Converting DVDs to Region 1 format

← Return to forum

  • A facuty member recently returned from Europe with a European fomated DVD that he wants to show in class. It won't work on any of our players but the college's media department can make a copy in Region 1 format. I assume that this is not legal if a US copy is available, but what about for something that isn't available in the US? I was shown one reference that equated this with making a copy because of obsolescence, but this doesn't seem to me to fall into that category.

  • You don't mention the nature of the work, but considering the other three fair use factors, I would see this as an allowable use. If the work is not available in the U.S., then I don't believe that there is an effect on the market. I would feel comfortable making one copy for classroom use.
  • Thanks. It's a commercial/theatrical film and it isn't available in the US.
  • I wonder if we need more information about the proposed use to really be comfortable here, since there may be a circumvention problem. One influential commentary, the Berkman Center white paper on "The Digital Learning Challenge" ( regards the geographical restrictions on DVDs as a form of DRM that is protected by the DMCA anti-circumvention rules except when subject to one of the very narrow exceptions (see section 2.2 re. DVDs in the classroom).
  • The faculty member is in our foreign languages department and wants to show the film in one of his classes.

    Thanks also for the reference.
  • I understand that whether or not region protection is considered a technological protection measure under the DMCA is very much debated. Of course, that factors into risk...
  • Thanks for the comment.
  • It certainly seems to me that the proposed copying for use in a US DVD player ought to be fair use, given that it is necessary to accomplish a performance authorized by the section 110(1) exception. But the anti-circumvention exception for film and media studies professors does not include complete copies. So, as often happens, the DMCA rules interfere with otherwise legitamate and socially productive uses of copyrighted material.

    I am sure that many faculty members are simply making these copies in defiance of the DMCA; that is, in fact, part of the conclusion the Berkman Center report reaches about DVDs in the classroom. But if the question is "is this legal," I think it is probably not, given the grossly over-broad sweep of the DMCA. As Mr Bumble says, "If the law supposes that, then the law is an a**."

    I have not seen the other side of the debate, the one that says that region codes do not fall within the definition of technological protection measures. If you, Covalle, or anyone else, could point me towrd such an argument, I would be grateful. I want very much to be convinced.
  • I probably overstated the "very much" debated part. Given the DMCA rule-making notices published by the Copyright Office, my guess is that this technology is ordinarily interpreted to fall under the DMCA. So as a practical matter this would probably need to be considered in that way. I'll look for those arguments as soon as I have the chance, though.
  • Thank you COval and ksmith. My followup or extension. What is the status of multi-region players in this? They appear to be hard to find but availble; I assume that means they are legal (?). Somehow that seems like it's too easy.
  • I think the multi-region players do not present the same problem. Simply playing a DVD in a machine capable of playing it does not seem to fall with the activity prohibited by the anti-circumvention provision in section 1201(a)(1) -- "circumvent[ing] a technological measure that effectively controls access."

    It is possible, of course, that the player has been altered in order to play all regions of DVD, and, if so, its sale may violate the provisions of 1201(a)(2). But that section prohibits marketing or "offering to the public" technology primarily designed for circumvention. It does not prohibit the purchase, possession or use of such technology, except as specified in 1201(a)(1).

    I know many institutions do use multi-region players for just the purpose you suggest. Few of us think of anything in copyright law as "easy," but this seems permissible to me.
  • I agree with ksmith and this seems to also be the consensus of video librarians on the videolib list. Region encoding is not generally viewed on DRM. Anyone interested in copyright issues related to video might be interested to join or search the archives of videolib:

Posting to the forum is only available to users who are logged in.

← Return to forum