The DVD and Blu-Ray region coding conundrum

05 Feb 14 08:47AM EST
Post by George Perry

I’m a Gen X, so I find myself straddling between the tried and trusted way of doing things, and attempting to orientate towards the "new way". Central to this predicament is technology, or more specifically, how to watch movies and TV shows.

My favourite TV shows warrant buying DVD box sets of the series so I can watch them over again. Sure, I could download them from a torrent site but I just know the Feds will be knock, knock, knocking and someone will sue me for a squillion, even though tens-of-thousands do it all the time.

While the difference in price between DVDs in Australia and overseas is coming down, the delay onto market in Australia is still too long for me to get my fix, so I have bought many of the box sets from overseas, either the UK or US and still cheaper.

Of course, there is the region coding issue – always has been but the DVD/Blu-ray players were either region-free or you could go onto one of the various websites and decode it yourself, so that’s no longer a problem or so I thought.

Unfortunately, over the summer holidays my trusty DVD player gave it up after many (many!) years of The West Wing and The Wire re-runs. So, off to the bricks-and-mortar retailer I went (the Gen X in me) thinking that a simple region-free DVD/BluRay player would be available. It’s 2014 after all and we’re all moving to digital for our movies and TV shows, so you would think the best thing for manufacturers to do would be to make it easy for us to watch our DVDs from any region. That would mean we’re still buying the DVD rather than downloading it illegally – surely that’s the rationale thought process?

Apparently not.

Most of the retailers said that "region-free" was a dirty phrase and all the manufacturers had locked their players. Eventually, I found someone who could help me and I found an affordable multi-region DVD player. If ever there was a restrictive trade practice that disadvantages consumers, then region coding is it.

The way I look at this is so:

  • More and more people are getting their movies and TV shows from some digital source (legal or otherwise)
  • For every movie that is downloaded, that's one less DVD bought
  • The less DVDs that are bought, the less demand there will be for DVD players.
So, my advice to DVD manufacturers: instead of trying to make things more difficult for us DVD watchers by region-locking your DVD players (and pushing us towards the digital option), just free them all up and try to preserve your ever-diminishing place in the world.

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