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Blockbuster Chief: End DVD Region Codes 729

Xesdeeni writes "Blockbuster's President/COO Nigel Travis has called for the elimination of the DVD region code. At issue is the situation when a movie is released in one country several months before it is released in another. He points out that pirates 'can drive a cart and horses through these holes in the release schedule.'"
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Blockbuster Chief: End DVD Region Codes

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  • Preach it brother (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr Guy ( 547690 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:39AM (#7744637) Journal
    The industry is going to hate it. Is Blockbuster big enough to complain loud enough?

    I think they just might be.
    • by Xner ( 96363 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:45AM (#7744689) Homepage
      Whether or not the Blockbuster chain is large enough I have no idea. They are not very prevalent here in Holland, though I hear they are quite large stateside. However the rental industry as a whole generates a substantial portion of the MPAA members' revenue, and I am sure they will get their attention.

      Let's be realistic here, if Blockbuster complains about it, the rest of the rental business is not likely to hold views that are a lot different. And together they certainly have the clout to make region codes go away.

      • Re:Preach it brother (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BigBir3d ( 454486 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:53AM (#7745365) Journal
        Blockbuster renting DVD's is directly attributable to that format becoming the new "standard" for watching movies. Without them, it would still be VHS first, DVD second. Only this year have DVD's become more popular than VHS, in the US.

        Blockbuster quarterly filing [yahoo.com].

        Also note that the gross margin has jumped quite nicely since converting to a DVD driven rental business. Better product for the customer, at a slightly higher price, with better profits for the company.
        • Re:Preach it brother (Score:5, Informative)

          by PainKilleR-CE ( 597083 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @01:49PM (#7746483)
          Blockbuster renting DVD's is directly attributable to that format becoming the new "standard" for watching movies. Without them, it would still be VHS first, DVD second. Only this year have DVD's become more popular than VHS, in the US.

          Blockbuster only rents DVDs because it became the new standard. Look at Blockbuster's 5 year stock rates. When DVDs hit, Blockbuster tanked, and they were the last major US rental chain to go to DVD in most areas, and they've only risen as they started moving to DVD and improving their rental prices to be more competetive.

          Also note that the gross margin has jumped quite nicely since converting to a DVD driven rental business. Better product for the customer, at a slightly higher price, with better profits for the company.

          Again, their rental prices (to consumers) have dropped, they moved to DVD after their business started shrinking, and it has shown a huge increase since they moved. Blockbuster was not ahead of the curve here, they just managed to survive.

          Adoption of DVD was the fastest new technology adoption in US history. Many businesses were caught off-guard, and many of the movie companies, despite being the driving force behind the move, still haven't gotten a large percentage of their catalog over.

          As for DVD region encoding, with several countries already removing it, it's only a matter of time before the US follows, and Blockbuster can only help with that by pointing out what is blatantly obvious to the rest of us. Perhaps Blockbuster sees a chance to regain more of the ground they lost 2-3 years ago (they were losing business before DVDs were released, especially in southern California where Hollywood Video moved in and really started undercutting them with a better selection and longer rentals), but I hope the other big rental outlets follow their lead on this. It may not be good for the movie industry in those places where they inflate prices and use the region code to artificially segment the market, but in the long run it's better for consumers.
    • by gcaseye6677 ( 694805 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:48AM (#7744717)
      Considering they are owned by Viacom, I'd say they definitely have some leverage. Then again, it could be one of those cases where one division of a huge corporation wants something different than another division.
    • by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:50AM (#7744734) Journal
      The industry is going to hate it.

      Blockbuster is the industry [viacom.com].
    • by IWorkForMorons ( 679120 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:51AM (#7744743) Journal
      Aren't they owned by a company that's owned by a company that's owned by Disney? I know it's confusing, but I'm pretty sure that's how it is. This will get squashed fairly quick, and the CEO probably won't be heard from again. Unless Disney comes to their senses and realize he's right, that is. Hopefully this is the case, because instead of trying to get file-sharers who make no money, they can cut off real pirates looking for profit. This could be a real boon to the video market, since I still believe people are willing to buy things legitimately if given the chance. Region codes only prevent honest people from buying what they want and giving the money to the right people.
    • Blockbuster is big enough that back in the mid 90's studios would preview movies for Blockbuster before releasing them in theatres to ensure that Blockbuster would be willing to carry the movie when it went to video. I don't know if they still do that, but they did for several years.
      • Re:Preach it brother (Score:5, Informative)

        by twoflower ( 24166 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:17AM (#7745000)
        More troublingly, studios make special "Blockbuster" editions of a film for home video -- the tape or DVD you rent at Blockbuster of a given film might be missing material that shows up in the theatrical version or in a home video version seen elsewhere, with no indication on the packaging that this is the case.

