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Regulator Challenges DVD Zoning

michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the my-name-is-inigo-montoya dept.

Movies 201

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

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Re:I don't get it... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#201645)

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

- From the DVD FAQ []

Re:Bullshit (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#201646)

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

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

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

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

You should change your name to clueless_spork.



Re:I don't get it... (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#201650)

There are region free DVDs. In fact it costs the producers of films more to have there work encoded for region & macrovision.

Re:Big fish eats little fish (1)

nathanh (1214) | more than 13 years ago | (#201654)

Russell Crowe is a New Zealander.

Re:I don't get it... (2)

slim (1652) | more than 13 years ago | (#201656)

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

The US Criterion Edition version of Brazil is region 0.

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

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

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


Flawed logic (1)

Tet (2721) | more than 13 years ago | (#201657)

If a small film maker wishes a DVD to have worldwide distribution, then the zoning system doesn't prevent that at all. They can simply make a zoneless disc. They are, after all, a small film maker, and hence the arguments that the larger studios use to justify zoning don't apply. Of course, zoning is inherently evil anyway, but that's another matter. Using bogus logic is not the way to have it wiped from the face of the planet, and I'd expect a court to take the same view...

International "free trade" treaties (2)

acb (2797) | more than 13 years ago | (#201658)

Is Australia signatory to any international treaties that automatically strike down laws that expropriate multinational corporations? If so, would not such treaties overrule any ACCC decision on zoning that threatens the studios?

Re:I hope (1)

armb (5151) | more than 13 years ago | (#201662)

Yep, the hi-fi shop just along the road from here has mostly multi-region players. d= 13&sid=df2e280e2.123456
(Lists about 30 multi-region, and five Region 2 (one of which has a multi-region upgrade disk advertised too).

I don't know how well they all work with RCE, and having a significant market where DVD players legally have to multi-region will certainly help the situation for everyone (well everyone except the MPAA).

DVDs in New Zealand (1)

careye (6855) | more than 13 years ago | (#201664)

It has been a requirement in New Zealand that all players sold must be multizone for over a year now.

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

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

No he's not (1)

enterfornone (7400) | more than 13 years ago | (#201665)

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


Yay, somebody's figured it out (2)

Goonie (8651) | more than 13 years ago | (#201667)

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

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

Go you big red fire engine!

Region coding is already illegal elsewhere... (1)

dido (9125) | more than 13 years ago | (#201668)

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

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

Re:Much Ado About Nothing (2)

Cederic (9623) | more than 13 years ago | (#201670)

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

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

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

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

Re:Buy your DVD players from Australia (2)

Cederic (9623) | more than 13 years ago | (#201671) sell something they describe as "Scan SC-2000 Multiregion/PAL/NTSC/MP3 playback/Dolby/dts out"

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

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


Zoning is clearly an illegal restrictive practice (1)

crovira (10242) | more than 13 years ago | (#201672)

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

Apart from being a stupid concept its just penalizing the mobile.

Re:I hope (1)

Spruitje (15331) | more than 13 years ago | (#201675)

Of course, once all the Australian electronics shops sell multi-region players, those players will catch on elsewhere...

Contrary to the US it ins't illegal to sell region-code free players or modification kits in most of Europe.
It is possible to buy a regioncode free players from most larger shops here in the Netherlands.
For instance, mediamarkt which has shops in four large cities sells four models of DVD players which can play all regioncode DVD's.

Re:Buy your DVD players from Australia (1)

Spruitje (15331) | more than 13 years ago | (#201676)

Says it all.
If you look with google for regionhacks you get lot's of sites with ways to play all regiondisks on your DVD player.
When I bought my DVD-player the first thing I did before buying it was to look how easy it was to make it play all regioncode disks.

Re:Buy your DVD players from Australia (1)

Spruitje (15331) | more than 13 years ago | (#201677)

Okay, now I know why there is a preview button.
Sorry for the mistake.

Re:Protecting ticket sales? Jack..... here's a clu (2)

Skapare (16644) | more than 13 years ago | (#201679)

Good points. I don't think they are unsolvable. They just make for a more interesting challenge.

