Australian Consumer Watchdog Investigates Legality Of Region Coding

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Brett Halsey, Feb 8, 2002.

  1. Brett Halsey

    Brett Halsey Stunt Coordinator

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    As I was searching around some Australian news websites I stumbled upon this article: http://entertainment.news.com.au/com...55Enbv,00.html
    I wonder if this will lead to us having no region coding at all?? I suppose I can dream. An interesting article to say the least [​IMG]
     
  2. Julian Lalor

    Julian Lalor Supporting Actor

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    I think there is little doubt that the ACCC will decide that Region coding is a restrictive trade practice. It is perfectly legal for consumers to import DVDs from other regions for their personal use. Region coding seeks to prohibit or restrict this right. Whilst the ACCC will, of course, not prevent DVDs from being region coded, they will probably demand that all players be either region free or modified at the manufacturers cost if requested by consumers. The DVD player manufacturers would probably be more than happy with this, as it will lead to increased sales of players. The Studios, on the other hand, will not. But there is precious little they can do about it. And, if Australia moves to restrict region coding, it won't take long to spread to Europe and, perhaps, even the US.
     
  3. Ian Such

    Ian Such Stunt Coordinator

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    Julian,
    I wish I could share your optinism, but I fear that the combined might of the studios, their legal teams, and various trade associations (such as FACT - Federation Against Copyright Theft here in the UK), would certainly stifle it before it reached either Europe or the States [​IMG]
     
  4. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    I am all for it too, but it might have a bad side too.

    Since the studios wait about 6 months before a movie is released, they may wait until 6 months after the movie is released world-wide, and if France decids that they don't want it released, in theory it could not come out on DVD at all.

    Glenn
     
  5. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    Region-code-free wouldn't solve problems that would exist due to PAL vs NTSC, etc., even with a Region-Free DVD player. But I also wanted to give some insight into why this crusade against Region Coding will fail - legally - no matter what.
    "Region Coding" started getting big in the videogame industry as far back as the original Nintendo NES (1985 US release) and Sega Genesis ('89 US) via changing the shape of the end of the cartridge for Japan vs US versions of the consoles. A cart from one country physically would not FIT into the slot of a console bought in a different country.
    When the Sega-CD came out in '92, it couldn't use the same process of different shaped cartridges due to the media being Compact Disc. Thus electronic region coding was, if not born, then at least widely utilized for the 1st time. I was in the videogame retail industry at the time & got the opportunity to ask the then-Vice President of Sega USA as to why this was necessary. He explained that, for example, one company might sign a license with a studio for the US videogame rights to Batman, but that the Japanese rights may be owned by a different game company entirely. The Europe rights by a 3rd. Etc.
    Witness the rights issues with "Tetris", which led to Atari's mistaken idea they had US home rights to the title when actually Nintendo had it (indeed, the cause of a giant legal battle that led to Atari's ultimate demise...and to me having 2 very collectable copies of the "Tengen Tetris" by the way...Tengen was an Atari label [​IMG] ).
    So, I was told that studios were increasingly worried about being able to enforce area-by-area legal rights to film titles made into home games (and, in the videogame industry, popular arcade titles by companies that were NOT Nintendo or Sega were also a concern for who had the rights to home versions). Sega saw that other companies had already signed deals for game rights to popular film titles in some regions...but not for ALL of the regions, and wanted to show WB & other studios that if they got the rest of the regional rights, then they could enforce the region-by-region license via a lockout chip encased in the unit itself.
    I found out later that the SNES, released a year before, actually used both methods of the altered cart shape and the chip in the unit. Needless to say, both were able to be bypassed by black market devices: an adapter that accepted the other cart shape AND fooled the region chip.
    However, the studios loved the idea of this region coding so much that the concept made it into DVD players (since Sega sold the idea to WB and then WB was involved in the development of DVD players). Look in the future for attempts to spread the concept into other entertainment sections, including computers and stereos, in my opinion...WB and parent AOL/TW is involved in all that, right? [​IMG]
    Since films are increasingly made by one studio and distributed by another, and the distribution may change (even in theatres) from region to region, home rights to films will be similarly distributed among different companies. Therefore, region coding is in the best interest of the studios to protect their rights to make money. If you were able to buy that Region 2 copy of "Song of the South" right now, Disney would not have the option to sell a Region 1 copy's rights to Criterion for a trillion dollars. That, of course, will probably never happen! [​IMG] But I use it as an example of the kind of deal-making that studios use it for.
    Getting rid of region coding would be, to the movie studios, as dumb and unprofitable as giving up all the copyrights to their libraries. It just won't happen; it's way too lucrative to the studios! As long as rights to properties shall be held by different entities in different regions of the world, Region Coding will exist, and the law will tend to support it under the basis of upholding Contracts.
     