        I stopped renting at Blockbuster because of this.
      • Re:Preach it brother (Score:5, Informative)

        by j-turkey ( 187775 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:25AM (#7745081) Homepage
        Blockbuster is big enough that back in the mid 90's studios would preview movies for Blockbuster before releasing them in theatres to ensure that Blockbuster would be willing to carry the movie when it went to video. I don't know if they still do that, but they did for several years.

        Alot of this has to do with Blockbuster's "family" image. They will not rent out NC-17 movies (which is a real bummer, because there have been some excellent movies which happened to carry the NC-17 rating) or anything "too contraversial". Consequently, this is another reason why studios tend to fear NC-17 movies -- the home rental/sales market is lucrative enough for studios to bend to Blockbuster's will.

        --Turkey
  • Finally (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zegnar ( 704768 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:39AM (#7744639)
    I honestly thought noone would stand for the DVD region system when it emerged... Hollywood have always previously had some technical excuse, but this time it was pure and simple profiteeering. Not that my DVD players aren't all Multi-region, but the principle of the thing.
    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jandrese ( 485 ) * <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:04AM (#7744856) Homepage Journal
      It's not like the consumer has a lot of say in this beyond buying a region free DVD player (which retail chains in the US do not sell). They either accept the region code, CSS, Macrovision, forced ad viewing, and all of the other crap the industry forced into DVDs...or they keep their tapes and slowly move into obsoleceance. Tapes are out, studios are going to stop releasing most of their stuff on tape in the near future (it's already becoming increasingly difficult to find tapes).

      It's not like the consumers had any say into the design of the DVD spec. The studios have a monopoly (copyright) on pretty much all of the movies made in the past 75 years. If the studios didn't get their way, they could have killed DVDs before they even got started.
      • Re:Finally (Score:5, Informative)

        by Oliver Wendell Jones ( 158103 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:16AM (#7744977)
        buying a region free DVD player (which retail chains in the US do not sell)

        Ya know, that's funny because the Magnavox DVD player I got last Christmas at BLOCKBUSTER will play DVDs from all regions. Sure, I have to punch a few buttons on the remote first, but it works just fine.

        A lot of DVD players, name brand as well as the cheap Chinese imports will play DVDs from all regions if you know how - check the list of region free hacks at this site [dvdrhelp.com] to see if your DVD player can.
      • by amcguinn ( 549297 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:54AM (#7745379) Journal
        US consumers are least affected by region codes: they watch virtually only US content, and have small risk of wanting to play a non-region-1 DVD. (obviously there are exceptions, but I'm talking about the mass of consumers here).

        Outside the US, where most consumers watch a mixture of domestic and US produced content, multi-region players are the norm. I think I read that all players in New Zealand are multi-region, and I know for a fact it would be hard to get one here in the UK that isn't.

        So it's mainly a problem for Blockbuster: they can't rent out an out-of-region DVD even if 90% of consumers can watch it, because the other 10% will cause them so much trouble.

    • Re:Finally (Score:4, Interesting)

      by the Man in Black ( 102634 ) <jasonrashaad&gmail,com> on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:07AM (#7744893) Homepage
      I'm in the market for a new DVD player, m'self. Mind recommending something multi-region? Not region-free, 'cuz as I understand it, certain region-encoded DVDs will refuse to play on a player that returns it's region as '0'. Google search is turning up a bunch of "HACK YOUR DVD! B3 L33t!" type links, so I thought I'd ask this happy bunch.

      At least the adult industry (as always) has it right. All pr0n DVDs are region free!
      • Re:Finally (Score:4, Informative)

        by Oliver Wendell Jones ( 158103 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:22AM (#7745047)
        Last Christmas I picked up a Magnavox DVD player at BlockBuster. I don't remember the model # off the top of my head, just that it ends with "SL". There is simple hack that temporarily sets it to region free, turning it off and back on restores it to normal. The hack can be found at the link I posted above http://www.dvdrhelp.com/dvdhacks

        The DVD player also supports NTSC and PAL. In the setup screen choose Multisync and give it a few seconds for the video to stop rolling and it will let you play pretty much any disc you put in it. I've played CD-R KVCD, VCD and SVCD in both NTSC and PAL, as well as a non-USA region DVD (an anime disc from a friend, don't remember which one) and all have played with no problems.

        It also will accept a CD-R full of JPG files and display them on the screen, which makes it easy to bore your family and friends with all your crappy vacation photos.
  • Still a problem? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dew-genen-ny ( 617738 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:41AM (#7744654) Homepage
    Not being funny, but I thought that the region coding was ceasing to be a problem because a high percentage of the devices you buy now can circumvent it anyways.

    What I'd like to see them doing is ending staggered releases worldwide and releasing everywhere on the same day.
  • by joeflies ( 529536 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:42AM (#7744662)
    the issue of release schedule vs regional coding? There's no reason why a R1 and and R2 disc can't be released on the same day, so the code itself isn't the issue. His beef is that the window between releases gives pirates an opportunity to strike.