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

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

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

Re:International "free trade" treaties (2)

Skapare (16644) | more than 13 years ago | (#201680)

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

Protecting ticket sales? Jack..... here's a clue (5)

Skapare (16644) | more than 13 years ago | (#201685)

The system aims to protect cinema ticket sales by preventing people ordering DVD movies yet to be released in Australia.

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

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

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

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

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

Adult Entertainment (2)

sharkey (16670) | more than 13 years ago | (#201686)

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


Prediction (2)

Katravax (21568) | more than 13 years ago | (#201690)

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

Re:ACCC - Go Son! (1)

bigdan (28386) | more than 13 years ago | (#201694)

I believe the full chant is something like:

Aussie, aussie, aussie!
Oi, Oi, Oi!
Aussie... Oi!
Aussie... Oi!
Aussie, aussie, aussie!
Oi, Oi, Oi!

Ahh... they should replace the lame arse Australian national anthem with that charming chant. Certainly get a lot more people singing it at the footy.

To bring this back on topic... nah stuff it... its not like I actually *use* my karma...


Re:I hope (5)

E-prospero (30242) | more than 13 years ago | (#201695)

The ACCC isn't trying to force US companies to produce Region 4 DVDs; they are making sure that Australians can view Region 1 DVDs.

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

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

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

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

Russ %-)

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

Re:I hope (1)

Alphix (33559) | more than 13 years ago | (#201701)

And there's proof that people really do buy region free players cause:

1) On every ad for DVD players I've seen here in Sweden they have "region-free" written all over it as one of the pros.
2) In one of the shops that sells DVD's that has the largest selection, 80% are region 1.

I've heard that some twisted offspring of the MPAA are suing the companies that import region 1 DVD's though, dont know what will happen in the future.

Re:I hope (1)

mjpaci (33725) | more than 13 years ago | (#201702)

I thought Mel's father won big on some game show ($64,000 Pyramid) and then moved the whole family to Australia. I knew he was from upstate New York, but I didn't know mum was Australian.


Re:Similar issue in Canada (2)

gorilla (36491) | more than 13 years ago | (#201704)

Not just Francophones, there are also many Canadians who have Asian or Western European first languages, and would probably would like to purchase region 3, 5 or 6 disks.

Re:Much Ado About Nothing (2)

gorilla (36491) | more than 13 years ago | (#201705)

In Australia almost all TVs support both NTSC and PAL.

Re:Protecting ticket sales? Jack..... here's a clu (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 13 years ago | (#201706)

If it where that easy...

It turns out that movies in Oz must be approved by the censoring people who have to give it a stamp saying how bad it is. You can't show a movie without doing that. If it wasn't for that, the US studios could treat Australia just three more US cities with higher shipping costs. There are only 10 cities in the US biger than Sydney and only 13 bigger than Melbourne.

There is also the summer movie issue. If a movie is tied into summer releases, its winter downunder. Sure it won't make much difference in the real world but in the make beilve world of the high dollar marketteer it makes a world of differnce.

Today I bought a region selectable DVD player in Melbourne for AU$299 (US $155) and I'm typing this to the tunes of AC/DC (whos cd's cost less in the US than here even though they are a local band kind of)

Re:DVDs in New Zealand (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 13 years ago | (#201707)

I've heard it lots of places.... just no refernces to any offical publications. It looks like just another rumor.

Time for a two sided attack? (3)

thogard (43403) | more than 13 years ago | (#201708)

Maybe the side of the goverment that deals with cultral preservation might want to go in as well. Currently there are mnay DVD's made in Aisa that can not be read by typical players in Australia and that could denys access of thouse people to information about their past. Doing that just happens to be illegal in Australia and might even be illegal in the US. Will someone who wants to play Asian DVDs call the ACLU and claim that the MPAA's actions discriminate and might even fit under organized hate crimes?

Being an American in Australia, I am being isolated from my culture since American culture seems to revolve around real bad tv shows...maybe the ACCC will help. Now if they would get their act together about Telstra.... that would be real nice.

Re:Similar issue in Canada (2)

WinDoze (52234) | more than 13 years ago | (#201709)

OK, just went through my Region-1 DVD collection. 131 discs. 106 have either French soundtracks or French subtitles or both. Granted, I'd be pissed if I spoke French and wanted to watch one of the missing 25...

