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Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
'Death of VHS' approaching
Scene from Gladiator
Gladiator has helped boost DVD sales
Western Europeans will be buying 85% of their "video software" on DVD rather than videotape by 2006 at a cost of nearly £10bn a year, a survey has suggested.

The study by trade magazine Screen Digest said as sales of VHS tapes sink, spending on DVDs would increase 150% between 2002 and 2006.

Sales of tapes in Western Europe are expected to fall by 6% in 2002, according to the study European Video: Market Assessment & Forecasts 2001-2006.

But DVD sales and rentals are more than making up for the decline in VHS spending.

Scene from The Matrix
DVDs offer much higher picture quality
Western European consumers will spend £3.27bn on DVDs in 2002, and sales by volume will overtake VHS in 2003, the study said.

Report author John Miller said: "By 2003, almost 50m Western European households will have acquired at least one standalone DVD player.

"We expect this will increase to more than 100m households by 2006, a penetration rate of 62% of the territory's television households."

As well as standalone players, many viewers are using games consoles and computers to play the discs, with recorders also becoming more popular.

By 2006, the study said, 77% of Western Europe's television households will own at least one TV-based machine capable of playing DVDs.

Copyright laws

This domination will put the DVD in the same position after eight years that it took the video recorder 20 years to achieve.

Meanwhile, alterations to allow DVD players to play imported US discs could be made illegal under new UK copyright laws, it has been reported.

The government is looking at ways of changing the 1988 Copyright Act to bring it in line with an EU Copyright Directive issued last year.

Scene from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Simultaneous global releases are not unknown
Article 6 of the directive makes it illegal to bypass hardware or software encoding installed on machines and discs.

This could jeopardise the current practice of selling multi-region DVD players, allowing users to play imported US DVDs before they have been released in the UK.

Studios use encoding on discs in an effort to manage their release across the world and control prices, which vary between regions.

The Patent Office is currently working on changes to the copyright act which will then be put out for consultation "very soon".

A spokeswoman for the DTI told BBC News Online it was still not clear whether regional coding constituted "effective technological measures" under the directive.

Digital copyright campaigner Lars Gaarden, founder of the Eurorights website, said he was not aware of any area of the EU that had banned multi-region DVDs.

He said many of the copyright holders' attitudes were worrying but added he thought it unlikely individuals would ever be arrested.

"I don't think it is going to come to that. It is going to be horrible PR if you go around arresting people because they watch a couple of movies."

See also:

17 Jun 02 | New Media
27 Jun 02 | Business
12 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
17 Jan 02 | New Media
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