White House Petition Wants to Ban Region-Locking

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

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A little while ago, the White House launched a website that allowed people to petition the Obama Administration to create new laws. If they get enough signatures, the administration will at least look at the petition and consider it. While some of them have been a bit…out there, there’s a new petition that seems to be more interesting. Titled “Ban the use of region-locking in games, movies, software, and Internet traffic handling,” this petition aims to urge President Obama to ban the practice of implementing region-locking measures in digital media.

From the petition:

We live in a globally-interconnected, digital society. Information about products and services available in other countries can be easily accessed, generating demand. However, the implementation of region locks prevent consumers from exercising their right to choose to import digital goods and services from abroad, whether in the form of physical media or purely as data.

Preventing the sales of books across borders would be absurd, yet this happens regularly with digital media. Neither the assumption of consumers’ language abilities nor the lack of coordinated international publishing should strip consumers of their right to choose their purchases. Electronic devices designed to run or display certain types of media ought not to intentionally refuse to function, and regulation is needed.

The petition currently has just under 2,500 out of the 100,000 signatures needed by Feb. 15th as of this writing. Keep in mind that even if this does get looked at by President Obama, there are no guarantees that anything will come from it. Still, in the wake of the Pandora’s Tower announcement, it would be pretty neat if something were done about region-locking. If you live in the U.S. and want to end this practice, you can sign the petition here. Look for our editorial on the matter soon.

About Kyle Emch

Kyle has been studying music at college for about three years now. He's played the piano since he was 6 years old and has been recently been learning how to write music. He has followed the Operation Rainfall movement on Facebook since it started and was happy to volunteer for the website. Just don't mention Earthbound or the Mother franchise around him.

  • I don’t really think this is the sort of thing the government should get involved in.

  • Cesar Barroso

    agree with you James Best

  • This isn’t just an American issue.  I don’t see how the government can do anything about this.

    • Gary65

      They can pass a law, stipulating extras taxes, or even a ban, on devices that are region locked. America is one of the world’s biggest markets. If they passed a measure that affected Nintendo’s profits enough, Nintendo will have no choice but to respond. What do you think they’re going to do, stop region locking or abandon the US market?

  • RichieBerry

    I don’t think this is something the government sould get involved in either. While I dislike the practice of region locking, banning it would be crazy, not to mention a serious abridgement of Nintendo’s/Sony’s/Microsoft’s rights.

    Furthermore, there is no “right to choose to import digital goods and services from abroad.” A right is something that is inherent to all humans from birth. A lot of people say things like “The First Amendment gives us the right to free speech,” but the whole concept of rights is that they can’t be given; the Bill of Rights only recognizes rights that previously existed and had always existed. People toss around “right” all the time, when they really mean privilege. They’re saying people should have the privilege to import without region locking.

    I realize I just asserted Nintendo’s etc. rights, but I would say that freedom of commerce is a right. Though that’s something people disagree about.

  • Region-locking can actually end up being a good thing in some cases. If people just import games, that can reduce the likelihood that a game gets a local release with the same level of polish that we want from the translations and such.

    • Gary65

      If that’s true, then why did OpRain have to fight tooth and nail to get Xeno/LS/PT localized?

    • RichieBerry

      Um, I think all first- and second- party Nintendo games released in the EU are in five languages (English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish), so I would guess translation time would be the primary reason for that delay.

    • Gary65

      True but, unless they have the same people doing the translation into all 5 languages, it shouldn’t take long. Also, B/W were released in Europe before they were released in the States.

    • RichieBerry

      I’m sure they do have different teams working on the different translations, but translating can be time consuming; it takes months just to do one translation. Coordinating five translations is probably pretty complex, and if anyone of them slows down it delays the whole thing.

      They probably planned ahead quite a lot to get B/W out at the same time in the U.S. and Europe, and it’s possible they might have artificially delayed it in the U.S. a bit to get them out simultaneously. And take X/Y. They’ve been making a pretty big deal about how it’s going to be released simultaneously, so I think that’s been over a year in planning.

    • My point is that, if the games Xenoblade were region free, everyone would have bought the EU version, since it was already in English, and we would have never gotten a proper US release. That would have been a lot more expensive.

    • Gary65

      Yes but what if there had been no US release anyway? There are plenty of games that get released in 1 region & are never released in other regions. Why should other gamers be deprived?

    • I’m not trying to argue that there is no downside. There is certainly a huge downside. I’m just saying that for some titles, it actually works in our favor. That’s all.

  • TrueWiiMaster

    “However, the implementation of region locks prevent consumers from
    exercising their right to choose to import digital goods and services
    from abroad”Not true.  People are still completely free to import digital goods and services from abroad, and can play them freely as long as they buy that region’s console/device.  It makes things more expensive, but high prices aren’t illegal.  I hate region locking too, but it’s far from impossible to buy a foreign console to play foreign games.

    • Matt Davis

      High prices ARE illegal if they’re artificially high. Nintendo got in trouble over price fixing, remember?

    • TrueWiiMaster

      I’m talking about things being expensive due to importing. I’m pretty sure that’s a completely different kind of high price.

      And no, I don’t remember. Please remind me.

    • Matt Davis
  • Gary65

    This is just the best idea. This region locking crap has got to stop. I’m going to the States next September. I intend to bring my 3DS with me. Yet, when Pokemon X/Y comes out in October, I cannot purchase a copy until I return home to Europe. The whole idea is nonsensical. For what possible reason is region locking advantageous? No matter where you buy the product, the parent company(in this case, Nintendo) still makes a profit. They make an even wider profit margin by allowing Western gamers to purchase games Ninty has no intention to localize, thus giving all gamers access to the best games and making a bigger profit for Nintendo.

    Are they expecting us to buy multiple 3DS’s, one for each region, or something? If anyone can shine a light on what advantage region locking provides, please enlighten me. Cos I can’t fathom it for the life of me.

  • Or you know manufacturers could just stop using the archaic practice of region locking..?

  • John Ellis

    I dislike region locking, there are games I want and can not get and there are games like
    Radiant Historia which I can get thanks to the NDS being region free.

    However there would be problems that you shouldn’t ignore. Think of companies like Xseed and Rising Star Games who localize games. They would suffer as the games they struggle to bring other wouldn’t sell as people would be playing imports. If a new Mario game came out in the US long before Europe people could just import it and sales in Europe would be poor. Would Xenoblade have had good sales in the US if everyone had just imported. They could be a really good market for RPGs in a country but because everyone buys imports publishers wouldn’t know this.

  • The white house was also petitioned to build a death star. I wonder how many people who signed it actually believe that anything will happen because of it.