Can Blu-ray Players Play Multi-Region DVDs?

We recently received a query from a reader asking about blu-ray players and whether they will soon have the ability to play multi-region DVDs. The rules surrounding multi-region DVD players are murky at best.

By Mike Wheeler

 

We recently received a query from a reader asking about blu-ray players and whether they will soon have the ability to play multi-region DVDs. The rules surrounding multi-region DVD players are murky at best.

 

When DVDs first became popular in the 1990s, movie distributors and their agents knew straight away that they needed some sort of control to stop cross-border pollination of people buying cheap DVDs in one country and taking it back to their own. So the region system was put in place to protect those who had a vested interest (read: financial) in making sure their market was kept secure. That was fine, but also impractical to uphold because although there were sound reasons for people wanting to hold on their territory rights, there are also consumers who wanted to watch overseas content that is not available in the country where they reside. A classic example is ex-pats from the United Kingdom who immigrate to Australia or the United States and can’t watch their favourite British sitom or drama due to the incompatibility issues.

 

In the past, vendors have been reluctant to come forward and admit whether you can play different DVDs from different regions on their players. There are hacks (which for legal reasons we won’t go into) that can unlock some players, but in a world where digital content downloads are popular, as are bit torrent sites, maybe manufacturers need to rethink their strategies over the issue. You can buy multi-region DVDs on line, but a lot of them are no-name brands and you run the risk that they might not work.

 

We put the question to some of the big players in the market and asked them if any of their current blu-ray players can play mult-region DVDs and if not, why not. Also if not, do they plan to manufacture any in the near future. In a word the answers were no and no.

 

Panasonic Public Relations Manager Shona Hannon said “The short answer is we don’t market those players here,” but she was unsure as to why and there are no plans in the near future to have them available in Australia.

 

Sony was more forthcoming with its public relations manager Grant Thomas stating “No. Sony’s Blu-Ray players and discs employ Regional Playback Control (RPC) to help commercial movie publishers regulate sales of their products throughout the world,” which backs up what has already been stated in this article.

LG were also pretty forthright with a spokesperson saying “LG Blu-ray players/DVD players are not region free. Our understanding is that manufacturers are not allowed to ship region free Blu-ray players from factory. There is no ability to region unlock our players in Australia, now or in the near future.”

 

With Foxtel and Quikflix offering streaming services, and bit torrent sites doing a roaring trade in illegal downloads, making it easier for people to watch their DVDs – whether imported or not – should be a priority for vendors if the blu-ray player is to have a future in the entertainment industry.

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