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Time to stop region locking discs?

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Posted 23rd May 2012 at 08:52 AM by keirarts

Anyone else fed up with region locked blue-rays? Personally I love my ps3, it has great playback and is very easy to update, unfortunately its also difficult at best to make multi region, and any attempt to do so will be thwarted by the next firmware update.

So recently I picked up a blue-ray double bill of KEOMA/GRAND DUAL released by a company called mill creek. Everything they released up till now was totally region-free, and as the discs were so damned cheap it was well worth the purchase. Unfortunately it turns out this particular disc is region locked. Now its worth pointing out there's a number of reasons why mill creek might have decided to start locking their discs. They MIGHT be upset their discs are going overseas, but I doubt it as it still represents more sales for them. It might be that it just occured to them that they should and only now have they started to do it, but again WHY? is the question. Personally the theory I think fits best is the uk licence holders (or from any other european/australian/asian territory) object to their customers bypassing their product and going abroad to buy their discs.


Certainly Argent, who apparently hold the uk licence for Keoma fit the profile of likely candidates. They have form of late for removing listings on amazon for US editions of their films. I got a cease and desist for listing my old anchor bay dvd of torso, and another forum member on here got stopped from selling the region locked blue-ray of DJANGO. A Friend of mine had the uk redemption dvd release of BLACK CAT listed and got the same treatment, again it was argent films who not only seem to consider importing discs they own the uk rights to as theft, but apparently selling uk editions that were released earlier is also theft as well.

Its also worth pointing out at this juncture that Shameless (who argent own) releases their discs as region 0. Which means US and AUSTRALIAN customers should have no problems playing their discs. The same thing applies to their recent blue-ray (or yellow ray in this case!) So if an american consumer fancied picking up TORSO as released by shameless it should be easy enough to hit uk's marketplace and pick up a copy.

I should say that at this point I can at least see ARGENTS argument. They paid their money for exclusive UK rights to these films, they want to see money from that investment. Region coding has always been about protecting the territorial rights of company's like argent. Even with the major studios, Warner UK is financially seperate from Warner US, the same goes for most companies out there. With smaller companies dealing with cult movies it's important that they make the cash to be able to release more titles.

My main problem is that ARGENT are approaching things the wrong way.

Firstly, region locking discs is only a temporary solution at best, It became totally irrelevant with DVD pretty quickly, and already were seeing more and more blue-ray players hitting the shelves that are totally hackable. Sure the firmware updates are a way to combat this, but if company's seriously want the format to survive firmware updating can't go on forever. I work in retail and i've encounterd numerous customers who view updating their player's as a hassle at best, some customers who don't have access to the internet rendering the format useless to them and more who simply don't understand what they need to do! Firmware updating happens apparently because the format was released before it was finished and the updates are supposedly fixing some of the problems. Well eventually one would hope the format is functional eventually and the need for the constant updating will finish eventually.
Basically, as with DVD, for many the region coding will become an irrelevance.


Secondly, using legal thuggery to prevent people selling their discs on-line wont work. If anything your antagonising your customer base. I've bought LOADS of shameless titles, and in most cases as they have looked/sounded superior to their US counterparts i've sold my american discs off to make space and raise funds for my expensive DVD/BLU habit. Sure one could spend a whole bunch of money trying to stop peopel buying these discs of amazon.co.uk or Play.com, but then the fans will go to planetaxel, Amazon.com, Movietyme and one of the hundreds of other sites abroad that are perfectly willing to make a dollar shipping to the UK. Somehow I doubt argent have the clout to sit at customs opening every packet.


Thirdly, as long as films are released in hard copies, there will always be a second hand market. UK companies make zilch off second hand sales so its easy enough to see why they would be annoyed, but barring taking games comapany's approaches and including online activation codes then there will always be the option to buy second hand. Weather it's trading between friends as seen on these forums, charity shops or marketplace. If people have a disc they paid their own hard cash for, then they have every right to dispose of said product how they wish, wether they flog it on themselves or give the damn thing away to charity, are Argent really going to start going into charity shops to see if their selling region 1 or previous releases of films they have the rights too?


So if your a small company releasing films, what can you do?

The first step is to realise were living in a global economy, the internet has helped shape this, the world is a smaller place than it was. People want the best products and the best deals and often they are more than happy to shop around and look at different products. The US automotive industry learned this lesson the hard way when people started buying their cars from Japan and Germany, simply put the foreign imports were better. Also learn that legal muscle only takes you so far where the internet is concerned. If major corporations with whole teams of lawyers are still having problems with pirate bay, small cult film releasers are not going to stand a cat-in-hell's chance.


The answer...

MAKE YOUR RELEASES THE BEST AVAILABLE.

And this is something UK companies are already doing. Lots of americans are importing arrow and shameless releases. Shameless make the effort to secure the very best prints and Arrow load their discs with countless bonus features and throw in posters and reversible sleeves, putting out a collectible package that gives Blue underground a run for their money. When Blue underground released a hi-def region free disc of HOUSE BY THE CEMETARY, I didn't hear any winging from ARROW, instead they simply announced a BETTER RELEASE with MORE EXTRAS!
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