Oz court halts vendor selling U.S. DVDs

First in series of actions to protect local theatrical

SYDNEY — The U.S. majors have won their first court case in Australia against a video retailer who was selling DVDs imported from the United States.

The Federal Court of Australia issued orders restraining Melbourne-based Laser World and owner Teresa Tung from importing and selling DVDs released in the U.S. by Universal, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Disney, MGM, Columbia and New Line. The court also awarded damages and costs amounting to A$35,000 ($22,700).

It’s the first of a series of actions on behalf of the Motion Picture Assn. member companies, according to Steve Howes, director of the MPA-funded Australasian Film & Video Security Office.

“This is a positive result for legitimate Australian video distributors, retailers and cinema operators who have been suffering significant financial loss through such infringements,” Howes said of the order that was made June 28 but announced Sunday.

“We are aiming to close down all illegal activities to give legitimate retailers and cinema operators a fair go. Ultimately this will also strengthen the theatrical industry in Australia and help to ensure that cinema lovers everywhere in Australia are not denied the enjoyment of watching the latest releases of Australian and international films in their local cinema.”

The majors are worried about the increasing practice among some retailers of importing DVDs, bypassing their Oz distribs and often releasing product before it is officially available Down Under.

Among titles affected by the court action were the first installments of “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings” plus “Panic Room,” “Legally Blonde,” “Jurassic Park: The Lost World” and “A Beautiful Mind.”

U.S.-manufactured DVDs can be viewed here on multiregion players or by a simple adjustment to players intended for Region 4, which includes Oz.

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