DVD Protectionist Measures by the MPAA

Discussion in 'Use of the Law Forum & News' started by Legal Information, Jul 21, 2001.

Should the MPAA be permitted to encode restrict DVDs?

  1. Yes.

    0 vote(s)
  2. No.

    4 vote(s)
  3. Maybe with appropriate rules.

    0 vote(s)
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  1. Legal Information

    Legal Information Law Topic Starter New Member

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    So you took a trip to another country and saw a DVD that you liked and decided to buy it to view it when you got home. You figure out that it is PAL or NTSC compatible and that it should work with your home equipment. But you get home and then find out it doesn't work. Why? Isn't a DVD in NTSC a DVD in NTSC?

    Well, the answer to that question is no, thanks to the power wielded by the Hollywood studios (MPAA or Motion Picture Association of America). The problem here is that there isn't any violation of law or copyright infringement issues concerned. This is all about power, a control issue at the expense of the uninformed consumer. The MPAA wants to control where releases can be played around the world so that, for example, it can first release a movie in the US and then later in Eurpope. DVDs have begun to be encoded with a "regional code" that plays only in DVD players manufactured in a certain region. Those regions are as follows:

    Region 1: USA
    Region 2: Europe and Japan
    Region 3: Asian Pacific
    Region 4: Australia, New Zealand and Latin America
    Region 5: Africa, Russia and Eastern Europe
    Region 6: China and Hong Kong

    There is new problem that exists with discs encoded with the Regional Coding Enhancement. If you bought a DVD player which is "codefree," a player that ignores the regional coding, your player may not play these DVDs properly. It has been reported that the MPAA has begun encoding DVDs released in Region 1 to be unplayable in many codefree DVD players.

    Here's an interesting scenario. A consumer buys several DVDs, which may not be returnable, to find out that the MPAA encoding has prevented use on several DVD players. The consumer may now be out the small investment in these discs simply because the MPAA wants control in an area where it doesn't seem appropriate. It is completely contrary to the spirit of the First Sale Doctrine (17 USC 109), which states that when a copy of a published work is sold, the purchaser acquires all rights other than those listed in 17 USC 106 as exclusive rights of the copyright owner.

    It would seem that a DVD that has significant playback limitations should carry a conspicuous warning. The use of such protectionist schemes, both in hardware and media without any conspicuous warning, is reprensible and might be perceived as a latent defect in a product that is known to the manufacturer but not to the consumer. It makes one wonder whether every purchaser of hardware that is unaware of these significant limitations that cripple the ability to use the product in the manner intended, might prompt a class action for fraud against manufacturers.

    The digital age presents numerous ethical and legal challenges. However, in this instance, it seems clear that the problem is one conerning exploitation rather than an economic connundrum.
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