music is freer than books which are freer than movies

If I bought a legitimate version of something, I should be able to use it/play it/enjoy it, no matter where I bought it, no matter where I take it to. It’s silly that I can’t.

I was fishing around on the DVD shelves for Dil Chahta Hai, when I found Sholay (the DVD) and Sholay (the CD). The CD was packaged in an DVD-length box, rather than the usual more-square CD jewel-case size, hence it got parked in the DVDs. No wonder I hadn’t seen it for a while.

It made me wonder: why is it that when you buy audio CD anywhere in the world, it can be played on any CD player in the world. But when you buy a DVD movie (well, a legit/non-pirated one), there’s this whole system of DVD regions, and depending on what region DVD player you have at home, it can or can’t be be played. (Some one told me if you bought a cheap DVD player at Walmart, apparently it would play all regions.) I guess it has to do with distribution rights and all, i.e. only a film/show that’s been ‘distributed’ as a DVD in a certain country would have the DVD that’s playable for it.

So why didn’t audio CDs get coded to be restricted by country? Was it because the technology hadn’t been developed, and it wasn’t worth the cost? Plus online music swapping started earlier than video clips? (bandwidth was so much smaller back then.) In any guess, I’m glad. After all, it’s unenforceable. If I buy the released-in-Japan version of a Ken Hirai CD, it has a higher retail price than the version released in Korea or Hong Kong. In fact on the non-Japan version, it’ll say, in English: “ONLY for distribution Outside Japan (Expires 11 March 20xx)”

Interesting: with the internet, it’s easier to disseminate and obtain media (music, videos, and now e-books). Yet to obtain these items physically, i.e. buying a CD in a jewel box, a hard copy book or a DVD in a black plastic case, is still restricted based one ‘old-school’ distribution channels.

I saw a book in Australia that I was interested in buying, but it was heavy, and it was expensive. (I was surprised at how expensive books were over there, relative to back in the US.) But when I got back, I wanted it after all. I checked on Amazon where the e-book version is listed, but “This title is not available for customers from the United States.” It’s an Australian biography

So like a CD, but unlike a DVD, if I had bought the actual book in Australia, it would have been alright. I’d have been able to read it at home. And in fact, I tend to do that a lot when I go to foreign countries, I look for books that aren’t available here, not even as imports. I guess I could order the book from Australia, but then it would be expensive; I’d have to pay for shipping on top of it.

The book caught my eye because the author Anh Do was the actor I had seen in an Australian movie called ‘Footy Legends.’ (How did I get to see the movie? At a film festival. I don’t think the movie ever got released in the US, so you wouldn’t be able to see it here otherwise.) It turns out his brother Khoa Do was the film-maker, and had been named the Young Australian of the Year to boot.

[It’s a big deal to be named Australian of the Year. Apparently it’s like winning a Nobel Prize, an Oscar and an Olympic gold medal rolled into one. It’s announced each year on Australia Day (the US equivalent of that being the Fourth of July). They’ve also expanded the age categories to include Young Australian of the Year, and Senior Australian of the Year.]

Why was I looking to watch Dil Chahta Hai? It’s a Bollywood movie, which is partly set in Sydney (not just the song and dance numbers, but the plot.) I wanted to see which bits of scenery I could recognize, now that I’ve been there. I was quite excited to pick out Luna Park, as well as Waverley Cemetery. Plus I noted that the scene that shows the actors walking across the Sydney Harbor Bridge is on the west path (next to the trains), which is now a cyclist-only path. Pedestrians get the east side. (Maybe it wasn’t back when they made the movie.) Also, I’m 99% sure that whatever opera they’re seeing is not at the Sydney Opera House.

Where did I buy this copy of Dil Chahta Hai? From a chain retailer in an-air-conditioned mall in Chennai. It plays fine on my American DVD.

For DVDs, I guess it’s also up to the distributor/manufacturer as to how liberal they want to be in setting the DVD region coding (more regions, less regions.) I guess it’s a trade-off between how wide the potential audience could be vs. how much incremental royalties could be earned.

I guess I’m showing my age in talking about CDs and DVDs, when most people download them them for cheaper. (DVDs, apparently, may become extinct sooner than CDs!) I’m too lazy to deal with loading my music collection onto a portable device that I wouldn’t listen to enough. I don’t like watching video on a laptop, the quality is crappy; and investing in hardware/infrastructure upgrades to watch Netflix streaming is not in my cards right now.

It’s kind of sad: there’s lots of Asian movies I’d like to watch and would be happy to pay to rent, but few of them are released here. So the easiest way to get them is to buy the pirated version in Chinatown. Then you have to deal with the crapshoot of the quality of the DVD function, and the mangled English subtitles.

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One thought on “music is freer than books which are freer than movies

  1. Sounds like you’re going to need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 2010s. Although, you’re not on facebook, so maybe you’ll be able to resist and continue to be luddite-esque. I will say that reading books on a kindle is pretty good – but not a good mix with the tub or the beach.

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