Homer Simpson: Hack your DVD player.
July 11, 2002 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Homer Simpson: Hack your DVD player. It seems in countries in which the DVD Copy Control Authority doesn't own the government, even the giants of corpmedia don't like the "protection" features the platform foists on consumers. On Fox's Simpsons UK DVD release FAQ page, Homer himself says "I have no idea whatsoever what regional coding means. But it is essential that you buy a multi-regional player. Do it now." Is the DVD region-coding system really only relevant in the United States?
posted by Vetinari (25 comments total)
My buddy bought Scarface, now out of print (I believe) without checking out what region DVD it was (he got it off an eBay auction). He gave it to me, but it won't work for me either. Thank heavens I have it on VHS.

Hey, if Homer tells me to buy one, who am I to argue? Then I can say "cowabunga" and "say hello to my little friend" all I want.
posted by adampsyche at 5:55 AM on July 11, 2002

Here in the UK even local supermarkets sell region-free players, and anyone with a net connection can buy discs from anywhere they like.

It is however illegal for retailers to sell discs imported from another region because they have not been certified. The companies that do sell imports are actually functioning as personal import agents as I understand it. Quick notes on the legality of it all can be seen here.

So you can get a region-free player easily enough, but the difficulty in getting anything to actually play on the damn thing means that there are a great many of these players that never see anything but a local disc anyway.

Personally, I think this is a great shame (as is the whole region-coding scheme) as I have several marvellous films on disc that are unlikely ever to see release over here. The reason behind the system becomes immediately obvious however when you begin buying discs online - I got a US box set of both Toy Story films for £17.99, yet when the UK release came around (months later) the films were £22.99 each!
posted by Gamecat at 6:25 AM on July 11, 2002

Region-free DVD players are smart. I got Moulin Rouge from Australia about 6 months before it was out here and it was much cheaper, even with delivery, and came in a much smarter box than the UK release.
posted by Summer at 6:42 AM on July 11, 2002

I'll be really surprised if that page is still online tomorrow.
posted by joemaller at 6:53 AM on July 11, 2002

I got Moulin Rouge from Australia about 6 months before it was out here

That's good?
posted by Frasermoo at 7:03 AM on July 11, 2002

Funny to see the dumbest member of the company say the smartest thing: use the technology, forget the spin.

Like ... duh!
posted by magullo at 7:16 AM on July 11, 2002

Here in Singapore, nobody buys a DVD player that can only play code 3 discs. And I suspect it's the same situation all over Asia outside of Japan.
posted by applesurf at 7:19 AM on July 11, 2002

i seem to remember an earlier thread where someone referenced a site that shows how you can defeat the regional coding on players -- does anyone have a link?
posted by nobody_knose at 7:27 AM on July 11, 2002

Region-free players are pretty much the norm in most of Europe, whereas over here in the US you feel like you're buying a dodgy cable descrambler box if you find a region-free player.
posted by SiW at 7:46 AM on July 11, 2002

I had a DVD player when I lived in rural Austria, and to keep myself sane I amassed a good number of discs. But they were all for that region, and my computer only allowed me to change my regional setting five times or so before it froze on that setting. So when I left I just gave away all my discs, because they were worthless in the States. On the other hand, I knew people who had patches that overrode the regional coding (couldn't find one for my specific model).
posted by risenc at 7:50 AM on July 11, 2002

I remember seeing a program called DVD genie that would let you change the DVD region as much as you liked, amongst other things.
posted by internook at 8:23 AM on July 11, 2002

I actually thought the last page of Homers FAQ was the best:

What makes this technology so great and exciting?

The most exciting thing about this technology is that you don't have it. Or, if you do, your model's just become obsolete.

The whole home entertainment arena is a total mess and getting worse.
posted by timeistight at 8:51 AM on July 11, 2002

PS2 + DVD Region X = codefree DVD player
posted by matteo at 8:53 AM on July 11, 2002

PS2 + DVD Region X = codefree DVD player

Cool. Now if I could just get it shipped to the US. Assuming it works with US PS2s.
posted by yerfatma at 8:57 AM on July 11, 2002

Assuming it works with US PS2s.

posted by matteo at 9:42 AM on July 11, 2002

I remember seeing a program called DVD genie that would let you change the DVD region as much as you liked, amongst other things.

In theory.

And, in theory, communism works.

Basically, DVD Genie was no match for my region-protected firmware. I had to download a cracked version of that - replete with warnings about its untested and unsafe nature. Works a treat, thank you very much. Now, if I could just muster the desire to watch a DVD on my PC rather than my standalone DVD player we'd be getting somewhere.
posted by MUD at 9:43 AM on July 11, 2002

Thanks for that, internook. If DVD Genie does what it's supposed to, I can finally watch my imported Bayern 3 Space Night DVD. Also, if you're in NYC, check out Kim's for your code-free needs.

