JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Why does Sony lie about DVD region-coding?

Date

Zoom in on this story. Explore all there is to know.

Sony BDP-S480 Blu-ray player.

Sony BDP-S480 Blu-ray player.

Shopping for a region-free DVD or Blu-ray player? Don't expect to get a straight answer.

Over Christmas I decided to upgrade my old Sony Blu-ray player to a new model with built-in Catch Up TV, predominantly for easy access to the ABC's iView. Another prerequisite was that it be region-free in order to play DVDs purchased from outside Australia. Seems like a simple enough thing to check with the retailer, but not when Sony lies about it.

As you probably know, DVD region-coding is the system introduced by movie houses to enforce their regional price-gouging tactics -- designed to stop people from importing cheaper discs from overseas. North America lies in Region 1, while Western Europe and the Middle East are Region 2. Meanwhile Australia is in Region 4 along with South America.

If your DVD player is region-locked, it will refuse to play a disc from another region. If it's not locked, you'll often find it cheaper to order Region 2 DVDs from Amazon UK rather than buy Region 4 discs in Australia. Both Australia and the UK use the PAL video format, so it makes more sense to buy Region 2 PAL DVDs from the UK than to buy Region 1 NTSC discs from the US.

The use of PAL and NTSC is not actually region-coding, although it can have the same effect if your old television doesn't support NTSC. Many people seem to think that Nintendo Wii games are also region-coded, but in fact it's only PAL v NTSC at play and I've happily imported Wii games from the UK and played them on my Australian-bought Wii (although it still made me nervous the first time).

Unfortunately the practice of region-coding has been carried over to Blu-ray discs, although thankfully Australia and Western Europe are both in Region B so there's no problem with buying Blu-ray movies from the UK. If, like me, you own a bunch of Region 2 DVDs then you'll want to be sure that your Blu-ray player offers region-free DVD playback, and here's where things get complicated.

I knew exactly which model Blu-ray player I wanted, Sony's BDP S590, so I walked into JB Hi-Fi with one simple question; "is it region-free for DVDs?". With no hesitation the shop assistant said no it wasn't, which came as a surprise. I've heard plenty of reports of people buying unlocked Sony Blu-ray players although apparently it can be hit and miss, even varying between different batches of the same model player. With some DVD and Blu-ray players it's simply a matter of punching in a code to disable region-coding, but apparently not with this model Sony.

The shop assistant was adamant that it wasn't region-free, so I couldn't take it home to test it and then expect a refund if it didn't work. While I was still in the store I decided to ring Sony Australia to double-check. After a few minutes on hold I was told that this model was definitely region-locked, although I could take it to a service centre and pay to have it unlocked. While outraged at the idea of paying for something which should come out of the box, I took down the number of my nearest service centre and gave them a call -- still standing in JB Hi-Fi while my son happily played Fruit Ninja on the display iPads.

Another few minutes on hold with the service centre and I was told that it would cost $44 to disable the region coding, but the model I was looking at would almost certainly come unlocked -- even if Sony and the shop assistant said otherwise. So I reluctantly handed over my money, knowing that if worst came to worst I could always pay the service centre to unlock it. When I got it home it happily played my Region 1, 2 and 4 DVDs, so all that worry was for nothing.

What's really frustrating is that Sony refuses to be honest about region-coding on its players. In the past I've asked Sony PR for a straight answer on this and been told; "Sony Australia does not endorse region-free playback on DVD and BD Players". When I pointed out this wasn’t actually an answer, I was told “no” they are not region-free. Clearly this is not true. Sony knows it and I expect the sales staff in stores such as JB Hi-Fi should know it as well, although they're perhaps erring on the side of caution to avoid disappointing customers.

It's not illegal to sell region-free DVD players in Australia, even after the signing of the US Free Trade Agreement, according to the Attorney-General’s department. It's interesting that the use of such "Technological Protection Measures" is up for review in this year's revamp of Australian copyright law. Let's hope our politicians don't trade away even more of our rights to appease their great and powerful friends. Meanwhile it would be nice if Sony could actually be honest about what its players can and can't do.

