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Region Coding – The Good and The Bad

Depending on who you are, region coding can be considered a blessing or a curse. If you are movie studio executive, this is great, not only do you reap maximum profits from the theatrical releases, but also from the DVD releases for your film. However, if you are a consumer wanting to see a movie that is available on DVD in your relative’s or friend’s country but not in yours, you may have to wait quite a while.

However, another suspected rationale for region coding is beginning to emerge, possible price-fixing of DVDs depending on region. Although this is yet to be legally proven in court, if proven to be true, Australian and European courts may just put the heat on Hollywood and manufacturers to discontinue region coding as a marketing practice. New Zealand has been trying to eliminate DVD region code restrictions in that country.

In addition, for those consumers that live in Europe, Australia, and Asia, there is an abundant market for so-called Code Free DVD players, which are essentially modified versions of stock DVD players in which the region coding function has been disabled.

With the magic of mail-order and the Internet, these players are widely available, even if not totally legal. For the fortunate owners of these players, DVDs can be purchased from any region.

However, as a reaction to the popularity of Code-Free DVD players, “Hollywood” has instituted another layer of coding on region1 DVDs called RCE (Regional Coding Enhancement) which prevents selected region1 DVDs from playing even on Code-Free DVD players. However, RCE is only implemented on some Region 1 discs, and not on discs from other regions.