    Now whether having a standard no-code product instead of multiple regional products in the same language saves money for the DVD producers is another story, but he didn't mention that.

    • "There's no reason why a R1 and and R2 disc can't be released on the same day"

      Far be it from me to defend the DVD producers here, but it depends.. R1 DVDs only need to carry English audio, subtitles and menus while R2 DVDs theoretically have to have English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and usually other languages. The producers will want the R1 disc out ASAP, following up with the R2/other regions as the translations are done. Sure, in some cases those translations will already be mostly complete (for
    • by Xentax ( 201517 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:55AM (#7744784)
      The difference is that, without region codes, they'd more or less HAVE to release them at about the same time, because international commerce would make it possible and legal anyway.

      As it stands, region codes are what allow the staggered release dates to work -- sure, the American version is out, but that doesn't do Joe British Consumer any good because the *AVERAGE* DVD consumer doesn't have a region-free DVD player (the average Slashdot poster is apparently another story).

      But yes, of course they could release all the regions on the same date (or very close, instead of months apart). But at that point, of course, you have to wonder what's the point of regions at all?

      This is really about creating artificially closed (or nearly closed) markets, so a cheaper supply or a lower demand in Country X doesn't affect the price in Country Y. That would be the case regardless of release dates. Piracy is tied to the release date disparities as much as the region codes, but the market for pirated discs would be diminished IF you could just order a legal copy from elsewhere rather than wait for the local release.

      Yet another front in the battle over Globalization, I guess. I guess the movie industry has the numbers to justify this scheme as more profitable than worldwide simultaneous releases (or nearly so). I guess they only pull these long delays for movies that do well? If I were them, I'd certainly want crap movies to hit all the markets at about the same time, lest the people in Country Y have a few months to hear from Country X that "Tomb Raider: The Push-Up Bra of Life" defies the laws of physics by managing to suck AND blow, and end up not renting/buying it...

      Xentax
    • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:57AM (#7744802) Homepage
      But regional coding exists to allow staggered releases. By locking different territories, the theory goes, you can release videos in one market while creating pent-up demand in another, but without allowing importers to satisfy that demand. Nigel is arguing that not only is the demand is deflated by piracy, but by having these staggered releases they are responsible for creating a thriving pirate market. The regional coding is, therefore, a failure, and its removal will either force similar worldwide release schedules or will allow people who want to see movies to go to a secondary retailer like an importer and buy a legitimate copy.

      Either way, regional encoding should go.

  • Or.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lee Horrocks ( 11056 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:42AM (#7744665)
    They could just release the same version of the DVD simultaneously in all regions?

    After all, if they simply junked region codes, we'd have Studios complaining about people importing foreign versions of movies for which the hold "exclusive North American rights"
  • by mgpeter ( 132079 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:43AM (#7744670) Homepage
    The MPAA wants us to believe that region coding only existance is to allow them to release movies at different times in different parts of the world.

    But why are old movies region encoded ?

    Even DVDs of movies from the 60s and 70s are region coded !
  • by LehiNephi ( 695428 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:43AM (#7744672) Journal
    The release schedule is the *only* reason I can see for region encoding. And since everyone and their dog can strip their DVD player of region restrictions, it's a useless 'feature' anyway.

    Can somebody please enlighten me as to the benefits of region encoding? I simply cannot see how the movie industry makes more money by selling to certain people earlier.
    • by cherokee158 ( 701472 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:54AM (#7744775)
      Part of the reason for region encoding is licensing to television. The franchise rights to exclusively air a program may be sold here in the States, but not so often overseas, so studios find themselves in a situation where they would love to release a popular film or show overseas while it is hot, but cannot do so in the States because it would step on the toes of a local station airing the same show. With video, this was not a big deal, since the NTSC and PAL formats were incompatable and trader was limited, but with modern play-all devices and e-commerce, it became neccessary to restrict overseas movie purchases some other way.
    • Well, I think the system sucks, but the benefits are pretty clear (for the industry) - take, a 'foreign movie' such as "28 Days Later" as an example.

      released in Nov 2002 in the UK, it took until late June 2003 for it to find a release in the US. The DVD was released in the UK in May 2003. US distributors will typically wait a long time to gauge how a movie does overseas before they risk it on US audiences.

      this happens all the time - more often in reverse too: finding Nemo was on DVD in the US before it wa
    • by mst76 ( 629405 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @12:09PM (#7745521)
      The release schedule is the *only* reason I can see for region encoding. And since everyone and their dog can strip their DVD player of region restrictions, it's a useless 'feature' anyway. Can somebody please enlighten me as to the benefits of region encoding? I simply cannot see how the movie industry makes more money by selling to certain people earlier.
      The industry can charge different prices to different customers ("price discrimination" in economics jargon) Let's say in the US people are on average willing/able to pay a bit more for movies than in Asia. The profit maximizing price in the US will be higher than in Asia. Without region lock, merchants will just buy the legitimate Asian discs and sell them at a small profit in the US. This will force the Asian price up and/or the US price down, so in the end there is only one price for both markets (which are actually one market if there were no region lock). This is suboptimal (not profit maximizing) for the industry.
    • by Knights who say 'INT ( 708612 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @02:37PM (#7746936) Journal
      Standard microeconomic theory. It's a second grade discriminatory monopoly. I'll try to explain it in steps.