Have you been burned by region-coding? How do you get around it?

159 comments so far

  • I recently upgraded my old Blu-Ray player to a new slim-line model, also a Sony, and made sure I carried with me two DVD discs from outside our Australian region 4 (those being UK and US discs). The proviso for my sale was that the player could play both those DVDs in the store, on the telly to which it was hooked up. Salesman was happy to comply, it worked, he got the sale and I got my 100% region-free Sony player.

    Commenter
    David
    Date and time
    January 21, 2013, 10:59AM
    • Just don't buy Sony. They are only trying to maximise their profits. Nothing wrong with making profits but I find it very restrictive. They don't let you play burnt discs either.

      Commenter
      Hugo Thundercrotch
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 10:36AM
  • I had a similar experience with a new Samsung Blu-ray. JB HiFi had the model I was after and the sign in the store stated it was region free for DVD. I saw the identical model cheaper at Myer, but there was no information on region coding on display. I asked the sales person who wasn't sure. I bought it anyway, thinking it must be region free if it was the same model, but when I got it home it wouldn't play my US or UK DVDs. Thankfully a brief search on the internet found the right key combination to press on the remote and all was good again.

    For the record, I don't buy DVD's or Blu-rays overseas because they are cheaper, I buy them OS because so many classic films and TV series never get released here. If Sony films etc want to make more money on their content try releasing them more readily so we can buy them. I can't be bothered downloading, happy to pay, just let me buy.

    Commenter
    AusMossy
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    January 21, 2013, 11:08AM
    • Get an Apple TV - about $110 - and although iTunes doesn't have everything, it has so much you can buy or rent and all you have is a little box on your shelf about twice a cig packet. It may not be quite the bitrate of bluray but I predict the DVD is dead within a few years so I won't be buying one. I suspect that as bandwidth increases the purchase of a 5 meg per second 720 hd now will be 25/30 meg per sec in 5 years.

      Commenter
      The shelves are full
      Location
      Vacation South Africa
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 7:32PM
    • Honestly, Apple TV ($110) + Netflix ($US7.99/month) + VPN service such as unblock-us.com ($4.99/month) is far better than DVDs. HUGE movie and TV show catalogue for a fraction of what you'd pay for a DVD. See whirlpool to get it working.. love it!!

      Commenter
      betterthanDVD
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 30, 2013, 9:04AM
    • To the 2 posters above me - That's all fine if the person looking to buy a new region-free BluRay does not have loads of DVDs that they would like to continue using. But I do agree that AppleTV + a VPN service is the right option going forward.

      Commenter
      Chris
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 01, 2013, 8:57AM
    • @betterthandvd, that's only true if you're not interested in actually owning a movie collection. If you want to own a collection, you're wrong. If you don't, you're right. Similarly, it makes more sense to just go to a library, UNLESS you want to collect books that is.

      Commenter
      Jon
      Location
      reality
      Date and time
      February 19, 2013, 12:47PM
    • Love the ads for AppleTV

      Commenter
      Kick
      Location
      Inthemoot
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 10:14AM
  • I tried to buy some Instant Video shows off Amazon and was stymied by their refusal because I wasn't in the US. These shows are years old and I know for a fact they are not available on Region 4 DVDs. So I had to buy some second hand Region 1 units.

    Region encoding is a rip off and Amazon are robbing their clients who use them to sell their products.

    Commenter
    KK
    Location
    Morwell
    Date and time
    January 21, 2013, 12:03PM
    • Try VPN software to overcome this problem, it does cost a small fee but it will give you a temporary US address so you can purchase your instant video

      Commenter
      VJF
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 6:55AM

More comments

Make a comment

You are logged in as [Logout]

All information entered below may be published.

Error: Please enter your screen name.

Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

Error: Please enter your comment.

Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

Post to

You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

Thank you

Your comment has been submitted for approval.

Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

Advertisement
Featured advertisers
Advertisement