Hmmm.... (2)

oPless (63249) | more than 13 years ago | (#201712)

Fine, Oz gets the raw end of the deal with DVDs, and the consumer protection people are planning to deal with it. GOOD FOR THEM!
The film industry pundits that pushed for regioning seem to have forgotton one important point. This is a global economy! If I want to buy goods from abroad I should not be prevented from doing so. This is not restricted to DVDs. The computer console industry are just as bad too. (not that I own, or plan to own a console)
Other examples include computer hardware/consumer electronics , why in the UK can they justify selling at $1=£1 ?
We the consumer have been taken from behind by big business for so long, that big business will do anything (like push for DMCA-alikes all over the world) so they can continue walking all over "us"; Freedom of speech, constitutional and human rights be damned!

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

*sigh* I'm tired of reading the same type of posts over and over again. Why instead of posting on /. Why don't you pester your elected representatives (Or alternatly just vote at your elections rather than sit on your asses being online) ? Do you really thing Blair, Bush, *insert your leaders name here* or their aides actually read this stuff? No I didn't think so.

Big fish eats little fish (3)

joq (63625) | more than 13 years ago | (#201713)

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

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

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

Echelonomics 101 []

Re:Australian Trade Practices Act? (3)

poiuty (66274) | more than 13 years ago | (#201714)

The Act itself is fairly wide ranging, it covers things like price collusion, misleading advertising,anti-competitiveness, warranties etc. It basically is designed to protect the consumers rights over other entities. Here is a link to the ACCC summary [] of the act. I think the main objection is that the region system artifically reduces choice for the consumer, and gives a competitive advantage to the major publishers/distributors.

Re:Parallel imports (5)

poiuty (66274) | more than 13 years ago | (#201715)

Actually it is not illegal (in Australia) to modify a DVD player to make it multi region, it is only illegal if you modify it so that it will play pirated discs. This is similar to the situation with chipping Playstations. The Australian IT [] has a more in depth article on this issue and also takes a look at DVD regions from the publishers side.

Re:Hmmm.... (1)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 13 years ago | (#201716)

> but doesn't it look like the (Mega) Corporations run things now?

Yeah, but they can only buy one country's government at a time. Looks like that this corp has the USA sewn up, but they forgot Oz.

Not from the powerline (3)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 13 years ago | (#201718)

Actually, TV's do NOT get their "clock" from the powerline, they get it from the signal.

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

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

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

Parallel imports (4)

Kanasta (70274) | more than 13 years ago | (#201719)

It was recently ruled here in Australia that parallel imports of CDs and electrical goods were legal, and manufacturers/distributors could not penalise retailers who sold parallels in addition to 'official' imports. DVDs would obviously be included.

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

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


This might set an example for Europe (2)

Baki (72515) | more than 13 years ago | (#201722)

If the EU would follow the Australian example (which is not unthinkable), I doubt that the MPAA would just forget about zone 2...
That would almost limit DVD sales to North America alone.

New generation DVD's check Region-free players (2)

PGillingwater (72739) | more than 13 years ago | (#201724)

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

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

What the ACCC has to say on DVDs (3)

lman (72936) | more than 13 years ago | (#201725)

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

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

I'm just happy to know that they will go after this because I'm sick of Australia having expensive DVDs and generally dodgy tech laws it also nice to see that they actually do know what they are talking about.... Oh and here is a link to the seminar material.. (its about 3/4 of the way down) le ctual_Property_11_5_01.htm
Link []

Re:I don't get it... (1)

neonstz (79215) | more than 13 years ago | (#201727)

I've got a couple of Troma DVD's which can be played in all regions. It's the same with adult movies. I think the DVD's actually are set to region 0, which means everything.

Wolf in sheep's clothing? (1)

onosendai (79294) | more than 13 years ago | (#201728)

Although I congratulate the ACCC for pushing this point, I have to wonder what repurcussions this may have on our DVD market?

It's most likely to mean legal zone modified players, however that would be in direct opposition to the new digital copyright circumvention laws.