      Every studio has a monopoly over its own movie. Yeah-yeah-yeah, theres a degree of substitution-ability between them, but let's just assume we want "The Matrix" and nothing else.

      In a common monopoly, the monopolist faces a demand function, relating the price he sets to the ammount he manages to sell. There are a number of techniques economists learn in order to estimate demand functiond, and the Cobb-Douglas General Function Form tends to be the most adequate simple continuous algebraic function for that, but you can use a linear function if you feel like doing some numeric exercises.

      So, the profit function of the monopolist is

      PROFIT = PRICE * QUANTITY - COST

      As we've seen, the quantity the monopolist manages to seel is a function of the price - as is the cost, but we said it'd be constant.

      PROFIT (price) = PRICE * QUANTITY(PRICE) - COST (QUANTITY(PRICE))

      To simplify the calculus involved, and since there's always one and only one quantity for each price in a common (linear or Cobb-Douglas) demand function, we tend to write price as a function of quantity - that is, the price the monopolist must charge in order to sell a certain quantity. It can be easily done the other way around using the chain rule, but the notation'd get really confusing. So,

      profit(quantity) = price (quantity) * quantity - cost (quantity)

      By common calculus, profit is at its maximum when

      d(profit)/d(quantity) = 0

      So, by the product rule,

      dp/dq + p - dc/dq = 0

      Thus,

      dp/dq + p = dc/dq

      The dc/dq argument depends on the production structure of the firm and we won't use it here. The central thing here is how sensitive is the quantity purchased to how price changes, or equivalently, how much must one lower the price to sell one more unit.

      The form of the p(q) function depends mainly on consumer preferences and their budget restriction. Assuming that preferences for The Matrix (versus alternative uses of the money) are the same all over the world, let's just focus on budget restrictions.

      If budget restriction determines the demand function for a specific country, you can as well sum all the q(p) demand functions and get an international qi(p) demand function. You can then invert it to pi(q) form to fit it in our profit-maximizing criterium.

      You can easily see that, if you can charge only one price worldwide, the fact that if Argentina is affected by a crisis, and they start buying less DVD's, you face the trade-off between charging less in Argentina (and elsewhere!) and selling less worlwide, or charge the same and sell less in Argentina. The importance of Argentina in the worldwide DVD market will end up determining how much lower your optimal price will go.

      So, yes, region encoding puts the producer in an advantage regarding the consumer. It's a market failure, and it happens because of the monopoly.

      On the other hand, if you can charge different prices in different countries, you can squeeze Denmark more than Argentina, since they will be willing to pay more for the same product. The extreme case is the third degree monopoly, where the seller can charge a different price for each consumer, and squeeze all their willingness to pay to the end, not facing any trade-off at all.

      It's complicated enough there, but add exchange rates deviation from Purchasing Power Parity. In fact, it's how much the current exchange deviates from PPP that (mostly) determines how much international trade is done, and in which direction. In fact, foreign currency traders are the True Illuminati of the early-2000's.

      And yes, it makes much more sense to try to regulate DVD coding than to try to regulate currency traders away from pushing exchange rates back to PPP. Ideally, monopoly regulations should make monopolistic firms as if there was no monopoly, that is, as if there was such a large market
  • by tizzyD ( 577098 ) * <tizzyd@nosPaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:43AM (#7744673) Homepage
    The whole codes thing just seemed to smack of a money grab anyway. More or less the equivalent of trade barriers. Consider this approach:
    - Trader A buys DVD in country X for $n
    - Trader A sells DVD in country Y for $n+m

    Hmmmm. Seems like a nice, free-trade policy that anyone in the Enron Adminstration would support. But codes _try_ to prevent that free trade, saying, hey, you can't sell it over here.

    I think the producers of coded DVDs should be sued under WTO rules as prohibiting fair trade.
    • This is price discrimination and happens all the time. Basically, you make the people who can (and are willing) to pay more for something pay more and the people who can pay less, pay less. (You maximize profits for both sections.)

      Airline tickets for business travelers cost more because they can afford it. Don't want to stay over? Ticket will cost more. Prescription medication, too. Early adopters? Them, too.

      This isn't wrong, per se. It is essential capitialism and does nothing to mitigate free trade.
  • by Spad ( 470073 ) <slashdot AT spad DOT co DOT uk> on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:43AM (#7744674) Homepage
    The big studios won't give up without a fight, even though it benefits them in no way to keep the rest of the world waiting.

