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DVD Region Coding
Defeating a quasi-racist disc-rimination based on locality-prejudice
DVD Region Coding was an early form of DRM (Digital Rights Mismanagement). It was always easy to defeat and seemed a futile attempt at discrimination. The solution was simply to have a computer DVD player with no hardware crippling, and to have free software such as that found in Linux that would play DVDs regardless of regional prejudice. Therefore, DVD Region Coding had not impacted my life at all until 2010 when I acquired, almost by accident, a Sanyo DVD-SL25 DVD player. Usually, for most of the DVD players around, hacks were available where you could put in an odd sequence of numbers and the machine would revert to "Region 0" or in effect "International" or "No Discrimination". Oddly, the Sanyo SL-25 seemed to be without any such remedy, so I gave it away. There was no point in keeping a region restricted DVD player. These things have no value, I consider.
However, it was this incident that inspired me to write about the previously irrelevant DVD Region Coding and its sinister connotations.
In effect, the DVD Region Coding was a divisive attempt by authoritarian powers in the world, to divide up the world into regions, a bit like the Nazis' Deutsche Volksliste (DVL) in which supposedly superior races were first class, and then their related countries second class, and then the next down an underclass, and so on until finally the least favoured peoples were at the bottom of the list and were considered not worth being allowed to live. With DVD Region Coding, the 1st Region was the USA and Canada, and then second, Europe and South Africa. Third was Southeast Asia, Fourth was Mexico, South America, and Australia. Fifth was Russia and Africa, and finally, 6th, was China (the least trusted nation). You can see how some Nazi'esque notion was dreamt up and created with the USA as the DVD equivalent of the Aryan Race, and it went downhill from there.
Fortunately, DVD Region Coding was so ineffective in most instances that it could be ignored. With a modern Linux computer the puny encryption could be decrypted in a few seconds, and irrelevant of the wishes of the fuhrers in charge of the distribution, the movie could be watched by whoever had bought the DVD.
The whole thing cast shame upon the perpetrators of the scam in the first place, but really in a way there is something fundamentally wrong that still needs to be addressed. The fact is that if you buy a movie on DVD, you have a right to watch it. Regardless of your ethnic origin, orientation, hair colour, or regionality, you've bought the original disc, so you should be allowed to see it, irrelevant of where you are. Yet, the folk who devised DVD Region Coding would have it that if you moved from one part of the world to another, you'd be denied your movie collection and have to buy it again. A sure money-spinner for the movie industry? I think not! Instead, people just got around it one way or another. Hence, the idea of Region Zero, the International Region, where all DVDs work regardless of where they were made.
Another thing about DVD Region Coding is the spectacular way it completely missed the point, both in terms of preventing people from watching movies they'd legitimately bought, while having no effect on the criminal market of mass piracy of movies. Within days of a new movie release in the privileged Aryan, I mean American, region, it would be available for mass copying on the streets of China. Admittedly it would be a slightly flicky copy, perhaps with the shadow of someone standing up in the cinema and going to the toilet, but nevertheless the disc would be available as a pirate copy, a market strengthened by the hampering of the legitimate market in Region 6 (or whatever) DVDs.
One of the best excuses I heard for DVD Region Coding was this: Movie stars can't be everywhere at the same time, so it makes much more sense to release the movie in the USA and have some star appearances in person, and then later have the release in Europe and have the movie stars appear there, and so on. You may be able to see a non-sinister motive there, but in terms of practicality it is somewhat lacking. Delayed release like that might have worked before the invention of the telegraph, but in the modern era, it is almost a joke.
DVD Region Coding is nonsensical in various ways, but these days many people aren't "in a region", they are of International lifestyle. The Internet makes this a way of life, so to try to "class" people as being stuck to a particular domicile is absurd. Also, people tend to buy each-other presents, and if the gift happens to be a DVD, then what? Disappointment that it fails to play because of region prohibition?
DRM (Digital Rights (Mis)management) is further explored at the site Defective by Design.org
Following on from the miserable failure of DVD Region Coding, it beggars belief on what the industry will attempt to do next. We the honest people need to be in an arms-race against them, using the same sort of tools as the pirates, to defeat whatever nasty prejudicial system they might bring in next.
The first thing to do to defend yourself against new problems is to cast a cynical eye upon anything that's "new" in the shops. If a new-fangled version of media comes out, make sure the techies and hacker types are happy with it and there aren't any dodgy issues of the type that are likely to be headlined in Linux magazines. Also, for old-style DVD, here are a few guidelines:
* Don't buy a DVD player, unless you know that it's already "Region 0" or you can get hack codes online to make it "Region 0".
* When buying DVDs, look favourably at any that are "Region 0" and/or say "This contains a Digital Copy" (provided it's an open standard such as Ogg Theora), which means it is designed to work on any machine, anywhere, on any operating system, etc.
* Have a DVD drive in your computer which is not DRM-encumbered, and have software players which are not in any way encumbered.
* Don't pay money for pirate copies.
If you're looking for DVD shops, here are a few which we HOPE are helping in moving the market towards Region 0 : DVD Shops
One of the places has a promising name, Multizone AV. This suggests freedom from DVD region coding, and sure enough, if you do a search on their site for "Region 0" it comes up with some interesting results.