  6. Ali B

    Ali B Second Unit

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    As far as I'm concerned the PAL vs NTSC issue only exists for the USA. The rest of the world has dual format TVs.
     
  7. Nick Eden

    Nick Eden Stunt Coordinator

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    Surely, the truth is not what the studios want but what the public want.

    The studios can continue to talk about and implement regional coding while the public is buying multi-region machines in their droves. Eventually, regional coding (having failed to stop people buying goods outside of their own region) will become a costly white elephant and will surely die a death. I suspect if truth be told, that a lot of people in the industry would like to see the demise of regional coding but there is no easy way (without losing face) of doing that!
     
  8. Mark_Wilson

    Mark_Wilson Screenwriter

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    Then what would happen to boutique publishers like 'Hong Kong Legends'?
     
  9. JohnJB

    JohnJB Stunt Coordinator

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    "Then what would happen to boutique publishers like 'Hong Kong Legends'?"

    A very good question (although I beleive they are a bit like Criterion i.e. not as independent/small as they appear I beleive HKL are ultimately owned by Playboy or PB parent corporation)

    You would hope (am I being one neive idealistic fool here?) that the best version would become the one that everybody bought in which case HKL would wipe the floor with everybody.

    Anyway here in the UK region coding is very quickly becoming a non issue for everybody as most tv are PAL/NTSC and most players will play any region with a very minor hack achieved by a sequence of remote control commands.
     
  10. Julian Lalor

    Julian Lalor Supporting Actor

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    Whilst I don't doubt that Region coded DVDs will not be abolished (and, indeed, there is nothing illegal in Studios deciding to code their films anyway they want, provided they tell consumers) I do think the days of Region coded DVD players are numbered, at least outside R1, where the issue of region coding is becomming a major consumer issue. And there is little point in region coding software if the hardware is going to play it irregardless. The Studios are really only interested in protecting R1 DVDs from being distributed throughout the world - if all players outside R1 were region free or modded to be so, then region coding has, in effect, been defeated. And, I think there is a strong case to be made that this, in effect, has already happened. And the world hasn't caved in for Hollywood.

    Any agreement between the Studios and the hardware manufacturers to divide the world up into regions and restrict consumers from legally playing DVDs from another region is, at least under Australian law, illegal. Further, even if Region coding were to stay in place, region mods to DVD players are perfectly legal and the Studios attempts to make them illegal under Australian and European law failed miserably. Governments, at least outside the US, have no interest in supporting this issue simply because it is so anti-consumer.

    The problem for the Studios is it doesn't matter the reason why they Region code (whether it is to protect their cinema revenues or because they only hold distribution rights in certain territories). In most countries, it is legal for consumers to import DVDs from anywhere in the world, provided that they don't import them for the purposes of resale or hire. There is nothing the Studios can do to stop this from continuing (they can't even stop US stores from exporting them, as that would breach anti-trust laws) and there is no government in the world who would be willing to turn their customs officers into policemen for Hollywood.
     