    It's never made sense to me just why they make us (The UK) wait so long for movies after their release in the US, when no changes are required (except maybe a couple of censorship issues). All it means is that if the movie is crap, we hear about it well in advance and then don't go and see it.

    Nice plan!
    • Actually, you guys sometimes get them sooner. We are about a season behind in the Buffy the Vampire releases here in the states, because the FX channel currently holds the rights to air them.
  • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:43AM (#7744675) Homepage
    Pirates can drive a cart through the holes in the release schedule whether there's region codes or not, but the holes in the release schedules will still be there whether the region codes are in place or not.

    Doing additional dubs and subtitling takes time, making simultaneous release worldwide somewhat tricky, unless you plan on delivering a "one size fits all" product, or holding up the release of an essentially finished and ready for Market X product until the product is ready for Markets A-Z. One size fits all product means either limiting content to the most restrictive censorship laws in all the regions you want to distribute in. Holding up the release date until all are ready means movies will lose their currency and timeliness.
    • Your comment almost makes sense.

      Releasing regional versions as they are ready does not require (or benefit from) lock-out codes. If the initial release kills the market for localized versions, so much the better for the studio.

      Doing away with lock-out codes would allow people in "other" markets to use (buy) the initial release if they choose. Currently their only choice is "piracy." Who does that help?

      The only thing left standing is price-fixing.

      -Peter
    • Doing additional dubs and subtitling takes time, making simultaneous release worldwide somewhat tricky

      It seems to me that if anything, having multiple worldwide releases for different languages, would be beneficial.

      Say a studio makes a worldwide release of a Hollywood movie as soon as the DVD is complete in english. If somebody in China spoke english well enough to get something out of it, they should be able to buy the english version. Then when the studio releases a Chinese version, that person might
    • Doing additional dubs and subtitling takes time, making simultaneous release worldwide somewhat tricky,

      So? In a free market, if the customer demands it, then you'd better figure out a way to do it.

      Which, ironically, Hollywood has done. Most of the recent blockbusters did have simultaneous releases in the theaters, and there's no reason why the same can't be done for DVDs.

      It ain't technical reasons. The movie studios have at times been very open with the real reason, which usually boil down to timing, i.
  • by Maddog Batty ( 112434 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:44AM (#7744678) Homepage
    Piracy is obviously a problem but I wonder how much an issue is due to legal sales from one region to another.

    I regularly buy region 1 DVDs and have them shipped to the UK. I don't believe I am doing anything legally wrong and certainly don't believe it is morally wrong. This gives me a DVD months earlier than I can normally get it locally and its often cheaper as well even taking postage into acount.

    Strange how this trade wasn't mentioned in the article at all....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:45AM (#7744688)
    "He points out that pirates 'can drive a cart and horses through these "

    What sort of landlubbin pirates be these?

    A real pirate sails the high seas on a fine pirate ship. I'd keel haul these donkey driving pirates, then make them walk the plank!
  • by hrieke ( 126185 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:45AM (#7744694) Homepage
    With global communication so simple and easy, this only makes sense.

    I'm honestly suprised that when movie companies green-light a project, they don't have the script translated and the sub-titles / voice overs ready for final production.

    Matrix III was the first to do this, hopefully not the last.
  • by Ilex ( 261136 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:45AM (#7744696)
    This is why many big films like LOTR now have simultaneous International release. It was 6 months before Finding Nemo was released in the UK. I bitTorrented the film because I couldn't be bothered to wait that long. Needless to say when it did come out in the cinema I decided to go see Matrix Revolutions instead.

    Most DVD Players now come with region unlock codes or are just plain chipped. The region 1 DVD's are also easily available in the UK (region 2)

    All this makes region coding useless.
  • by Rinikusu ( 28164 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:46AM (#7744697)
    I see a lot of folks are mentioning their "multi-region" DVD players, but how do I find one? Locally? Cheap? I've perused a few lists on the net, but is there a single, up-to-date repository of currently available Multi-Region capable DVD players anywhere?

    Sorry for the bother..
  • Region Coding=Stupid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <gorkon@gmail . c om> on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:48AM (#7744712)
    Why? Because say if I buy a non hollywood movie in another region. If it uses region coding, I can't play it at home. Say if a European buys BOTH their DVD player and some discs here and take it back with them. They can buy new discs that work in thier country. PAL/NTSC is not really a huge issue here. Region coding is stupid.
  • How Ironic (Score:4, Funny)

    by Zo0ok ( 209803 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:48AM (#7744713) Homepage
    How Ironic. The region codes where created to "make it possible to release a title on different occations". Now the core problem is that movies are in fact released on different occations in different parts of the world.
  • by darkmayo ( 251580 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:48AM (#7744714)
    I worked for the company for quite some time and there was a little incident regarding FOX and BBV that I would like to retell.