Re:Flawed logic (2)

JacksonG (82656) | more than 13 years ago | (#201730)

I believe the issue is not so much the film maker but the film distributor.

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

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


Re:I hope (1)

_Ludwig (86077) | more than 13 years ago | (#201731)

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

Mel Gibson was born in upstate New York to an Australian mother and American father. The whole family picked up and moved to Australia when Mel was about eight years old, so he didn't just "go to acting school" there.

Much Ado About Nothing (2)

VAXman (96870) | more than 13 years ago | (#201733)

What's so sad about the massive politicized anti-region-encoding movement, is that VHS tapes are also "region encoded", in that there are at least two entirely incompatible standards for encoding the video signal (NTSC and PAL) which are used throughout the world, and you can't buy a video tape from a region which uses PAL (such as Europe) and play it back in an NTSC region (such as the US). Apparently, the backers of this movement are so new to video, that they didn't experience this. And of course, it begs the question: how did small, independent film producers deliver their movies worldwide? A region-free DVD is, in fact, much less "region restricted" than a VHS tape, because it is 100% compatible with all playback equipment.

Re:New generation DVD's check Region-free players (1)

radish (98371) | more than 13 years ago | (#201734)

Hence it's very important when you buy a DVD player to make sure it's multi-region, not region-free. For example, my chipped player requires you to select which region to be before putting the disk in. This means that all the disk sees is a single region player, and so even the new disks work fine. In general, if a player advertises "automatic" or "universal" region switching, don't trust it, go for a manual selection one.

Re:Much Ado About Nothing (1)

awol (98751) | more than 13 years ago | (#201735)

This must be a troll but I'll bite. VHS tapes are _NOT_ region encoded. They are presented in different formats because there are different formats, you can (And many modern tape playes are) get VCRs or TVs that will play both formats and it is NOT ILLEGAL to do so. It is "illegal" to play out of zone DVD's.

Re:Australian Trade Practices Act? (1)

awol (98751) | more than 13 years ago | (#201736)

The trade practices act is a magnificent piece of foward thinking legislation that, along with the Family Law Act, are the legacy of one of the most extraordinary people in Australian legal and political history Lionel Murphy.


Disclaimer: I disagree with his politics but can only admire this man.

I regularly lament for the "Lawyer Philosopher" that existed at the previous "changes" in social structure that we seem to lack now in the Information revolution.

Where are these people today?

free trade (1)

bitemysquirrel (100832) | more than 13 years ago | (#201738)

Region coding is just an example of how large corporations want free trade... as long as it doesn't cut into their profits.

Re:I don't get it... (1)

neier (103246) | more than 13 years ago | (#201741)

It's not so much that the Australian studios can't make DVD's to sell anywhere
that they want; but that the big American studios are the only ones which produce
(a scarcity) of region 4 titles for viewing in Australia. Small studios without the
"foresight" to make a region 4 disk are shut out of the marketplace; and the major studios
only have to offer a select few movies -- not the entire catalogs available in the US.

Here in Japan, we have the same problem, but it's nothing that a region-free player and
(choose your favorite mail-order firm) can't solve....

Re:I hope (1)

belroth (103586) | more than 13 years ago | (#201743)

Mel Gibson went to acting school?

Re:I hope (1)

Cyberdyne (104305) | more than 13 years ago | (#201745)

That this will work, but I dont know what is going to put the MPAA in their place. What is to say that they wont just forget about zone 4?

That's the point: the MPAA are already neglecting region 4! (There were 720 R4 discs available, compared to 5 000 R1.) To combat this, they could require all DVD players sold in Australia to be multi-region capable! At which point, either the whole zoning system collapses, or the MPAA has to persuade every DVD player manufacturer to refuse to supply Australia. Of course, once all the Australian electronics shops sell multi-region players, those players will catch on elsewhere...

Next question: what are the odds of the US govt making a similar move? ;-)

Re:Region coding is already illegal elsewhere... (1)

rediguana (104664) | more than 13 years ago | (#201746)

Region coding is already illegal elsewhere... I believe that New Zealand is one place.

