Earth to Hollywood

Please get rid of the @#$%^& region coding.

See, our family meant to bring along some movies when we came to Switzerland for our holiday vacation. Forgetting them was my fault. But not being able to watch other movies, that we would be glad to pay for, on our laptop, is not our fault. It’s Hollywood’s.

Thanks to the insanity of region coding, we can’t (or won’t) watch on our laptops because we’d have to buy or rent a DVD for Region 2, while our laptops are Region 1. There are workarounds, but we don’t feel like screwing with those.

We also thought, Hey, we’re Netflix customers. Maybe we could watch live online. The wi-fi connection at the hotel here is surprisingly good (considering that we’re way back up in the Alps). Alas, when we go to Netflix, it says,

  Watching Instantly is Not Available Outside the US
  Our systems indicate that the computer you are using is not located within the 50 United States or District of Columbia. Due to studio licensing reasons, movies are available to watch instantly only on computers in those locations.

So, studios, why screw your own customers? You have a direct relationship with me. I’m one of your customers. I pay to watch your movies.

There has to be a better way than this.

If you can’t figure it out for yourselves, how about working with customers to figure out something that involves point-to-point, customer-seller relationships that enable business, rather than prevent it?


  1. George Metesky’s avatar

    If I’m not mistaken BitTorrent works outside the US.

  2. Don Marti’s avatar

    Or why not go the other way? Why continue making movies into more daily background noise, since people already have TV? Why not make Going To The Movies into a big occasion again? Stop releasing movies for home video entirely, and keep them in the theaters.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    George, I don’t want to burden the local system here with whatever BitTorrent might involve, especially on the slow upstream side. I note that what we’re getting here is “residential” service — a kindness by the nice lady who runs the place. And we don’t need the movies so badly, either.

  4. Jared Goralnick’s avatar


    As someone who also travels abroad regularly, I feel your pain. A couple good solutions:

    * iTunes doesn’t care where you are, so you can rent movies through that. That’s the easiest solution.
    * You can install a few different DVD players on your laptop, each with different region encoding…or just create a virtual machine and have that tied to a different region.

    The former is much easier than the latter. And it doesn’t help the Netflix issue (yes, there are ways around that, but it’s a pain.) But hopefully the iTunes thing can help get you through the trip with something to watch.


  5. Andrew Leyden’s avatar

    VLC doesn’t care about regions (at least it used to). You should be able watch it using VLC instead of DVD Player.

  6. quixote’s avatar

    I used or watched people (try to) use commercial DVDs only a few times. (I know, I know. I’m not the world’s biggest pirate. I just don’t watch TV, DVDs, etc.) And of those few times, most (90%) involved region aggro. The silliest case was a NY lawyer settling down to watch a special movie on the weekend at his country house in Pennsylvania, a 3-hour drive from his home.

    Enable business rather than prevent it, indeed!

    Or else turn people like me into micro-“pirates”. I use Linux, which doesn’t recognize that idiotic encoding, so it’s officially illegal to run commercial DVDs in that operating system.

  7. Patrick’s avatar

    Yes enable transactions. 50 million people use pirate sources because that is the best way ( as they define it) to get what they want- Hollywood content. But the machine that makes that content desirable has grown up and has a lot of structure (read cash flows) around things like borders and national territories.
    For instance, to have Netflix be able to serve Doc in the Alps some Euro distributor would be ceding an exclusive on a territory. Who should give up what in this adaptation?
    How much of the market does a traveler like Doc represent? How much lawyer time shall we expend renegotiating transitory consumers?
    It sounds so easy, but someone’s ox is going to bleed and right now, nobody in Hollywood has a budget to capture Doc’s foreign movie viewing, much less fight piracy. Until they get how they can capture new income by enabling those transactions, and at a level that makes the costs and risks proportional, they have bigger problems to deal with.
    There is a generation of middle management that wants to go get those people and make customers out of them, but they don’t have control, and they don’t have any evidence that those customers can be converted to income.
    Change sounds so attractive, especially if it isn’t your money or income at risk. Oh and ‘Hollywood’ isn’t anymore integrated or monolithic than Boston or Harvard, so a single message like this isn’t going to get on many decision maker’s radar, much less eardrums.

  8. quixote’s avatar

    Until they get how they can capture new income by enabling those transactions

    Really? Getting paid once isn’t enough? “Capturing new income” just because you can is called extortion when the Mafia does it.

    The problem isn’t the complexity of finding new ways to extract more money. The problem is that we don’t even have the concept of honest business practices any more. We’re so far away from it, it even sounds funny.

  9. Brad Ackerman’s avatar

    The workaround doesn’t take that much time — you just flash the firmware once and vlc can do its thing. Enabling NetFlix/Hulu is more hassle; you’d have to set up a VPN from your home or a VPS inside the US (the commercial services tend to be blocked). But yeah, it’s completely screwed up that we’re trying to throw money at the MAFIAA and they won’t take it.

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