Why I don’t get DVD zoning

Avatar Blu-Ray Edition

Here’s something I just don’t understand. Allow me to present two facts:

ONE: I just read an article about the impact of illegal file-sharing on the media industry. Turns out, and this won’t surprise you, that sales of physical products have fallen to about 60% of 1999 values (with the introduction of Napster).  Then, add the impact of YouTube, Hulu, last.fm, Spotify and other music/video services that make it so easy to see what you want when you want it. Bottom line, hardly anyone buys CDs or DVDs.
TWO: It’s been ages since bought a DVD and even longer since I’ve walked into a media store. Such stores are a dying breed, and exist mostly in the “megastore” format, creating a lively buying experience coupled with the excitement of owning a hard-copy of the movie or album in a “special” box. Surviving megastores can be found in high foot traffic areas such as London’s Oxford Street and Paris’s Champs-Elysee.
So, last week I walk into a fnac megastore in Paris. It’s huge, beautifully laid out and gets you to linger and browse. I take the bait, pick up a blu-ray edition of Avatar, accept the high price, flip it over just to make sure it’s not just in French but also English, and what do I see? That it’s zoned for Europe only, making it impossible to play on American DVD players or a laptop (you have to pick a zone on a laptop and can only switch between zones a limited amount of times.)  I put it down and walked away.
Guys and gals at 20th Century Fox (and all the other studios): please get real. When I buy a DVD I get to choose where in the world I want to see it. That’s the definition of ownership. Period. Otherwise, I’ll get my movies elsewhere.

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