Not unless somethings changed recently. We're still Zone 4 here as far as I know. We have had a solid chipping industry and most played are set to Zone 4. My player is zone 4.

Cheers RedIguana

Re:Flawed logic (2)

Kamran (109309) | more than 13 years ago | (#201747)

I think all bollywood movies are actually region free. Some of these are even distributed by companies such as Sony Entertainment, and distributors don't get much bigger than that. The distributors don't mind as long as they get the sales, because the production company decides release schedules, and in the case of small film companies, it's the companies themselves.

Buy your DVD players from Australia (1)

Dr_Cheeks (110261) | more than 13 years ago | (#201749)

From the article:

He said it was feasible that a court could order that all DVD players sold here have a multi-zone capability.

Sold! I'm sure a hell of a lot of people (myself included) would be willing to pay for shipping of a product like this. And it's not just a case of wanting to see the films first - Region 1 DVDs frequently have way more features than we get here in Region 2, and I'm sure this is the case for the other regions as well. I can understand why Hollywood likes to stagger the opening of movies so they've got a chance to make some money back before the hype starts elsewhere, but I think they're fighting a losing battle with media like DVDs in an increasingly global marketplace.

Re:I don't get it... (1)

-brazil- (111867) | more than 13 years ago | (#201750)

To be exact, the "region code" of a DVD consists of one byte of data. Each bit can be 1 or 0, deciding whether the DVD will play on players with that RC (there are 8 regions, but only 6 are really used). "Region Code 0", a hexadecimal 0 is the value that means the DVD is "allowed" to be played in all regions.

So while I love the idea of the damn region code scheme being thwarted, it seems like this case will just end up making the ACCC look like fools.

Re:I don't know.. (1)

-brazil- (111867) | more than 13 years ago | (#201751)

Please point out where in the story this is explained. Geez, these knee-jerk reactions...

Re:Bullshit (1)

-brazil- (111867) | more than 13 years ago | (#201752)

So should you. The article explicitly states that supposedly, the region coding directly hinders "small studios" from releasing their stuff to Australia. This is untrue, or at least they fail to explain why it would be true.

Re:I don't get it... (1)

-brazil- (111867) | more than 13 years ago | (#201753)

I suspect that's mostly due to force of habit, in the case of small studios. They see that the big ones only release for region 1 and do the same, regardless of whether they could sell more by making their stuff for 1 *and* 4.

Some have caught on; i've seen a couple of DVDs which are RC 1 and 4 (and no others).

Consumer authorites and the court (2)

nordicfrost (118437) | more than 13 years ago | (#201755)

This whole region system is a good example of the SNAFU situation the film companies have created.

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

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

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

Re:Region coding is already illegal elsewhere... (1)

Kalgart (127560) | more than 13 years ago | (#201760)

While atempting to confirm the legality of region coding in NZ, I was faced with many "Brick Walls" - it is common practice withing New Zealand now to have "Chipping" services offered at the point of sale of region locked DVD players. And also there are many non region locked DVD players offfered for sale in New Zealand. Following this example the ACCC could require consumers have access to similar services at the point of sale for DVD players.

Australian Trade Practices Act? (1)

Aryeh Goretsky (129230) | more than 13 years ago | (#201761)

I read the short article on about this, but the one thing I did not learn from it was why this was considered a breach of Australia's Trade Practice Act.

Could someone post a pointer to the body of the act, and perhaps a synopsis? What exactly is it that is objectionable? That Australians cannot view "first-run" movies and on DVD simultaneously, that they cost more than other places, that only a small amount of titles have been made available on DVD for consumption in Region 4, or some combination of all three?


Aryeh Goretsky
- - -

RCE is a joke (1)

iainl (136759) | more than 13 years ago | (#201765)

Actually, many modern mods laugh in the face of RCE and don't fall for this tactic. Mine among many assumes that staying in the current region is fine if it still passes the test. RCE can't put a misleading code on the disc or it would break compatibility on the initial check, so uses 0. This means your previous setting passes the test.

So if the worst comes to the worst, all you do is play a non-RCE disc of that region first, and then it doesn't need a manual help.

