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Will HD-DVD and Blu-Ray do away w/ region free?

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#1 of 21 John C

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Posted February 17 2005 - 08:07 AM

As a happy owner of a region free JVC DVD player I've been enjoying a number of domestic U.S. titles from other regions with more extra features and/or DTS sound.
I'm assuming that the new HD disk formats will incorporate region coding and am worried that it may be more difficult to crack the second time around. Anyone have any thoughts on whether we'll even be able to purchase region free players once Blu-Ray and HD-DVD are released?

#2 of 21 Mark_Wilson



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Posted February 17 2005 - 10:47 AM

I think it will be harder this time around. There is a post over at avsforum from someone that works at one of the chipmakers for HD-DVD. He was going over some of the features of the new chipset and one of them was the ability to erase it's keys and firmware if tampered with, physically or via software. But I'm sure, given time, someone will find a way to build a region free HD-DVD or Blu-Ray player.

#3 of 21 Yee-Ming



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Posted February 17 2005 - 01:44 PM

But I'm sure, given time, someone will find a way to build a region free HD-DVD or Blu-Ray player.

I.e. the manufacturers themselves...

Who are the studios kidding? Much as they want the concept of region coding and the "control" it theoretically offers, from a manufacturer's point of view, they just want to sell as many machines as they can, and if region-free is what it takes, that's what they'll give the consumer. I understand that (ironically) in the US, region-free seems to be a somewhat niche product (from seeing posts about the region-free Malatas), but elsewhere, "mainstream" DVD players are either region-free right out of the box, or easily tweaked by codes or firmware updates -- and if you think about it, these firmware updates would have to have been written by the manufacturers themselves. E.g. I have owned three Pioneers and one Philips so far, all four were region-free out of the box.

It seems (to me at least) that the studios are able to "force" manufacturers to comply with region-coding more stringently in the US, whereas in Europe, their machines appear to be fixed on R2 but are readily "hacked", and out here in the Far East our so-called R3 machines are always region-free -- our market simply won't tolerate an R3-only machine, with many consumers preferring R1 discs (assuming they're not buying pirate discs to begin with Posted Image )

I guess Blu-Ray might face an internal conflict, being driven by Sony that is both manufacturer and studio, but HD-DVD doesn't face that "problem".

#4 of 21 Marty Lockstead

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Posted March 05 2005 - 05:27 PM

It seems that no matter what the studios try to do, there will always be a way around it, IMHO. :b
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#5 of 21 Dan Hitchman

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Posted March 06 2005 - 06:23 AM

Not so this time, I'm afraid. With the newest AACS protection it is a 128 bit, revocable encryption key with a possibility of a phone line DRM system to unlock content.

It's running down the road to DIVX all over again. The trouble is that all this region coding and DRM will only encourage piracy even more. Especially since many countries get better product than in the U.S. Just look at DVD's. Some get many more features plus DTS or DTS-ES 6.1, better transfers, sometimes uncut when the U.S. discs are censored, once in awhile other regions will get an anamorphic widescreen release, and we're screwed. Etc.

If they had an open standard HD product at a fair price with great quality you would be taking the teeth out of pirates. Although, it really was never about piracy to begin with (a smoke screen-- as Hollywood knows there are big rings in Asia and Europe that have hackers working overtime-- these are the guys they lose money to), it's about power and control, and extra monetary gain (yet the latter is a pipe-dream if they continue to encourage piracy).


#6 of 21 Marko Berg

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Posted March 06 2005 - 10:31 PM

But Dan, defeating region coding is not about piracy. It's about circumventing artificial marketing restrictions. There is nothing illegal in importing discs from other regions for your personal use and playing them back on modified equipment.

Fortunately, most European courts of law seem to have understood the distinction between marketing restrictions and copy-protection. In my country, a forthcoming update to copyright legislation will (according to newspaper accounts) contain wording that will specifically address the issue of playing back legally obtained DVDs in a region other than the DVDs were meant to be played back in. It remains to be seen how courts will interpret this legislation once it is effective: It will certainly be legal for a user to circumvent any marketing restrictions applied by studios and device manufacturers, but will the legislation also mean new HD-DVD players with new region coding technologies will in fact be illegal if a user cannot play back legally obtained content on these players?

I'm hoping for the latter interpretation, and I hope legislators all over the world will finally put an end to one of the most idiotic restrictions ever imposed on the consumer by Hollywood.

#7 of 21 Dan Hitchman

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Posted March 07 2005 - 04:07 AM

I'd say it's both. By making it hard for consumers to have access to better product in another market some will start to resort to black market means and the pirates will see this as a new opportunity for their "business."

If a Blu-Ray disc in the states has a DD 5.1 lossy track and subpar video, and the one in Japan has a 24/96 uncompressed 8 channel discrete soundtrack with 1080p video that rocks your world, which one do you think people will want (those in the niche markets tend to know about overseas product... just like these boards prove)?


#8 of 21 Magnus_M


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Posted March 07 2005 - 12:22 PM

It would be a nice way to kill the format, DVD would probably still be a niche product if it weren't for imports/exports from other countries.
Heck, I'd be willing to bet that DIVX could have won the fight if it weren't for the sales that made a deciding factor when the format struggle was at it's worst.

