Friday, October 21, 2011

DVD Lockouts

Compared to video games, DVDs that play movies and TV shows are much more popular and because of this, they are much more sensitive when it comes to international sales and distribution. Games and consoles are only distributed in countries where sales are actually anticipated, such as North America, Japan, and Europe, but movies and TV are made and watched around the world and many that are popular enough in America are shown internationally.

Unlike video games which have 4 regions, DVDs are (currently) released in 6 regions:
1 U.S. , U.S. Territories, Canada, Bermuda
2 Europe, Middle East, Egypt, Japan, South Africa
3 Southeast Asia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau
4 Mexico, Central America, Caribbean, South America, Australia, New Zealand
5 India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Russia, Ukraine, Africa (Non-Region 2), South Asia, North Korea
6 China

Other than these 6, there are other region codes used on DVDs. Region code 7 is currently reserved for future use. Region Code 8 is used for airlines and cruise ships. The unofficial “Region 0” is for region free disks. Since all region codes work as flags stored as “true” or “false” (or 1 or 0) instead of a specific value, it is possible for disks and players to support multiple regions at once. For example, “region 0” disks have flags 1 through 6 set as “1” so they’d be playable in all international regions.

There are many types of devices that can play DVDs or similar media, and most of them work in different ways regarding region coding. The standard player simply checks the DVD and compares it to its own internal code. Recent game consoles are able to also play DVDs and so use DVD region codes separate from their video game region codes. Most modern personal computers have built in DVD drives which are slightly flexible. DVD drives use an internal region code but are also able to change their code when a foreign disk is inserted, though it will only do this up to five times before it permanently locks to the last code used.

Blu-ray disks are far more lenient regarding region coding. Instead of the six (or eight) DVD regions, blu-ray uses only 3:
A North, Central, South America, Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea
B Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Greenland
C Central and South Asia

Even more lenient than this, most studios and distributing companies are releasing disks region free.

Closed Borders and Open Secrets

edit (10/27/2011):

1 comment:

  1. DVD and Blu-ray region locking, in my opinion, should be less of an issue than game locking. For games, I can understand the reasoning behind different cultures or the very large costs associated with marketing and distributing a game overseas.

    With movies it is a bit different. Yes, most foreign films don't make their way to the US (with the exception of distribution companies like Criterion), but the beauty of foreign film is that you don't have to market it over a wide audience. Most movie-goers probably won't ever see a foreign film so the distributing companies have dodged a financial bullet.