Fight DVD Religion Coding!

What is DVD Religion Coding?

All major film studios and distributors recently announced their support for introducing a system of DVD Religion Coding to new DVD releases. Under this system, new DVD players will contain hardware constraints restricting them to playing only DVDs encoded with a compatible Religion Code. This proposal has the official backing of The Vatican, leaders of most Protestant Christian sects, several influential Rabbinical Councils, and many other world religious leaders.

The theory behind Religion Coding is that it allows film distributors to market films selectively to target audiences with different release schedules. Government censorship authorities also see it as a useful way of re-packaging, re-rating, or in some cases re-cutting films to suit the sensibilities of different religions.

What Are the Proposed Religion Codes?

Under the proposal for the DVD Religion Coding scheme, the world's faiths will be divided into 8 Religion Codes as follows:

The Religions Codes are represented by logos, as shown.

[Religion Code Logos]

How Does The System Work?

When you buy a new DVD player, you will need to inform the retailer of your religion. You will be permitted to buy a player encoded for that religion. When you buy DVDs, you will need to check the Religion Code Logo on the back of the packaging to determine which Religion Code is encoded on the DVD. Your player will only play DVDs encoded with the same Religion Code.

It will be possible with many models of DVD player to perform a hardware modification which puts the player into so-called "atheist" mode, in which it will play DVDs with any Religion Coding. Such modification is however safely achievable only by people with electronics knowledge, and voids the warranty on the player.

So Why Should I Care?

DVD enthusiasts around the world decry the Religion Coding scheme as counterproductive, anti-competitive, and socially divisive. Consider the following points:

  1. With staggered release schedules for the different Religion Codes, it will be all too easy for film distributors to decide that the minor religions will not provide them with enough profit to justify a release in that Religion Code. For example: Independent film and religious analysts predict that the catalogue of titles available to Religion 4 (Eastern European Orthodox) will in the long run comprise only about 35% of the titles available in the more profitable Religion 1 and Religion 2 markets.
  2. Titles popular in one Religion Code, but of limited appeal to members of other religions, may be unavailable to those other religions. This fosters religious isolationism and hinders the free exchange of cultural variety between peoples of differing beliefs.
  3. DVD purchasers, presented with an array of DVD titles, may neglect to check the Religion Code on a prospective purchase and be disappointd when they get it home and realise it will not play on their player.
  4. People who convert religions will be left with a collection of DVDs encoded for their former religion, which will be useless in any new DVD player they may purchase.
  5. There is a potential for increased sectarian tensions between religions forced to share Religion Codes, such as Anglicans and Lutherans, not to mention the inappropriate and arbitrary combining of two completely different religions in each of Religion 6 and Religion 7.
  6. Smaller religions forced into the Religion 8 category may resent being treated as unimportant. This Religion Code also has potential for serious conflict between such widely varying faiths as Scientology, Wicca, and Satanism.
  7. Non-religious DVD purchasers may resent being classified in Religion 8, in effect assigning them a de facto religion.
  8. Minority religions in countries dominated by another religion (such as Hindus in the USA, Catholics in Saudi Arabia, or Muslims in Japan) may have extremely limited or non-existent local retailers stocking DVDs for their Religion Code.

What Can I Do About This?


Whatever you do, do not give up the fight! There is still time to stop this scheme before it is implemented. Get out there and tell everybody you know about it.

UPDATE: Some places are now selling religion-free DVD players!

Last updated: Tuesday, 23 January, 2007; 02:09:18 PST.
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