Finally, in the cases I've seen so far (Braveheart, Charlies Angels, Hollow Man) even if you get the RCE error message, you can just tell your player to start playing Title 1, Chapter 1 and it obliginly starts the film for you. Some protection there!

Corporate Control Is Not New Here (2)

Self Bias Resistor (136938) | more than 13 years ago | (#201766)

I think it would be wise to point out that the idea of corporate control over media is not exactly a new idea here. The vast majority of newspapers that (more than several) people read are owned by two men. Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer, both of whom also own large chunks of our commercial, free-to-air television (Packer owns Channel 9, for instance). Murdoch's News Limited company is also the part owner of Foxtel Australia (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

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

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

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

Re:Much Ado About Nothing (1)

Yoje (140707) | more than 13 years ago | (#201767)

What's so sad about the massive politicized anti-region-encoding movement, is that VHS tapes are also "region encoded", in that there are at least two entirely incompatible standards for encoding the video signal (NTSC and PAL) which are used throughout the world, and you can't buy a video tape from a region which uses PAL (such as Europe) and play it back in an NTSC region (such as the US).

Unlike the PAL/NTSC issue, the motion picture companies are trying to make owning a multi-regional player illegal. There's nothing stopping me from going out and buying a multi-system telvision or VCR (in fact, NTSC/PAL* TVs and VCRs are closer to "consumer-level" prices than ever before; independent film producers distributing internationally would probably be able to afford the NTSC/PAL VCR themselves). Some newer TVs even have NTSC/PAL compatibility built-in. This is perfectly legal. Buying a multi-regional DVD, however, is currently considered gray/black-market, and the MPAA and others want it to be considered illegal.

* = (actually, many multi-system TV/VCRs also allow SECAM, but most people tend to forget about SECAM. Let's not talk about SECAM. Forget i mentioned it). :)

ACCC - Go Son! (1)

AcidDan (150672) | more than 13 years ago | (#201769)

While in the big-bad real world, Australia (my wonderful home!) may seem like a bit of a Backwater, the ACCC - [] will be tenatious.

One of two things will happen as a result of this challenge: either all region types of DVDs will be sold in Australia, or more likely the compromise will be for DVD players to be made region-free as a mandatory requirement (Thus "negating" the region-locking).

you might find this useful: cale/data/pasteact/0/115 [] or the definitive entry point: [] where you can search for legislation etc.

Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!

Dan =)

Re:One big difference (1)

shepd (155729) | more than 13 years ago | (#201770)

Expensive, multisystem NTSC VCRs can also play PAL tapes (it works both ways! :-). Here's an example [] .

The difference between VCR and DVD machines is not just the intent of "region coding", but also the legality of defeating it. I can't find a region-free DVD player in any normal shop in Canada. I, however, can walk into Future Shop (think Circuit City, Best Buy) tomorrow and buy an NTSC and PAL compatible VCR (I wonder if it can play SECAM tapes?).

Region code enhancement (RCE) (1)

3247 (161794) | more than 13 years ago | (#201775)

This is called "region code enhancement" and actually old news: The DVD is labelled as RC0 but checks the region code later. So a codefree player or a player with automatic RC switching will not be able to play that disc.

Good player modifications will allow you to switch the player's region code manually and render RCE useless.

Big Differences (1)

3247 (161794) | more than 13 years ago | (#201776)

The are two big differences here:
  • The different video standards (PAL, NTSC, SECAM, MESECAM) were not developed in order to prevent the worldwide use of videos. They are only there for historic reasons.
    OTOH regional codes were explicitly designed to prevent the free use of DVDs in other regions and come in addition to the problems already caused by different video standards - there are both NTSC and PAL/SECAM DVDs.
  • The movie industrie does not do anything to prevent the playback of PAL videos in NTSC regions and vice versa.
    In fact, most recent PAL VCR models (and PAL DVD players) will just play NTSC videos (or NTSC DVDs from the same region, which is the case for European PAL RC2 players and Japanese NTSC RC2 discs, for example) on any TV set but DVD players won't play DVDs from other regions.

Re:It can hurt. (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 13 years ago | (#201777)

Judge says "Do the studios make DVD's Regionless?"

Defense says "Not in the majority of cases"

BAM! MPAA is now a defendent.

