DVD region codes unfairly limit consumer options. We want to know what you think about DVD zoning.
The global DVD marketplace has been divided into eight “zones”. In each zone, DVDs are enscribed with a region code and will only successfully play on equipment with a matching region code. This means that a DVD produced in one region can only be played on a player from within that region.
Producers and distributors use region coding to "segment" markets. They say it allows them to release films in cinemas on a staggered schedule to maximise box-office receipts. They say receipts could be hurt if new movie releases were all available on DVD at the same time around the world.
What we think
This artificial manipulation of supply makes life difficult for consumers.
Genuine DVDs lawfully purchased overseas and brought into Australia for private use do not infringe Australian copyright law but consumers will face problems using them.
- Many consumers will not realise that they will be unable to play them on most equipment purchased in Australia. DVDs are not sold with prominent warnings that they will not work in a foreign region.
- Consumers who are aware of the impact of DVD zoning may be tempted to find a way to view DVDs from other zones, either by modifying equipment or downloading widely available software for this purpose. However doing this means the consumer will almost certainly lose the warranty on the equipment for deliberately tampering with it.
- Consumers may purchase DVD multi region players or equipment specific to an overseas zone playing equipment but for many this will not be practicable.
- DVD zoning imposes a significant barrier to global Internet shopping.
In addition overseas travellers are not able to confidently purchase DVDs on their journey and DVD zoning undermines the second-hand market in DVDs as consumers can’t be certain a DVD will work on their equipment.
What we want
Current law enables copyright owners to increase their profits at significant cost to Australian consumers. Australia should take a strong pro-consumer position in international treaty negotiations. In the meantime, the Copyright Act should be amended. The Act should:
- prohibit DVD zoning in Australia;
- allow consumers to modify their equipment or download software as needed to successfully play content on DVDs from other regions;
- allow the sale and import of multi-zone DVD players;
In addition, the ACCC should ensure consumers are not misled or otherwise disadvantaged by:
- monitoring disclosure made about hardware and software affected by the DVD zoning arrangements to ensure that consumers are not misled;
- investigating to what extent DVD zoning harms consumers;
- investigating how content owners and equipment manufacturers co-operate and find out if their co-operation breaches the Trade Practices Act.
What you can do
- You should be wary of purchasing DVD hardware and software from suppliers outside the Australian/NZ/Pacific Islands/Central and South America zone.
- You can write to your Member of Parliament (Commonwealth) letting him or her know your views.
DVD Zoning and TPMs
In September 2006 the Commonwealth government released an exposure draft of legislation to implement the TPM provisions of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement. The legislation will outlaw attempts to circumvent technological protection measures (TPM's) which protect copyright material. This legislation presents a perfect opportunity to fix the DVD zoning problem as explained by law academic Kim Weatherall here.