Sunday, November 4, 2007

On Buying DVDs


Last November 1, I went to Landmark and was surprised that DVDs which were previously selling at P299 or higher were on sale and were selling at P199. Of course I was enticed to buy some of the titles. I bought Bambi (which I have not yet seen), Toy Story 1 and 2 and A Bug's Life (which I have seen but I am collecting Pixar feature films, so I bought them anyway), and Borat.

I have a pirated DVD copy of Borat which doesn't work well so at P199, I thought why not buy the original. I have seen HMV copies of Borat in Makati Cinema Square and even bought one of these I think months ago (I eventually returned this since the the sound is not in English). Also, the writings on the cover of the copy that I bought is Greek or Russian. At that time when I bought (and returned) the pirated copy of Borat, an original copy of Borat was selling at Landmark for P550. Such a big difference.

Then, when I got home, I was excited and opened the Borat DVD. The DVD is in a DVD box with a "DVD jacket" that boasts of additional 30 or 60 minutes of previously unseen footage. Then, when I opened and removed the DVD jacket, I was surprised and very disappointed that the DVD cover on the box itself is written in the very same Greek or Russian. The disc itself is not printed with the Borat picture. Instead, it was like one of those discs you can buy in CDR King and other stores. The name "Borat" is just written in black marker, I think. When I played it on my DVD, it doesn't work. Well, my DVD players is kinda old and it doesn't read most DVDs the first time you put it in. I no longer tried it again and returned it to the box, thinking that I could replace it with a different DVD from Landmark. I even saved the tape receipt.

Yesterday (November 4), I went back to Landmark to exchange the DVD for a new title. The salesladies told me that the disc I bought was indeed like that. They also refused to exchange my disc citing that the disc I bought already have scratches and they don't change DVDs on the basis that I did not like the content of the disc.

Well, I guess the few scratches on the disc were my fault. However, I still believe that I have the right to return the DVD because the DVD jacket of the disc is in English and boasts of DVD features and the disc itself looks like pirated.

Since they refuse to exchange my disc for other titles, I was so frustrated and irritated that I couldn't help but blurt out "Dapat pirated na lang ang binili ko."

And yes, I am planning to buy pirated DVDs when I could and buy only original DVDs when I really like the title.


Edu Manzano's Optical Media Board (OMB) frequently conducts raid on sellers of pirated DVDs. It is on the premise of intellectual property rights and that sellers of pirated DVDs are "stealing" from the copyright owners of these works. That, I can't refute. Copyright owners should be given due compensation for their work. However, due compensation as defined by these owners seem to be very expensive, especially for a country like the Philippines.

As I said, I understand the need for these war against piracy being waged by the OMB. It needs to protect the copyright owners from "robbers" who steal their work. However, I believe that the OMB should also ensure that consumers are being protected from businesses. If they are conducted raids to ensure that noone is stealing copyrighted works, I believe they should also be reviewing the quality of the "original" discs being released by film distributors.

On certain occasions, I have bought "original" DVDs which do not seem to be original. To all buyers of "original DVDs", avoid these:

1. The aforementioned Borat title
2. All foreign titles released by Viva where you can see at the back of the DVD cover the logo of Viva.

These so called original DVDs have quality that are so bad you'll feel like you're watching a VCD. For one, they are usually released in full screen. The quality of the picture is bad - as I said, something like the quality of VCD releases. And some have no subtitles.

It is sad to note that while the OMB, through the push of American distributors, are raiding pirated disc sellers, nothing is being done to protect the consumers.

It is also very sad and very frustrating that while the quality of pirated discs are ever improving (there are DVDs that are now sold with complete features) and their price going down, the quality of so-called "original" DVDs have not caught up. If film distributors, like Viva, want people to buy original DVDs, they should do something about the quality of their products. Furthermore, they should reduce the price of these DVDs even more.


Like many other people, I have several reasons why I buy pirated DVDs.

1. Of course the price. Original DVDs generally cost P299. Pirated DVDs cost P60 or less.
2. The available titles. There are more (and I mean MORE) titles available on pirated DVDs than in original DVDs. For instance, I was able to buy very old titles like "Birth of a Nation", "M" and "Metropolis" in pirated DVDs. These titles are not available in original discs, at least not here in the Philippies.
3. And now because of the Borat incident, return and exchange policies. I have bought several defective DVDs and I was able to exchange them with their sellers. There was only one time that I wanted to exchange and original DVD and I was refused.


I read an article in a magazine, either GQ, Vanity Fair or Details, about internet piracy in Sweden. The article talks about the prevalence of internet piracy and how it is affecting film companies in the US. No less than a leading officer of Disney was quoted as saying that piracy is a new business model and that film companies should be able to adapt to such model.

Here in the Philippines, internet piracy is not as prevalent as piracy through physical discs (mainly because of the underdeveloped internet infrastructure). I can say that pirated DVDs are here to stay.

As the saying goes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.


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