the end, will provide most of us with what we want. Other's will conclude that outright theft is the easiest way. Others will be somewhere in between. Its starts with people being honest with themselves.

    So, the answer to the question is:

    People can't charge what they want because other people don't like it. They are even willing to get violent about it (they hide behind the abstrations "illegal" and "law" and get professional thugs called "police" who have guns and batons to do their dirty work).

  • by Cardhore (216574) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @11:38PM (#161516) Homepage Journal
    This sounds like the ripe time to make some money. All you have to do is produce a DVD player with these features:

    Front panel region selection

    No macrovision

    Disc script ignoring

    Lock-out ignoring

    Decent quality
    The script and lock-out things are necessary because some (most?) DVD's have annoying "splash" scenes that play when you pick options. Or the scripts verify regions. Also many movies don't let you fast forward (FCC warnings), pause, rewind, etc.!!


  • This is where it shows corporations are two-faced and hypocritical. One one hand they preach the virtues of globalisation, the free movement of resources that become their inputs. The free movement of products that become their revenue stream. However, they dont want consumers to experience the good parts of globalisation. Consumers should not be allowed to be segregated into different markets so these film companies can charge higher prices. This is where the WTO should step in since it is clearly a limit to globalisation, of course the WTO represents who now?
  • I think you just proved beyond a doubt why distributing music on CDs deserves to go the way of the dinosaur. It's so much easier just to download things.

    Anyway, for the sake of argument... the comparison with CPUs is flawed. The manufacturing plants capable of making CPUs run to the hundreds of billions of dollars; CD presses are trivial in comparison. Also, the engineering expertise is incredible, whereas with a CD you follow the cookbook formula.

    IBM, Intel, AMD, and others could make money even if all intellectual property ceased existing tomorrow. They own huge industrial complexes in multiple countries, and they make the stuff that people need. In any case, you need a college education just to understand what's going on in computer engineering, which is not cheap.

    Recording industry companies would be hard pressed to survive if piracy was legalized. The companies, well aware of this, buy all the legislators they can and hope for the best.

  • by jsse (254124)
    Dear Cat,

    I must be missing something, someone tell me why they can't charge whatever the fuck they want for their product.

    Because we can.

    Best Rgds,
    Chief Bonehead of MPAA
  • by jsse (254124) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @09:14PM (#161534) Homepage Journal
    When they say zone protection is to protect their business, it's bullshit. It's to protect their profit without value-adding in their products. If they really want to prevent water goods, they can:

    - Don't price up outragously in some regions
    - Make some regional specific stuffs, e.g. european languages version, so that customers would prefer to buy they own regional version

    In the past they'd focus on customers' satisfaction, now they find legal ways to restrict customers from making their own purchase preferences - with Government consent. That's sad.
  • " THAT is why they can't charge whatever they want. Not because they couldn't get away with it- because they could, and are, and in so doing they finance ever more expansion, past what is socially useful.
    "

    I see this issue differently. Let the MPAA sell DVD's at whatever price they wish to, wherever they wish to. BUT, the consumer should have the right to buy his DVD's anwyhere he wishes. That means, if they are selling them for $15 in Indiana, he should be able to buy them over the net for that anywhere else in the world.

    This is NOT a case of a government wanting to tell business what they can charge. It's a government questioning a system that enforces a supply monopoly that lets a cartel set prices, not the market.

    For instance, if DVD sellers in the UK have to comptete with Americnan Internet mail order houses, you bet the prices will go down. Either because the retailers lower them or else the retailers DEMAND lower prices from the MPAA to compete.

    It is this competition the MPAA's region scheme is there to prevent. It would be hard for the MPAA to argue that they can't afford to sell a DVD for less than $30 one place when they sell it for $15 another place.

    That is how the free market works. Command markets, whether run by communist/fascist government, or by coprporate cartels, are BAD for the consumer and should be fought.
  • Last time I checked, studios used region coding so foreign countries couldn't buy DVDs of movies not even released theatrically in their respective country yet. This is done so as to not rob the movie of any money to be made in its theatrical run.

