Why Regional Releases are Stupid

Yesterday, I had the outrageous good fortune of being able to attend SIFF’s screening of Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch. It was superb beyond belief. I could gush about it for pages, but that would ruin it for you, and you really ought to go see it yourself, so I shall refrain. Suffice it to say that I came out of the showing hoping quite ardently that, somehow, the taping would get released in a US market with a DVD region code that my computer/old-school portable DVD player can read, so that I can purchase and then re-watch it obsessively.

Unfortunately, the chances of that happening are slim to none, because I live in America, and London’s National Theatre is in London, and thus the DVDs that are probably going to get printed will have British region codes, so even if I do manage to purchase one over the internet I still won’t be able to play it. It is literally impossible for me to spend money on this. I want to give money in exchange for this product, but I can’t.

Sadly, this is a recurring theme in my life.

One of the greatest things about living in a post-internet, international society is being able to access media from literally anywhere, and then talk about it with literally anyone (who speaks your same language, or a language that Google is fairly accurate at translating into your language). My unhealthy obsession with British television is a perfect example. Despite being on the opposite side of the planet from where these things are made, I can still watch and enjoy them with people from all across the world. Except, the thing is, I have to do it through illegal downloads.

Gasp! Yes, I know, internet piracy is bad. But hear me out. Take, for example, Sherlock. Anyone who’s spent any amount of time at all talking to me ever (or even just browsing my tumblr) knows that to say I am obsessed with this show is a pitiable understatement. If Sherlock were a hat, I would wear it every day. If it were a muddy dog, I would still let it sleep in my bed. If it were a person, I would probably book a room with it. I adore it.

Unfortunately, the object of my desires is on hiatus until fall of 2013. That’s right. I’ve already waited six months, and I have yet to wait more than a year. And when the release date finally, finally rolls around, guess what? It will only be released in the UK. On the opposite side of the globe from me. Where I can’t legally access it at all, probably for months if the second season is any indicator.

Now, in a pre-internet society, this would not be so bad. In a pre-internet society, all American Sherlockians (yes, there’s a name for us) would be equally in the dark, and could experience the joy of the season three premier all together in a happy, fangirling mass. But, alas, the internet is a thing. And so is tumblr. Which means that, since legally accessing the show is impossible due to regional releases, the only options left are as such:

1. Watch it on the BBC website through an illegal proxy, since the site blocks non-UK IP addresses;
2. Download it illegally and watch it that way;
3. Wait until it is finally released in the U.S., and get it entirely spoiled by every major internet site you use; or,
4. Quit the internet. Because that’s the only way to avoid spoilers of this magnitude.

I’m not saying I don’t feel bad about pirating my favorite show, because I most certainly do. Pirating is irresponsible consumer behavior, and you should support media you like by buying it, which is why I immediately purchased both seasons of Sherlock as soon as they became available in the US. But for less popular shows like Frankenstein, or for comics like Tim Minchin and Dylan Moran, there is no way to make up for it. Their work literally never becomes legally accessible in the United States. So then the options are:

1. Don’t watch it at all ever; or,
2. Download it illegally.

Piracy is a problem. I understand that as well as anybody. But sometimes, it is literally the only way to access these things, and that is just stupid. Ball’s in your court, media moguls. I would love to spend money on your products, but you really need to make it possible for me first.

Frustratedly yours,
M.M. Jordahl

The instinct of the industry is always to kill innovation that disrupts their business models or threatens the way they’re used to doing things. – Julio Sanchez


P.P.S. The Oatmeal has pretty much already said everything I ranted about here, in a far more eloquent fashion, because Matt Inman is a god. That is all.

P.P.P.S. First. World. Problems. Amirite?

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