Complaint to EU Trading Standards regarding Region Codes

M

madeupman

Guest
Hi there,

As we are now moving to HD format the inconvenience of the PAL/NTSC factor fades away.

In its place, we have the artificial disabling of Blu Ray playback on Blu Ray players by use of region codes. Something I find wholly unacceptable and illegal.

I have recently contacted the EU Trading Standards office to ask how I can pursue this matter through a legal challenge. I would be very grateful for any help and understanding fellow forum users can provide.

At the end of the day there's a high possibility I will lose my job for this, as I work for a company involved with the big content publishers this action will be targetting.

That said, i firmly believe that as a purchaser and consumer I should be able to play MY discs on any compatible hardware I choose and not be dictated to and manipulated by the content publisher.

I welcome your thoughts and input.

All the best,

Madeupman
 

Drongo

Distinguished Member
Firstly, let me say well done! It's refreshing to find someone who has principles and is prepared to act on them.

I don't have enough legal knowledge to offer you any specific advice I'm afraid. I'm not sure if I'm correct in saying this, but I believe the Australian government made it illegal for equipment to be sold that enforced SD regional coding on DVD's. If this is the case, it may be worth researching the background facts which led to their decision. It may help you in preparing your case.

Best of luck.

Edit: It may also be worth posting this in the General Discussion area of the forum.
 
Madeupman: I have no legal knowledge - but two things:

1. Thank you VERY much and well done.
2. The best of luck.
 

peterweg

Banned
The single market has one region code so the EU will not have issue or jurisdiction.

You could try GATT/World Trade Organisation if you have a few million dollars for lawyers. Although I doubt you would have any chance of success.
 

Noggin1980

Distinguished Member
The single market has one region code so the EU will not have issue or jurisdiction.

You could try GATT/World Trade Organisation if you have a few million dollars for lawyers. Although I doubt you would have any chance of success.

I'm sure there would be no point going to the EU for disk region coding because making european disks region free would do nothing for europe.

However I'm sure the EU would have the jurisdiction to request that all players sold here not be artificially restricted into playing only certain disks when it's fully capable of playing others.

The problem I see is that it's probably not in europes best interest for us to be importing product from the US.

I'm just a normal guy speculating though, so don't take any of that as fact.
 
M

madeupman

Guest
Wow! Seconds later and so many replies!

Thank you for all your comments. It's good to know that people do agree with the point I'm making. The points about the difficulty of such a challenge are well taken, it really will be a hard task to taken on such weighty, rich and influencial players.

In my time in the technology industry I have seen a shift in recent days. A positive shift in favour of the customer. As an example I'd point out that mobile phone operators insisted that the capability of MP3 be disabled on phones in respect of using MP3 ringtones. It was the collective consumer reaction that forced the operators to climb down and change position.

There is a clear history and precedent of companies disabling features and compatibilites that work in the customer's favour. It's time to end it.

I'll monitor the thread discussion and look forward to reading more views. I'd be very interested to hear views in support of the Region Code practice, but I honestly don't expect to see many as try as I might I can't find any logic to support the position other than protectionism of commercial interests as opposed to consumer interests... maybe someone from this industry can suprise me with a good and justifiable arguement?

Thanks again for all the input so far!

All the best,

Madeupman

PS. This problem was highlighted to me when I used my Japanese PS3 to try and play a UK Blu Ray disc. Funnily enough, all games from all locations play fine so far. So why single out movies for special treatment? Answer = $$$
 
M

madeupman

Guest
I'm sure there would be no point going to the EU for disk region coding because making european disks region free would do nothing for europe.

Hi Noggin1980!

Thanks for the comment :eek:)

To my understanding an EU ruling would indeed make a difference. It's only by including the Region Code that playback is prevented. Remove it, and the disc would play on any Blu Ray compatible machine in the world...

I stand ready to be corrected on this though!

All the best,

Nick
 

Jeff

Distinguished Member
Well done for doing something.

I remember a few years ago EU looked into regional coding for DVD, nothing happened but there may be a greater case here. Most DVD players sold in Europe are region free anyway so the code on the disc isn't a big deal. With Blu Ray no way has been found to defeat the regional coding.