On preview: MUD, are you saying Genie worked, or it didn't? You don't need a cracked version because it's freeware.
posted by muckster at 9:45 AM on July 11, 2002

Genie didn't work. I merrily downloaded and installed it and before you knew it I was swapping regions like a loon. Until I realised that DVD Genie was lying to me - when I became locked in Region 1. I tooled around on Google looking for (cracked) firmware for my DVD player, found it and the rest is history.
posted by MUD at 10:17 AM on July 11, 2002

Thanks for the clarification. Genie isn't working here, either.
posted by muckster at 10:25 AM on July 11, 2002

What a relevant discussion! I flashed the firmware on my laptop's dvd player with a cracked ROM just yesterday, and was watching a Hong Kong import of the Twin Peaks pilot within twenty minutes of starting the process (laptop s-video out = movies on a full-sized TV). Here is the place to go for all of your firmware needs.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:39 AM on July 11, 2002

Most anywhere in Asia, DVD players' chips are modified to be region-free. It's a procedure that takes only a few minutes. When you're shopping in HK, Tokyo, Singapore, etc and ask if the DVD player can play all regions, they look at you funny and say 'of course'. Most retailers (including chains) have marked 'region 1' sections. So you get the best of both worlds.

Traveling/Living for extended periods in other countries, I understand the frustration of region-encoding all too well. It seems that the only thing region-encoding does is control markets and distribution.

Many foreign (outside U.S.) made movies usually come out in their home region first sometimes 6 months to a year before the U.S. and they're usually loaded with nice extras. The region 1 version may be the same but it will come out later and most likely cost more.

Studios will charge whatever the market will bear. And since DVDs are a luxury/fetish type of thing, they can push the price up a bit and even make the buyer wait a bit longer. That type of crap, doesn't fly as well in Asia.

Never so much as in the U.S. have I seen the "long-awaited first release" of a DVD fly off the shelf, only to be followed up a half a year later with a special edition that costs more. Taking advantage of the "collector" more than once is a page from most studio's home video playbook since the days of laser discs.

It works the other way too. There are U.S. products that are in foreign countries that are not available in region 1. Mostly it's popular television-related things like 'West Wing', 'Will and Grace' and 'Futurama'. I'm guessing because either the shows are not available (or behind) on television there.

To be fair, region 1 versions 'usually' have the best/most extras even if you have to wait a little longer.

So my experience (at least) with all this region nonsense is that only the region 1 folks are hurting by this control. It's not such a big deal anywhere else.

Besides, you can get the same DVDs, bootlegged for about 80 cents(U.S.) for DVD-5 and $1.50(U.S.) for DVD-9 most anywhere in asia AND they're is NO region-encoding on them.
posted by ericalba at 10:57 AM on July 11, 2002

Assuming it works with US PS2s.


"Your TV needs to be able to operate in PAL and NTSC mode."

Which is the largest hurdle to going region free in the US. Most modern European tvs handle both PAL and NTSC, but the situation isn't the same in US. They're also mostly widescreen, but that's another story...

You can get multi-region DVD players that do PAL to NTSC conversion, the Malata N996 was the player of choice when I last looked into this, but it's by no means perfect.

Fortunately the Father Ted dvd's came out in Region 1 recently, which pretty much solved my region free dilemma.

(NB, I have no relationship or experience with avdeals, so don't take that as a recommendation)
posted by inpHilltr8r at 11:11 AM on July 11, 2002

i seem to remember an earlier thread where someone referenced a site that shows how you can defeat the regional coding on players -- does anyone have a link?

There are two links directly below the article. One of them is that which you seek.

I had heard about regional encoding before but didn't know anything about it. Now after a little investigation I know the whole story. My conclusion is that this helps no one, it just makes consumers think on their feet a little more by hacking into their equipment so they can watch something that in some cases they may even be legally entitled to watch.
posted by schlaager at 11:30 AM on July 11, 2002

In Australia, most DVD players are multi-region, and any modern TV handles PAL and NTSC. So yeah, I'd agree that people living in the USA are getting the short end of the stick.
posted by chrisgregory at 12:33 AM on July 12, 2002

ericalba, not so in Tokyo. Region-free players are very rare in Japan. All of the players and DVDs are region 2. There is no demand for region-free because nobody understands a lick of English.
posted by dydecker at 1:16 AM on July 12, 2002

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