  11. Roger Mathus

    Roger Mathus Supporting Actor

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    In Tokyo region free players are easily available. They are also not foiled by Columbia Tristar RCE. Some models are also PAL/NTSC compatible and with built in PAL/NTSC converter. They are not mass market, however, as most players sold are Region 2. I don't have the facts, but I am told that nearly all players sold in Hong Kong are all region.
     
  12. LarryH

    LarryH Supporting Actor

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  13. Brian-W

    Brian-W Screenwriter

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  14. Guy Martin

    Guy Martin Second Unit

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    Brian-

    As I recall later versions of the SNES (post-1996, although I can't remember for certain) did have some kind of chip modification that disabled Game Genies and other cheater devices (part of the long-running feud between Nintendo and the makers of Game Genie no doubt) and I believe it also enacted some form of region coding, though I can't say for certain. The updated versions were physically indistinguishable from the originals (unlike the modified Genesis, which had a different design from the original).

    - Guy
     
  15. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Screenwriter

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  16. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    First off, I'll apologize for simplifying a most complicated topic.
    Let me make clear: I also wish Region Coding would disappear. I know my post didn't make it sound that way, but I definately dislike it. I was simply trying to play devil's advocate and explain what the studios see in it, and give some general ideas along the lines of why it probably won't go away.
    "First Sale" doctrines of some sort exist in most countries, from what I've read. It gives the consumer their rights, of course...which is why there is (usually) no penalty for an end-user to import a player and media compatible with it from any other region in the world.
    As to the legality of imposing region coding in the first place, what I was trying to say was that it works like this: I am Criterion. I want to put out Star Wars: A New Hope in a Criterion Collection edition in Antarctica. I pay LucasArts and Fox loads of money for all of the Antarctican rights. Since Antarctica isn't listed among the current 8 Regions designated by the DVD Forum, let say I petition them to create a "Region 9" that specifies Antartica. So, I sign a contract granting me a license to the R9 rights to ST:ANH, and I must specify in there that LucasArts and Fox are only granting me rights to sell this in Antarctica, which is now labeled as R9 territory. So, if I fail to put the region coding on the disc, then I am perhaps violating my contract with LucasArts and Fox by making the disc able to be sold in the US and Canada. Now, "able to be sold" and "being sold" are two different things, but that's actually beside the point.
    If a USA end-user customer takes me to US court and sues me for putting the R9 coding on the disc, he's charging me with making the film unavailable for him to purchase in the USA. I now counter that the lockout was encoded onto the disc to uphold my contract with LucasArts and Fox, which did not include a license to make it available to USA consumers. The court will judge that I was just upholding my contract, and I'm off the hook. Nor will the court be likely to rule that the Region Coding system is illegal, since it was a device used to uphold my contract with the originator of the license. On the other hand, the end-user won't be prosecuted for paying extra money to buy an R9-compatible player and a copy of my disc.
    I'm not saying that the above scenario is ALWAYS the way it would play out in the US, much less the rest of the world (whose laws I have little insight into). But, from what I've read and seen, that's the way it's playing out right now, at least in here in the USA.
    I was perhaps a bit hasty in putting this agruement into a thread about an Australian case, however. I'll shut up now! [​IMG]
     
  17. Dave Mack

    Dave Mack Producer

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    Hey Y'all!!
    You could always get a player that converts PAL to NTSC like the JVC's!!!!!! Then the region thing would be a non-issue!!!!
    [​IMG] D
     
  18. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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  19. Bjorn Olav Nyberg

    Bjorn Olav Nyberg Supporting Actor

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    As I see it, a bit simplified, in your deal with Lucas and Fox, you got the right to sell the disc in antarctica. That is what you are doing. You enduser bought a disc licenced to be sold in antarctica from Antarctica, still perfectly legal. What you region 9 code will do however is prevent the disc to be used outside Antarctica, and that is what is considered illegal, since the disc is still sold in Antarctica only, and there is no law preventing your north amarican endusers to buy discs in Antarctica.
     
  20. Brian-W

    Brian-W Screenwriter

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