PS The EU is eaxctly the people you need to talk to, the WTO would be pointless.
 

Noggin1980

Distinguished Member
Hi Noggin1980!

Thanks for the comment :eek:)

To my understanding an EU ruling would indeed make a difference. It's only by including the Region Code that playback is prevented. Remove it, and the disc would play on any Blu Ray compatible machine in the world...

I stand ready to be corrected on this though!

All the best,

Nick

I think you misunderstand me a little mate.

I mean if you remove the region coding on European Blu-ray disks that won't allow European citizens to play any more movies than they could before. We still wouldn't be able to play American disks and I assume that the EU wouldn't have jurisdiction to request the removal of the American region code. We can already play EU region encoded disks, removing the code still just lets us play EU disks, it would be good for the Americans but not for us*.

However If the EU were to say all European Blu-ray Players had to be multi-region that would then allow EU citizens to play all world movies on a European player which is the ideal situation and I assume they have the jurisdiction for this.

*Of course we could get around that by importing an American player which would then play all American and EU disks. Many more people wish to important the disks than the players though.
 
M

madeupman

Guest
I think you misunderstand me a little mate.

I mean if you remove the region coding on European Blu-ray disks that won't allow European citizens to play any more movies than they could before. We still wouldn't be able to play American disks and I assume that the EU wouldn't have jurisdiction to request the removal of the American region code*.

However If the EU were to say all European Blu-ray Players had to be multi-region that would then allow EU citizens to play all world movies on a European player which is the ideal situation and I assume they have the jurisdiction for this.

*Of course we could get around that by importing an American player which would then play all American and EU disks. Many more people wish to important the disks than the players though.

Hi Noggin1980!

Sorry - you're absolutely right, my bad; I'll read more carefully (just have to devote less attention to the work mail coming in ;o)

The aim would and should be to get rid of the region codes completely. A level playing field for all. Funny thing, we hear a lot about the 'free market', but the reality is it's a totally locked down market...

The multi region player suggestion is a good one. Ideally, this too would be a worldwide approach. I'm starting out in EU at the moment as it's local, but at the end of the day (should this challenge gain any traction and momentum in EU) I would look to synchronise with other like-minded folks globally.

Thanks for your comments!

All the best,

Madeupman
 

MikeK

Well-known Member
You can try, but I hope you aren't seriously contemplating risking your job over this.

I'm not a lawyer, but my undertstanding is that in order to mount a legal challenge like this, you'd first have to have some legal basis for the challenge, next you need to decide who exactly you are going to challenge, and then you'd have to find a court which sees itself as having the jurisdiction to sit in judgement on it!

Unfortunately, while you may have a moral case, I very much doubt you have any legal basis on which to make a challenge.
Even if you did, and you could find a court willing to hear and rule on thecase, you are contemplating taking on multibillion dollar companies (quite a few of them too) - they'd tie you up in red tape for years, and you'd almost certainly run out of funds before they did.

I think your best approach may be to make representations to the EU Competition Commission, and see if you can persuade them to take up the case - I don't hold out much hope personally (as I said before, I doubt there are any legal grounds on which to make such a challenge), but good luck all the same!
 

aniki

Active Member
In its place, we have the artificial disabling of Blu Ray playback on Blu Ray players by use of region codes. Something I find wholly unacceptable and illegal.

Hi,

I personally think region coding is the single worst element of the Blu-Ray disc, given that I have always imported my SD discs from all over the world.
However, while I am in no way a fan of Region Coding at all, I would like to know why you think its 'Illegal'? and why you believe you may have a case against content publishers....
Surely it is their choice as to whether they wish to include RC or not?
 

Jeff

Distinguished Member
If Australia can make it illegal so can the EU, it's the law that make something illegal or not. It would require a new provision in law.
 

MikeK

Well-known Member
Did Australia actually make RCP illegal though?
I could be wrong but I seem to recall that what they did was refuse to make the circumvention of RCP illegal - if so, that's not quite the same thing as declaring RCP itself illegal!
 

meltonboy

Well-known Member
Whilst i wish you well with this crusade, am not convinced that it is illegal.