Re:One big difference (1)

The_Flames (184659) | more than 13 years ago | (#201782)

As I can remember, pal machines can read NTSC videos so it's only the NTSC people who are restriced with there videos, unlike DVD's were everyone is restricted.

I don't get it... (4)

uawcpm (187419) | more than 13 years ago | (#201783)

I hate regioning as much as the next anime fan, but I don't quite understand how they have a case here. Can't these small outfits just make region-free DVDs?

Re:Australian Trade Practices Act? (1)

exadios (203594) | more than 13 years ago | (#201792)

In the article the key point is the collusion between the studios and the movie makers. I presume that it is the ACCC's belief that this restricts competition. In general agreements that have the purpose of reducing competition or price fixing, or have those effects are a no no in Australian. The appropiate act is the "Trade Practices Act". This is a federal law. The easiest whay to see this is to go to and select "Popular Acts" in the left hand frame and scroll down to the "Trade Practices Act". The appropiate portion of this act is Part IV, Section 45, "Contracts, arrangements or understandings that restrict dealings or affect competition" etc.

Re:Australian Trade Practices Act? (2)

exadios (203594) | more than 13 years ago | (#201793)

This article is incorrect on one point. This is not the first challenge to the DVD zoning system. It has been a requirement in New Zealand that all players sold must be multizone for over a year now.

Region coding: kill it for us please (1)

dot2dot (207684) | more than 13 years ago | (#201794)

Dear World, Don't underestimate the power of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. This was the ONE organisation on the planet that stared down Epson Inc. on their global (mis)claims on their inkjet performance. For those who don't know or remember, Epson blinked. Their statutory abilities include fining corporations amounts that REALLY hurt and targeting directors of offending companies to the tune of A$50,000 (US$25,000) per day, per offence. Yes folks, dry-cleaners to the corporates know when the ACCC calls but like any public institution, PR matters.... Vote soon, vote often... If you happen to be American, vote anyway. We're a very multicultural bunch down here :-) We might be a mouse be we can still roar and I think one good roar may be all region coding needs to come tumbling down...

Re:Prediction (1)

vagnerr (214527) | more than 13 years ago | (#201795)

Spoken like a true cynic :-) but you're right though thats the way big business seems to work. A couple of years ago there was an official investigation into whether or not audio CD prices were a rip off in the UK, It was concluded that yes they were (shock horror), but was any legislation put in place.. erm no :-)

I hope (3)

ConsumedByTV (243497) | more than 13 years ago | (#201801)

That this will work, but I dont know what is going to put the MPAA in their place. What is to say that they wont just forget about zone 4?

The Lottery:

Similar issue in Canada (2)

plcurechax (247883) | more than 13 years ago | (#201803)

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

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

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

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

Region Coding in Europe (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 13 years ago | (#201811)

Last, and AFAIK, the region coding thing can't be enforced in europe (even if all DVD players sold there are region coded).

I'm not sure about that. The EU has adopted similar provisions to those contained in the DMCA (based on the World Copyright Treaty.) The various member nations haven't yet signed them into law, but in theory they have to at some point. At that time, the MPAA should have the ability to enforce the CSS licenses and prevent the sale of region-free machines ("circumvention devices").

Re:Not from the powerline (2)

dachshund (300733) | more than 13 years ago | (#201814)

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

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

Re:Australian Trade Practices Act? (1)

kunitoki (305990) | more than 13 years ago | (#201816)

Try this link for the full text that the news ltd article "summarized". lectual%5Fproperty%5F11%5F5%5F01.htm

Re:New generation DVD's check Region-free players (2)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 13 years ago | (#201817)

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

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

Re:Big fish eats little fish (3)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 13 years ago | (#201819)

Actually this could hurt the MPAA more than you think. You have to remember that governments have big resrouces, even governments of smaller countries (and Austrialia really isn't all that small). Also, governments have other kinds of resources. For example they can fine companies for violating their laws, etc (like France was considering doing with Yahoo). You can be that most of the heavy hitters that back the MPAA have Austrialian divisions.

