Play Station and copyright MileFilms
Thu Mar 30 10:05:49 EST 2000

In a message dated 3/30/00 3:43:57 AM, gerow at writes:

<< A humorous story in itself, but what I was surprised in the most (though 
not all) of the news stories reporting this said that if DVD from other 
regions could be played, "there is a fear copyright laws will be 
violated."  Personally, I never thought the establishment and maintanance 
of region codes had anything to do with copyright law per se.  Afterall, 
DVD players manufactured as multi-code like the Kones do exist in the 
States.  A few stories, I think rightly, merely said the machine violates 
an agreement between makers of DVD soft. >>

Dear Aaron,
The regional zones for DVD has everything to do and nothing to do with the 
copyright laws, but mostly it has to do with territorial rights and copyright 
infringements coming from that. You can produce zone-free DVDs that can play 
on any system in the world which would have been a wonderful boon to the 
global village but is totally terrifying to the Hollywood studios. Just like 
the internet, a zone-free DVD can be seen by anybody in any country and can 
be bought from anywhere. Because of lax laws and/or enforcement around parts 
of the world, the entertainment industries are constantly fighting bootlegs. 
That's why there's so many enforcement cases going on and new copyright laws 
being created dealing with the internet and streaming--the studios feel that 
it's a threat and want to stop it before it can start on a massive scale.

So to get the DVD format off the ground and accepted by the studios, the DVD 
designers aligned themselves with the studios by creating these five (?) 
artificial zones and creating a Macrovision (copy-guard) system that will 
supposedly work. And of course, this creates a big market for DVD players 
that can overide the zone codes and macrovision protection. An APEX model 
(from China) is currently making national news for being exceptionally easy 
to program and watch DVDs from all over the world--and copy them as well. (I 
have one on order -- they're particularly cheap at $179 on sale and I need to 
see some of the restored silents from France and Germany for the business). 
At the same time, as soon as this is discovered, the US Customs officials 
start banning the importation of these machines -- the Apex model coming into 
the US next month is supposedly going to be different than today's model.

Primarily, the biggest threat is the way business has been done with foreign 
distribution over the past century. You make a film and license it per 
country to independent or alligned distributors. If I buy a film for the 
Unites States for a ton of money, I am not particularly pleased when VCDs and 
DVDs from overseas are illegally brought into the country and sold behind my 
back--especially before I have a chance to bring it out myself. It doesn't 
make me go out and sue everybody, but it makes me think twice about which 
films I acquire and from which countries. 

The biggest case came with the publication of the second Harry Potter book. 
The English edition came out around May and Scholastic in the United States 
didn't come out with their edition until about six months later. It was 
estimated that over 100,000 copies were purchased in the United States from 
Amazon UK and other British and Canadian internet sources. Scholastic was 
greatly concerned about this and made a lot of noise to Amazon but the 
relative importance of Amazon as a customer, the first sale doctrine in the 
US, and the fact that it still became a huge bestseller overode their 
concerns. They solved this in the third edition by coming out the same day, 
but this rarely can be done in film.

Milestone Film & Video

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