I agree with a previous poster that the European Competition Commission would be the logical first step.

Since it's Friday afternoon, i have had a browse of their website:

http://ec.europa.eu/comm/competition/index_en.html

Their "Policy Areas" are listed at the top of the page and i have quickly reviewed them to see if any spring to mind for this. From my quick review, i can't see anything that would easily apply, but the answer may be in interpretation and/or small print.

For example, under article 81 of the treaty "agreements between two or more firms which restrict competition are prohibited ". It is true that region coding is an agreement between firms, but could you argue that this restricts competition ?

The industry would argue that they provide a full range of content that is independently priced between publishers - and that by opening up this restriction it would simply allows them to compete with themselves, so is it a restriction ?

Whereas you might argue that it resticts you from purchasing the same disc from the US and therefore restricts your choice.

Sorry, this isn't much of an answer, more of a friday afternoon rant :)

MB
 
M

madeupman

Guest
Hi meltonboy,

All comments are welcome, for, against, neutral, informative, etc. Thanks!

I too did a bit of a search and found these criticisms of RCP on Wikipedia - not yet edited out by agents of the evil empire ;o)

  • It prevents (or complicates) legitimate enjoyment of a product that has been legally obtained in a different territory, e.g. DVDs purchased by tourists, given/sent as gifts or brought by immigrants.
  • Regional lockout promotes copyright infringement, software cracking, and modding, as it makes the 'official' version of a product less desirable due to the restrictions placed on it (as in the above case of a user relocating to another region).
  • It allows items to be launched at different times in different places, so eager customers in some countries must wait for the items to be sold locally instead of importing them sooner.
  • Thousands of titles are only ever released to a single territory and, when region-locked, become effectively unavailable to most other consumers in perpetuity, with little or no benefit even to the media producers.
  • It allows price-discrimination, which may be illegal in some countries.
  • It presents a barrier to free trade, which may be illegal in some areas such as the European Union. Since the accession of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia there are two regions in the European Union, restricting trade in the bloc.
  • This state of affairs has yet to be challenged in court.
  • Works may not be able to be enjoyed in their original language and/or format due to product localisation (e.g., dubbing, censorship).
  • Localisation may be less than satisfactory for the work.
  • Works may be released with different features in different regions, making these inaccessible for some region users. For example, DVD releases are very often released earlier and with more special features in Region 1 (US and Canada) than in Region 4 (Latin America, Australia).

I agree with the posting that 'illegal' is as yet an unfounded and inaccurate description. Additionally though, it appears that there is an existing basis at least for such a practice to warrant being made illegal in respect of the points described above.

Food for further thought and discussion...

Many thanks for all the posts so far!

All the best,

Nick

Link to Wiki article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_lockout
 

peterweg

Banned
[*]It presents a barrier to free trade, which may be illegal in some areas such as the European Union. Since the accession of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia there are two regions in the European Union, restricting trade in the bloc.

Well this doesn't apply to Blu-ray does it? Only Russia is in a different region from Europe and its not an EU member.
 
M

madeupman

Guest
Hi Peterweg,

Thanks - quite true. I didn't want to mess with the wiki article (far too much of that going on I hear...) so I left it be.

Perhaps when I have enough views and input I'll post some of the conclusions on wikipedia on a generic RCP article.

All the best,

Madeupman
 
M

madeupman

Guest
Hi rabrown,

Thanks very much for this, it's good to see such a clearly defined interpretation of the true nature of region encoding.

If only the rest of the nations would follow the Australian example and give some serious consideration to the subject. Perhaps they have?

Though the Australian result doesn't go the full distance to outlawing the practice of RCP it does clearly cast doubt on the justifications for it.

One very important step in the right direction for my mind. Now it's for the rest of the goverments to carry on this path to its logical conclusion.

NO MORE RCP!!!

All the best,

Madeupman

Ross Jones, Commissioner of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

'This coding system is a mechanism to allow price discrimination, not to protect the inherent rights of Intellectual Property owners.'
 

