Every DVD has a region code recorded onto it. DVD Players are supposed to refuse to play recordings when the region code does not match.

Currently, this matters if you live outside region 1 (North America), since the Americans get a lot more DVDs, earlier. What's more, when films get released elsewhere on DVD, they tend to be missing many of the extras (alternative soundtracks, trailers, deleted scenes etc) present on the region 1 version.

Americans may now be pining for the ability play material from other regions, since the BBC has begun to release Region 2 DVDs of such classics as The Black Adder and Monty Python's Flying Circus.

If this matters to you, try and get a multiregion DVD player. This may involve having someone hack your player, or you may be lucky enough to find a player which the manufacturer has slipped out with multiregional capabilities. Sometimes there are "secret" handset codes that change the region of the player.

Also, get a player (and possibly a TV) which is capable of handling both PAL (the European and Australian TV standard) and NTSC (the rest of the world's TV standard).

These are the Regional Codes and their corresponding areas:

The main reason for these lockouts is that Hollywood usually release their movies in the Region 1 area well before they are available in the rest of the world. The 6 regions were established to ensure that people couldn't watch a DVD that hadn't been released in their particular area. Of course you can always have your DVD player modified, or if your player supports it, use a handset code to make the player Region Free. This will tell the DVD player to ignore any region coding.

A disc with no regional coding is usually marked Region 0 which means it will work on any player. Region 0 is most commonly used for pirate copies and porn. Damodred tells me that it is also used in countries that don't enforce region coding.

Update:
Australia
As of March 5th, 2001, amendments to the Copyright Act make it illegal to tamper with, or 'modify' an electronic device for the purpose of playing pirated goods. This is primarily to try and clamp down on people who make a living 'chipping' games consoles such as the Playstation and the Dreamcast. Apparently this law will apply to all digital devices, so I would assume that would make it illegal in Australia to modify your DVD player. This seems like a grey area though, what about handset codes? Would you be committing an illegal act by using one of these?

A complete list of current regions are as follows:

Table of region codes referenced from the February 3, 2001 DVD FAQ for the rec.video.dvd newsgroups.

Region free DVD players (such as the Apex AD-600A) are set to region 0 and will attempt to play any disc. RCE (Region Code Enhanced) discs seem to be able to detect region 0 players and refuse to play, displaying instead a static screen explaining the region scheme.

The Patriot starring Mel Gibson is one such disc. Note: The DVD FAQ says that Warner Bros. wasn't the first producer of 'smart-discs' and that a number of DVDs already included this feature (There's Something About Mary and Psycho, for example).

In order to circumvent this protection, one must reset the player region code to whatever the disc expects. If the player cannot be reset, the viewer is SOL.

A number of online interest groups argue that region codes act only as a trade barrier.

Addendum, prompted by a message from Servo5678: There's a misconception floating about that there's an additional region, designated solely for the International Space Station. This isn't the case (consider how much of a pain it would be to provide a movie library encoded for a previously non-existent region) -- instead, their DVD player (a Sony FX1) has been modified to play discs from regions 1 through 6.1


1http://www.techtronics.com/uk/shop/510-nasa.html

Region codes are actually implemented as a single 8-bit byte, with each bit corresponding to a region. The bit is clear if a disc can be played in that region, else it is set. Thus, a region 1 disc has a region code of 0xFE.

It is possible for a disc to be multi-region, and work in a set of territories. "Region 0" is not a region at all, but a combination of all 8 regions, expressed using a region code of 0x00.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.