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

Re:Not from the powerline (4)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 13 years ago | (#201820)

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

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

One big difference (5)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 13 years ago | (#201821)

I can legally dub a PAL video tape to NTSC. The equipment to do so isn't all that expensive, hoeever if you don't have it any pro video shop will bw happy to do it for a small fee, usually $5-$10. However I can NOT legally change the region of a DVD, at least not according to the DMCA.

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

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

Re:One big difference (1)

andrewscraig (319163) | more than 13 years ago | (#201822)

Depends on the player....budget players can't handle them, but most half decent players will work fine on them, with a couple of restrictions (only plays out through SCART/Composite Video, Genlocking doesn't work, so data-on-screen doesn't get shown, that kinda stuff)...

Here's an idea (1)

AnotherBrian (319405) | more than 13 years ago | (#201823)

How about some Australian company start to make DVD players that have DeCSS built in to decode any region disk on the fly? A'm quite sure that with a deticated chip it would be fast enough. And the last time I checked the DMCA was a US law.

DVD Zone not respected in my country (3)

eyefish (324893) | more than 13 years ago | (#201827)

It is interesting to note that DVD Zoning is not respected or enforced in the Dominican Republic. Here 100% of all DVD players and movies are Region 1 (U.S.), and yet since we're a spanish-speaking country we're supposed to be in Region 2.

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

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

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

Proposal: We live in a GLOBAL economy, release the darn DVDs in a region-free state to ALL countries SIMULTANEOUSLY and avoid this control-freak stupidity.

Re:I don't get it... (1)

Postman_77 (445069) | more than 13 years ago | (#201832)

I believe that the North American Anime distributor known as CPM (Central Park Media) which is based out of NYC has released most of their Anime DVDs as region 0. Likewise, I think a few DVDs released by Manga Entertainment are Region 0. I think the CPM head honchos are anti-CSS/macrovision/regioning in a biiig way.

--Bo Bankson

Re:I don't get it... (1)

vortmax(OU) (445229) | more than 13 years ago | (#201833)

Is that possible? I know that region-free DVD players exist (my friend the fansub-czar has one to play his import DVDs on), but I've never heard of a region-free DVD. Perhaps I've just bought into the rhetoric the MPAA and DVD security people have put out??

Hoping for a world without region encoding or macrovision,
vortmax(OU) [AKA Josh]


Re:I don't get it... (2)

jdrugo (449803) | more than 13 years ago | (#201837)

"Their sales are generally too small to justify catering for region four. This reduces competition to the advantage of US studios," he said.

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

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

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

Re:Prediction (1)

rassie (452841) | more than 13 years ago | (#201839)

A week or two will pass. The ACCC will announce they've had a meeting with representatives from the major film distributors and now that they understand the purpose of zoning, they find no threat to consumers. They will not repeat the explanation given them by the studios
Ahh, the old Jedi Mind Trick... ($$$)

Re:I don't get it... (1)

GnulixRulz (453448) | more than 13 years ago | (#201840)

Seems somewhat inefficient to me, sending out whole DVD players instead of just the chip... Not exactly cheap, they are.

Re:Similar issue in Canada (1)

GnulixRulz (453448) | more than 13 years ago | (#201841)

I've seen many region one CDs that have French audio, and almost all have French subtitles. But it doesn't really matter: Region encoding only benefits the studios, while any region 1 consumer who isn't anglophone gets screwed by either his preferred language being absent or in an inferior sound mix.

What about the people who already own them? (1)

data888 (454389) | more than 13 years ago | (#201842)

Will I be able to send by DVD-ROM back to Matshita to get it made region free? Or will they release an approved and supported firmware update?

Re:I don't get it... (1)

phalse phace (454635) | more than 13 years ago | (#201843)

Just as others have mentioned, there are Region 0 DVDs, which are region free.

If you're looking for a region free DVD player, check out [] . Their DVD players have no region lock protection on them, thus allowing you to view all movies, from region 1 thru region 6.

Re:Buy your DVD players from Australia (1)

phalse phace (454635) | more than 13 years ago | (#201844) [] sell DVD players which have been modified to play DVDs from all regions, Region 1 thru Region 6. And according to the site, they're even guaranteed against future regional coding protection including RCE (Region Code Enhancement).
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