Are region-free DVD players legal? This has been a controversial topic for a long time. In theory, due to the region code, a certain copy of movies and games can be played only in a certain region. For example, the USA is in Region 1 for DVDs. That means DVD discs and player sold in USA are locked to Region 1 and you cannot play imported movies like Region 4 DVD from Australia, Region 2 DVD from Europe, etc. This region coding is used to ensure the benefits of movie studios.
However, it brings inconveniences to consumers, especially for those who have overseas friends and family and want to send them some DVDs. That’s why region-free DVD players rise. With a region-free DVD player, you can play DVD disc from any region at ease.
At first, only some small manufacturers sell region-free DVD players. Later, big DVD player manufacturers keep up with the pace and started selling region-free DVD players. However, they will not reveal it publicly. For those region-free DVD players, some are unlocked in the factory while some need to be unlocked with secret codes by retailers or users. This makes it’s hard for shoppers to know what they are buying.
Then with the development of technology, Blu-ray players come out. Region code is also applied on Blu-ray players. However, there are much fewer regions. To cater to the consumers’ needs, some Australian Blu-ray players are also region-free for playing DVDs.
Now the confusion rises: whether region-free players are legal in Australia. Some people think the DVD players must be region-free according to the ACCC rule while others think that region-free DVD players are illegal under the free trade agreement with the US. To make things worse, vendors of region-free players are reluctant to talk about whether their players are region-free or not and even be dishonest about this. For example, Sony Australia says they don’t endorse region-free playback on DVD and Blu-ray players and the player sold are not region-free. However, there are a lot of reports saying people are buying region-free player from Sony.
So are region-free players legal in Australia? The ACCC and ACMA said that they never regulate such things. The Attorney-General’s department said that region-free DVD and Blu-ray players are exempt from the Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) included in the US Free Trade Agreement as it is stated as below:
To make a conclusion, vendors are not obligated to sell region-free players, but they are not forbidden. However, the current situation is that when you are buying a player, the only way to know whether it is region-free or not is to check with the retailer or to test a foreign DVD disc. Maybe the some manufacturers are dishonest about the region-free players is due to the prudence of powerful forces like the Motion Picture Association of America instead of the Australian law.
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