    Blockbuster pretty much has deals with all the movie companies (profit sharing, things like that) but for a time FOX had refused to sign on with BBV. At the time FOX was just about to release Lake Placid for the rental market BBV had orginally slated the title as a "Guarenteed in Stock" title that means there would have been a ton of this title in the stores for rental and FOX would have cashed in quite nicely.

    BBV wanted FOX to sign on like the other companies so they dropped the title from guarenteed status and ended up getting one or two of this title in each store effectively screwing FOX out of millions of dollars in rental revinue.

    Needless to say they signed on shortly after.

    I could see BBV pulling this off if they play hardball.
    • BBV wanted FOX to sign on like the other companies so they dropped the title from guarenteed status and ended up getting one or two of this title in each store effectively screwing FOX out of millions of dollars in rental revinue.

      Seems to me that the method is indeed very effective when you only need to use one movie. However, if Blockbuster is trying to sway the entire movie industry, they'd have to drop the "Guaranteed in Stock" thing with every new release. If customers start getting frustrated becau

  • by Capeman ( 589717 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:51AM (#7744745)
    Just download DVD Region Free [dvdidle.com], it will let you play DVD's from any Region.
  • by chrispl ( 189217 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:51AM (#7744748) Homepage
    I travel back and forth from Europe all the time and unfortunately few of the DVDs that I have legitimately purchased will work both places whereas burned movies work just fine everywhere. For me it has been a pretty good reason NOT to buy DVD movies because if I PAY for them, it will only work half the time! I have had to search P2P networks for movies that I own on DVD because my "legal" copy won't work.
  • by GeekWithGuns ( 466361 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:56AM (#7744790) Homepage

    Last year I was in London on my Honeymoon. We ened up doing a lot of shopping and hit a few music/video stores. My wife, who had no idea what region codes were, started picking up a few DVDs that are not available in the US. (A couple of them were Eddie Izzard as I recall) She was very disappointed when I told her that these DVDs would not play in the DVD palayers at home without hacking them.

    Whoever was distributing those DVDs LOST money since we can't buy them here (I've never seen them on shelves here and I didn't care enough about them to try to find them on Amazon). Really, what kind of business model is it to make it impossible to buy your product? Drop the region codes and they will probabily increase sales and kill a few pirates in the process!

    • My wife, who had no idea what region codes were, started picking up a few DVDs that are not available in the US. (A couple of them were Eddie Izzard as I recall) She was very disappointed when I told her that these DVDs would not play in the DVD palayers at home without hacking them.

      Hey, don't let that stop her. It didn't stop my wife.

      My wife is nuts for the band Roxette, but they don't distribute their music in the States anymore because of how the recording industry in the US screwed them over. So when she heard Roxette was releasing new music videos on DVD, she asked me if she would be able to play European DVDs on our player, and I had to explain to her about the region coding.

      One week later, we had a brand new DVD player, region free, auto-detecting PAL/NTSC, fresh from Ebay, and her coveted Roxette DVD a week later.

  • by MikShapi ( 681808 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @10:59AM (#7744814) Journal
    The recording industry didn't take one _little_ thing into account - legislation in the countries that are supposed to be blocked from distribution by having different region codes.

    So the whole region thing is not supported in some countries. I happen to live in one, a small country called Israel.
    The outcome?
    1. DVD Players legally sold in an already patched-to-RPC1 (region-free) state.
    2. DVD Videotheques holding DVDs from just about every region code out there, 7 and 8 not excluded.
    3. The few players that are sold in RPC2 state are sold with written instructions from the supplier on how to patch them to RPC1. In case you can't read, their help line will be happy to instruct you on how it's done.
    4. Locally-licensed DVD's of hollywood films carry a region icon (which says region 2). A simple inspection with any ripping software confirms there is no encryption on the DVD.

    I'll bet this is ignored by the law of most east-european countries, at least half west-european countries, and I don't even think I need to mention South America and the East.

    And that's without mentioning the fact that any 6-year-old with a DVDR, CloneDVD and a certain 3rd party app I won't mention can reproduce a copyrighted DVD in less time than it takes me to write this comment.

    So I fully agree with Mr. Blockbuster. The whole region idea was a bad idea which may or may not have initially set piracy back a bit, may or may not have returned the investment and saved a penny or two for the MPAA, and is nothing more than a complete nuisance today in most of the sane world. A little dialog box in CloneDVD or wherever saying "Reproducing this content is illegal in the United States. You are responsible for your actions. Press CANCEL to abort now or OK to continue" - like Roxio's CD Copier gives out for Audio CD's - would save everyone the time and hassle. Everyone INCLUDING the MPAA.

    My 2 cents.
  • by caitsith01 ( 606117 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:03AM (#7744846) Journal
    Could they also remove the friggin' un-skippable sections on DVDs? I have all 4 seasons of Futurama, for example, and at the start I am forced to sit through at least 60 seconds of copyright warnings for about 6 different countries followed by the 20th Century Fox animated logo. Ironically enough, because Fox decided not to do a different release for every region, the compulsory crap is twice as long because there is a warning for half of Europe, the UK and Australia and New Zealand.