Mr Incredible

Distinguished Member
In the UK the Video Recording Act makes it illegal to sell any recorded materials which have not been approved by the BBFC. Considering that a publisher may have added expense in creating the media with the BBFC classification (by law), including the inserts, and may even have to excise materials from the "original" version and remaster the discs, then it is only reasonable that these companies are protected from "imports" which circumvent these legal requirements. Sure individuals are allowed to import unclassified materials for personal use, but noone may sell or distribute them within the UK.

As a result, I believe some form of Region coding and classification is required under the current UK law.
 
M

madeupman

Guest
Hi Bob,

A great piece of input - thanks!

Truly, the devil is in the detail here. In respect of this aspect of UK law, how could someone be precluded from purchasing BBFC uncertified material from an internet based source? Amazon has used channel islands to drop prices by taxation loopholes. Could similar loopholes regarding BBFC be found?

Times have changed a lot with the onset of the digital era and this is perhaps one of many laws that nowadays could become difficult to enforce and perhaps doesn't reflect the times we live in. It doesn't appear to be a practical measure to address the deluge of user/low budget originated material produced for example.

It would appear that the law that being cited in terms of a potential positive rationale in support of RCP actually brings us to another interesting area of discussion; censorship.

Can censorship be considered a good enough justification for RCP?

After all, I suppose this is a big part of what it boils down to; can RCP be justified? Even with the censorship consideration, my view currently would be no.

Though I shiver at the thought of what the little hoodies are watching today, I can't say that contemporary censorship is effective, relevant or enforcible enough to prevent them getting hold of material that would never see the light of day if the BBFC had anything to say about it; which they effectively don't in the wonderful world of the interweb...

All the best,

Madeupman
 

Mr Incredible

Distinguished Member
Hi Bob,

A great piece of input - thanks!

Truly, the devil is in the detail here. In respect of this aspect of UK law, how could someone be precluded from purchasing BBFC uncertified material from an internet based source? Amazon has used channel islands to drop prices by taxation loopholes. Could similar loopholes regarding BBFC be found?

Anything imported for personal use is OK, provided it does not fall foul of the obscene publications act. Currently unclassified, non-Region 2 DVD's can be bought legally so long as it is kept within ones possession. Anyone subsequently selling or passing on that DVD to anyone in the UK is breaking the law.

However, that is not the issue with HD if I read your post right. Is it the case that the material is RCP or is it the fact that the hardware currently cannot be made mutli-region? Or both?

Times have changed a lot with the onset of the digital era and this is perhaps one of many laws that nowadays could become difficult to enforce and perhaps doesn't reflect the times we live in. It doesn't appear to be a practical measure to address the deluge of user/low budget originated material produced for example.

I think that is a fair point. After all it is the "VIDEO" recording act that is used. Other than NTSC issues, there was no region coding on tapes! So is the law archaic for the digital era?

It would appear that the law that being cited in terms of a potential positive rationale in support of RCP actually brings us to another interesting area of discussion; censorship.

Can censorship be considered a good enough justification for RCP?



After all, I suppose this is a big part of what it boils down to; can RCP be justified? Even with the censorship consideration, my view currently would be no.

Ask that in any Muslim country and you'll get a resounding yes. However, as "regions" tend to cover many countries, the effectiveness of RCP for censorship has to have its limitations.

Though I shiver at the thought of what the little hoodies are watching today, I can't say that contemporary censorship is effective, relevant or enforcible enough to prevent them getting hold of material that would never see the light of day if the BBFC had anything to say about it; which they effectively don't in the wonderful world of the interweb...

As long as any material does not fall foul of the obscene publications act, then it does seem rather odd that it's OK for an individual to import unclassified materials and then not allowed to pass / sell that on to another consenting adult. But then you'd get the dodger dealers doing mass imports of unclassified (and therefore potentially cheaper) materials and flogging them down the market.

"Pricing" is an interesting subject because if one HAS to produce media and materials which bear the BBFC classification, then immediately a company is restricted in its production batches to buy cheaply and manufacture cheaply. One cannot ignore the fact that the US population is over 10 times that of the UK and as a result the unit production costs are significantly lower. One cannot expect the same pricing even if the RCP was removed because there is no way that the BBFC will ever be disbanded and for the UK this means unique media and packaging.
 

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