    Last time I checked senior executives of large multinationals engaged in criminal conspiracies told lies to avoid prosecution.

    The fact is that most of the material out on DVD and zone encoded is from the back catalogue. New movie releases are only a small fraction of the DVDs that are on sale.

    The only possible explanation for the zone system is to allow differential pricing, to allow the studios to charge more in one zone than in another. That is illegal and there is no reason that the EU should not fine the studios a few billion dollars apiece.

  • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Monday June 11, 2001 @05:45AM (#161537) Homepage
    However, they had absolutely no powers to do anything about this...

    Oh really, tell that to IBM. After the Reagan administration dropped the anti-trust case against them (large campaign contributions) the EU went ahead and fined them over a billion dollars - the largest corporate fine in history at the time.

    The Commission can bring proceedings against the studios in the European court, the judgement can be enforced in any EU member state.

  • Yeah right... Here in the Netherlands we pay around US$20 for a CD... CD's are way cheaper in the US then overhere... Remco
  • (although it does keep us from buying all those bootlegs in China and running them on our local DVD players....)

    Not if the Chinese bootlegs are ripped from a US DVD.

  • I'm German, sorry if I do not know the correct economic terms in English.

    Essentially, the record companies have a monopoly on each of their artists. If there were a working market - in theory - a price will be reached, that gives the greatest total benefit for both the consumer and the enterprises. In a monopoly situation, the price will produce the greatest benefit to the company holding the monopoly.

    Even if they are luxury items CDs should be priced so that the total benefit is greatest.

    And this means that record companies should be watched closely.

    By the way, is anyone examining territorial lockouts for video games?

  • by Advocadus Diaboli (323784) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @10:35PM (#161558)
    DVD for movies is great, but the way the
    entertainment companies are treating their
    customers is sort of annoying. I'm a German
    citizen, my wife is Italian and we both talk
    English very well. If I go to buy a DVD in Germany
    it often happens that the soundtrack is only
    German. If we buy DVD in Italy the soundtrack
    is usually Italian and sometimes also English.
    The most annoying thing so far was "Terminator 2"
    which has an English soundtrack, but with
    italian subtitles that can't be turned off.

    Do the entertainment firms think that the
    customer is so stupid that he really needs
    subtitles. If I use the original soundtrack,
    then I do it for a reason of course and if I
    would like to have subtitles in my native
    language I would turn them off. But forcing
    you to do it in a way you don't want to do
    is really annoying. Customers are treated like
    kids in the kindergarten.

    Well, at least my problem with DVD is not the
    price (that is pretty high of course) but the
    availability of languages (even when all are
    using the same region code).
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Sunday June 10, 2001 @10:07PM (#161559)
    Pretty soon the price for a movie or a song will be set based upon which state you live in. Then by which city. Ultimatly they will charge each customer the most they are willing to pay.

    Hey, this could be an OK deal. Let's say the distributor's advanced customer profiling pinpoints the movies I hate so much that they would have to pay me to watch. (Should be easy, since most current movies fall into this category.)

    All I need to do is order up a boatload of these, then I can kick back and pull in some serious coinage from these bozos.

  • I think you are missing a major point here. The problem here is not particulally that DVDs are overpriced, but that the prices of DVDs are different for Americans than they are for Europeans. Bascially the movie companies are saying 'We like Americans, so they can have DVDs cheaper, we don't really like Europeans that much, so we will charge them a little extra so the Americans can have DVDs cheaper'

    A free market, where everyone charges what they can, is a good thing, but whats happening here is a company giving discounts to a group of people because of their nationality, which is simply not on.
  • go to your local Pawn Shop and pick the movies up for a fraction of original cost... I just bought 2 CDs for $2.50 each saturday, and a DVD for $5.00
  • I think an amusing governmental solution
    for the eu would be to open up trade in
    "modchips" for dvd players. That way the
    consumers can pull out macrovision while
    they're at it and the studios would really
    be at a loss.

    So they could just threaten to do that,
    really... :o)



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