    It's a big step back for usability when the user can no longer control (i.e. use) the product the way they prefer to. With VHS we could skip trailers, copyright notices and assorted other bullshit - with DVDs they ram it down our throats. I mean, is there *anyone* of the millions of DVD owners who *actually* reads the copyright warnings *every single time* they come on? Are we too stupid to be allowed to skip the warnings if we choose, even though we've seen them a hundred times before? Surely it's enough that we can read the warnings if we want to, and that it is clear that we can do so.

    The decisions made in the development of the DVD format smack of a cartel, not a collaboration between rivals.
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:15AM (#7744967) Homepage Journal
    As a retail store, I generally have more control over how the products change than any single consumer. When people complain about a product, I let the distributor or manufacturer know IMMEDIATELY. If I don't notice a change, I find other retail stores (competitors) and ask them if they're having similar issues, and if they are, ask them to complain as well.

    Almost every complaint I've had in the past 6 months has been addressed pretty quick. But I would not complain if I didn't hear it from my customer base.

    Blockbuster is doing the right thing in my opinion, but I doubt many of us here have complained to the retail stores about region encoding. Bitching and moaning at slashdot isn't a very good start. Tell Blockbuster (and Wal*Mart and Target and Borders and Tower) that you hate region encoding. Enough people complaining WILL make a difference!

    I've even seen end customers bitch to the distributors and manufacturers to no avail, because most retail customers don't buy direct. I'm the customer of the distributor and they do listen.
  • by forged ( 206127 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:19AM (#7745017) Homepage Journal
    PAL and NTSC, depending where you are (North America/Japan vs mostly elsewhere). Regional coding has been copiously criticized and most people will agree that it has to go. (Region zero is way to go! [luminous-landscape.com])

    With digital television, there is even the opportunity for consolidation. But do you think that anyone will want to let go their standard ? No way... It's sad to have to go through another VHS/Betamax debacle all over again. Some people/industries will never learn.

  • by rknop ( 240417 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:20AM (#7745033) Homepage

    ...copy protection only hurts and inconveniences legitimate users, but not the pirates? Who would've thought!

    (Sheesh.)

    -Rob

  • WTO (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PaulGrimshaw ( 605950 ) <mail@nOsPAM.paulgrimshaw.com> on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:22AM (#7745048) Homepage
    I could never understand why some big company has'nt taken on this before - WTO rules say that you can not put artificial barriers when trading, yet DVD region codes are exactly that.

    Its a bit silly also when 99%* of DVD drives can take a 4 digit code just to multiregion them up...

    Paul
    * in my experience... no data dudes.
  • More important.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ancil ( 622971 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:22AM (#7745054)
    Forget region encoding.

    Where do I buy a DVD player that lets me skip the FBI warning and trailers? I would like to just play the movie I already paid for.

  • by Obiwan Kenobi ( 32807 ) <evan AT misterorange DOT com> on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:41AM (#7745249) Homepage
    This will never come to pass. There is simply too much money, marketing, and release management to allow this.

    Only the largest of films, such as The Matrix or Lord of the Rings (or Spiderman 2) will have the ability to be released worldwide into the cinema.

    Why is every movie released this way? Well, translations of course. And sometimes some editing, depending on the culture of where a film is being shown. For example, you may see some cuts in the US version that aren't in the british release or vice versa. Or singapore, just to pull one from the air.

    The fact is that region coding allows films to be released faster and a universal region code would slow down this process considerably (just imagine the work for all of those extras to be released in their respective languages).

    But perhaps that's too narrow. Let's just say we released the english version with no region codes. That's fine for huge films such as the blockbusters mentioned before, but what about smaller films, such as Jersey Girl, Kevin Smith's new picture which will come out in February but will definitely have a delay before it reaches places like Australia. Changes like this could ruin smaller films chances at box office success in other countries.

    On the other side of the coin, 28 Days Later was on Region 2 DVD before it was available to be seen in US cinemas. And its good it wasn't a universal region code--the film opened to excellent and stable box office, something that would've never, ever happened if this ridiculous idea was embraced.
  • by styxlord ( 9897 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @11:49AM (#7745330)
    DVDs in different regions are sold for different prices. If DVDs were regionless then via the magic that is the Internet and FedEx, everyone would start buying DVDs from the cheapest marketplaces. Content producers would then be faced with a tough decision which would most likely result in DVDs not being sold in cheaper markets to protect their profits in the lucrative markets, or they'd sell them at full price in the cheaper markets which would just result in more piracy in those markets.

