I’ve received an email urging me to comment on the recent claims by import company Lik-Sang that Sony has put them out of business. On the face of it, Sony’s actions—they got a UK court to bar Lik-Sang and other importers from selling the Japanese version of the PSP—seem anticonsumer and anticompetitive. So why aren’t I jumping up and down with indignation?
A few reasons why I might be a little indignant: first, region-specific products are evil, a scheme whereby multinationals exploit national borders as a convenient excuse to gouge customers in different countries and territories to the extent that the market will bear (and piracy is an even more transparent excuse). It’s wrong in the music industry, wrong in the DVD industry, and wrong in the electronics industry.
Also, the language that Sony is using to justify its actions, to wit, taking the moral high ground on personally identifiable information about its customers, seems kind of … ironic.
But there’s another side to the issue. One, for better or worse, Sony is apparently within their legal rights in enforcing the exclusivity of their distribution network. So sadly we don’t have a lot of moral high ground to stand on—just a generalized grumbling about Sony’s anti-customer mindset. And if we fight this, we need to fight region coding on DVDs, import-only record releases, and virtually every other aspect of the worldwide media industry. That way lies Cory Doctorow, who does a really good job of keeping up with these sorts of issues.
But the other thing, frankly, is that Sony is doing a great job of digging its own grave. Look at its recent profit projections… battery problems for its own laptops and others… PS3 shortages… Sony just doesn’t seem as threatening as it used to.