Landing : Athabascau University

Pyramid Discussion Pair 7 - Charles and Temitayo


"Under what circumstances would it be right (or justified) to violate a license agreement?” 



You move from one country to another, bringing with you your vast collection of DVDs. You buy a new computer in the country you have moved to. Unfortunately, your DVDs are all restricted so that they cannot be played in the zone to which you have moved, and your computer is locked to that zone: it won't play them. Luckily, you can use VLC from VideoLAN to play them without restriction, so you download it and enjoy your collection once more."


In almost every case, there is no basis to violate a license agreement which according to Investopedia is defined as “a written agreement entered into by the contractual owner of a property or activity giving permission to another to use that property or engage in an activity in relation to that property”.  The digital versatile disc or digital video disc commonly known as DVDs was invented in the early 60s and became widely used in the late 90s and early 2000s.  As with most digital media DVDs are in most cases bound by some sort of license agreement.  The box or package of most DVDs come with terms and conditions of use associated with the use of the content.

One of the common terms and conditions found on a DVD are the associated region in which a particular DVD can be sold and used.  If the DVD is taken to another country and used on a DVD player there, the DVD would not play the content and you would get a message similar to “this content is not authorized for viewing in your country”. The respective regions are categorized as follows:

  • Region 1: U.S., U.S. Territories, Canada, and Bermuda
  • Region 2: Japan, Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East, including Egypt
  • Region 3: Southeast Asia, East Asia, including Hong Kong
  • Region 4: Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean
  • Region 5: Eastern Europe, Baltic States, Russia, Central and South Asia, Indian subcontinent, Africa, North Korea, and Mongolia
  • Region 6: China


DVD coding is a digital technique that is used to lock DVDs and thus prevent them from being used or played in another region other than the one they were purchased from. Regions are worldwide geographical area created by the film industry and assigned different codes so that only DVDs with a certain region's code can be accessible in that region and not any other. Various reasons have been advanced for this including the need to prevent piracy of DVDs, to protect copyright and distribution rights, control the release dates of DVD movies as releasing them simultaneously worldwide would be expensive, and also to tailor content according to different regions' audience preferences.

However the wide availability of code free DVD players give consumers ability to circumvent the coding mechanisms which defeats the whole coding purpose. There is concern that the main reason for coding could be an attempt by the film industry to fix the price of the DVDs according to region. There is also criticism of possible violation of free trade agreements or competition laws. Coding is seen as a great inconvenience to travellers, students or immigrants who need to be able to enjoy the DVDs they have bought as they travel from one region to another.

So, the question is, would it be acceptable to violate regional restrictions with the given scenario? It would be absolutely illegal and ethically wrong to sell or buy DVD in a region other than the authorized region. If you travelled to a “region 1” country and want to play your Region 5 DVDs that you brought along with you, it is considered acceptable to play the DVD by circumventing the regional requirements. You might think that it would be illegal (though so as well). If it was illegal to do so then why would popular brand name stores such as Amazon carry media players that are considered “Region Free”? Region Free media players enable you to play DVDs from any of the regions without issues. If that was illegal these big name stores would definitely have been penalized.  Some manufacturers also have a code that can be entered to bypass the region lock on DVD players

Following this logic, there is no reason why it would be unethical to use VideoLAN software to watch the DVDs. Justification for violating the agreement is that since the material has been legally purchased, there should be no restriction to the time and place of use. As a compromise, it would be better for the copyright owners to charge a minimal fee for unlocking the DVDs to allow them to be used in another region without requiring consumers to purchase another set of DVDSs for another region. This would also reduce piracy or the use of software like VLC to illegally unlock such DVDs. Also as long as the DVDs are not being copied for financial or other gain, the purchaser should be allowed to use them anywhere. One of the reasons for coding is to control the release dates but having owned the DVDs long after release dates have expired, there is no reason why they cannot be allowed in another region.