    Personally I hate region codes (having friends/relatives in other region really sucks) but DVDs aren't the only thing subjected to the non-level playing field that is the global marketplace.
  • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @12:37PM (#7745811)
    I rented Bruce Almighty for the family to watch. It's rated PG 13. The forced to watch preview is R. (unskippable American Wedding preview) I don't let the kids watch R material. I call that feature User Unfriendly. We knew to preview the DVD and skip the sex scene for the 9 year old. Too bad they make you wait so long running past the preview instead of skipping it.

    It shouldn't be standard pratice to load a DVD in the player 10 minutes before turning on the TV just so the previews are over. It's very User Unfriendly.

    Sombody fix the FF button on those DVD's! 5 seconds in a preview is usualy enough to tell if the movie and preview are something I do or do not want to watch. Forcing an unwanted age inapropiate offensive preview is as welcome as a goatse.cx link in a technical discussion. The previews should not be rated worse than the feature. R, X and XXX previews should not be on G, PG or PG-13 features. Thank goodness the worst I have seen so far is R previews on PG-13 films. But like the seven words you can't say on TV, I don't expect them to keep to the curent high but dropping standards.

    That alone has kept me from buying several DVD's I have rented.

    Also ditch the crazy attempts at copy protection. I rented Legaly Blonde 2. The FBI warning got stuck in an endless loop on both a standalone DVD player (Classic brand) and a computer.

    Anybody else experiance this?

    I returned the defective DVD for exchange. I was told 8 others were returned the same day for the same problem and an exchange would not fix the problem. Copy protection is lost revenue. I got a refund as I couldn't view it. It also caused extra overhead for Hollywood Video the handle the consumer complaints. Third, there is no way I would consider buying it later because I already know all copies are broken. I also suspect anything else by the same studio may be plagued by the same ailment so I avoid that studio's work, just as I avoid CD's by those dabbing in audio copy protection. It might work, It might not, but once opened, it's almost impossible to return. Why bother?

    A look on the good side is several of the DVD's I have bought lately list right on the cover they are all region! This is limited to old TV programs so far and not movies, but hopefully that day will get here. The down side is due to the music copyright issues the original theme songs are removed. Bummer! A new generation may view these classics and never know about the original theme songs. I guess they don't want people to enjoy the music as it was intended. There are some people out there that do want to sell DVD's and have taken steps to make them user friendly. They even took steps to keep the price reasonable by not paying inflated ASCAP prices so the DVD is reasonably priced. Too bad a reasonable price could not be reached with the music copyright holder to include the theme songs.

    FYI the altered DVD's are The Beverly Hillbillies and The Andy Griffith Show.
    • by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @02:09PM (#7746645)
      The forced to watch preview is R.

      You sure about that? I know the MOVIE American Wedding was rated R, but the preview? Every preview I've ever seen actually has a little preamble "this preview is rated PG-13" or some such, to avoid precisely the controversy you describe. They basically show only the "kid-appropriate" (whatever that means) material in the preview. It's not like an R-rated movie is 90 minutes of solid sex scenes :)

      Now, if your complaint is that you don't want PG-13 previews for R-rated movies on your PG-13 movies, that's a whole 'nother ball of wax.
  • by KC7GR ( 473279 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @12:52PM (#7745943) Homepage Journal
    Some player manufacturers thought ahead, and provided means for at least those who know how to wield a soldering pencil to do something about region encoding.

    One example I can think of is that of our player. It didn't take me long at all to find this page [home-cinema.de] which describes, in disgustingly clear detail, how to make it region-switchable AND turn off that nasty Macrovision drenn.

    Region encoding was a silly idea from the start. There's just too many ways around it.

  • Timely (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LuYu ( 519260 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @01:04PM (#7746048) Homepage Journal

    Wow, this is timely. I just posted a GrepLaw article [harvard.edu] about the subject of region codes.

    Unfortunately, the CEO of Blockbuster was not interested in whether or not region codes were fundamentally evil. He was only concerned with the fact that their implementation caused an increase in piracy and a decrease in his revenues. I like the irony of the fact that a system that the MPAA created to impose unfair pricing has actually benefitted their illicit competitors. Here is hoping the MPAA continues to shoot itself in the foot.

  • by romcabrera ( 699616 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @01:41PM (#7746426) Homepage
    I'm from Southamerica, and here, it is very trivial to go to google, look for the unlocking code, and make your DVD reader multi-region. Everybody's DVD reader is multiregion.

    Ain't it the same way there in the States?

  • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2003 @06:00PM (#7748760) Homepage
    I just read/skimmed through all 103 posts modded 3 or higher, and I can't believe that not one person mentioned the DMCA/EUCD.

    The problem isn't that the DVD's are region coded. The problem is that the DVD players are intentionally crippled not to be able to play out-of-region disks. But even that is merely a symptom. All manufacturers WANT to produce all-region players - they'd sell better. The DISEASE is stupid LAWS that force manufacturers to produce crippled products. The disease is laws like the DMCA and EUCD.

    -

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