Much of the sucess of DVD in the US is because of exports not in spite of it, just as the international sucess of DVD was caused by those who imported and created a demand in their own countries.

Restricting the consumers choices and forcing them to buy a possibly inferior product at home is not only bad business, it's plain stupid IMHO.
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#9 of 21 Steve Holland

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Posted March 09 2005 - 04:36 AM

I believe that the region coding of DVD players was made illegal by the Australian government, so hopefully they will apply the same rules to Blu-ray and HD DVD if they insist on implementing region coding. I can see Australia having a large exporting industry of next-gen players in the future. Posted Image

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#10 of 21 Hendrik


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Posted March 10 2005 - 06:30 AM

...but... but... but... will there still be NTSC and PAL...?... he asked, innocently...

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#11 of 21 chris norton

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Posted April 05 2005 - 11:34 PM

It's a difficult problem. Some interesting aussie links below.
It's my belief that we have not outlawed region coding, it's too complicated. What happened was that our ACCC won a case against Sony for using region coded ps2 games. I don't think DVD region coding has been acted upon with anything more than reports.
I don't hold out much hope of our Australian Consumer & Competitiveness Council to have any teeth in this regard.
Not to mention the FTA. Free Trade Agreement betweeen US and Oz. ie. free for big business and restricted trade for the little ones.

Some links: add the dub dub dub letters to the beginning





Insofar as the newer systems, I think we are screwed. The DVD forum would rather enter our rear end rather than think with a clear international head.
I will probably buy a R1 HD-DVD player when they are available. Same old story again. Sigh....

#12 of 21 chris norton

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Posted April 05 2005 - 11:50 PM

...but... but... but... will there still be NTSC and PAL...?... he asked, innocently...

Probably, because we will always have the 50/60Hz debacle. In Australia we have 1080i/50 whereas the unimportant part of the world has 1080i/60.
For a world that's getting smaller it's a trajedy that big business can only think of everyone as local yokels to be taken advantage of instead of international travellers who can see a bigger picture.
Time for a beer, I'm getting despondent.

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#13 of 21 DavidofLondon


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Posted April 11 2005 - 03:32 AM

In the UK these marketing restrictions are treated very differently from copyright laws. A case went to court against a dealer selling region free equipment (which he'd opened up and hacked before selling). The judge ruled that if the original manufacturers wanted people not to do that then it was down to them to produce hardware/software that dealers or consumers couldn't break. Breaking those restrictions was not illegal and the dealer was entitled to continue (although the manufacturer was entitled to cancel warranty on machines so altered).

Given how much even the general public expects region free machines to be available I can't see restricted machines being very popular.

Regarding the supposedly unbreakable codes that various people come up with for various purposes. I can state categorically that as a mathematician the encryptions are all flawed and therefore all breakable. This is endemic to the design of the encryption, by definition it has to be breakable or a legitamate user couldn't make use of the item. Anything that needs decryption can be broken.

Granted no one has yet found techniques for easily breaking 128 bit encryption, maybe they never will. But it can be done. The Germans in WW2 were convinced their Enigma codes were unbreakable because of the millions of combinations available, but they were broken anyway.

One obvious possibilty would be for hackers to bypass the whole encryption/decryption cycle. So the machines simply ignore that they are supposed to be checking for encryption and just handle everything anyway. The only way I can see to prevent that would be for decryption to be handled real-time (while the movie was being watched) externally by landline and not by the local machine. Sorry you can't watch a movie right now the phone line's down/capacity exceeded. Can't see that idea being popular and if the local machine handles its own decryption all you need to do is persuade it that it has permission to do so.

Incidentally unbreakable codes do exist. Certain password systems use apparently unbreakable encryption. When you re-enter your password what happens is not that the stored password is decrypted and compared with the entered password. Instead the entered password is encrypted and then compared in encrypted form with the stored password. As decryption is never needed the encryption technique can be designed to be truly one way (and therefore unbreakable).

#14 of 21 Sean Aaron

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Posted April 21 2005 - 08:24 AM

I would think that more stringent limits would reduce uptake of the system internationally and potentially make regional formats like EVD stronger, which I cannot imagine is something that even Hollywood would want. Due to power conversion issues I doubt I would go so far as to buy imported players, but someone enterprising might crack open some machines and put in local power supplies and stick their own warranty on it, but as someone else said, the manufacturers do not give a toss about these region restrictions and will build the machines to be exported as easily as possible; employees of those companies have little qualms about putting out the factory codes to change regions, so I'm sure that will sort that issue. If you're required to hook a phone line up to the machine to use it, I'm sure that will kill the format faster than anything else; I sure as hell wouldn't buy one.

I read an article recently that had an interesting position on piracy, putting the blame for it at the feet of the media corporations for choosing formats that could be easily duplicated (this was specifially in reference to CD), and let's face it, if they weren't so greedy as to want to re-sell us the same stuff over and over again, they would have stuck with LPs and film and wouldn't be crying about people copying their stuff and ripping them off.

I mean, why do people import or buy pirate DVDs? In most cases I'd say it was because a film is out in the States on DVD when it's showing theatrically in the local region. I know many people who picked up a pirate DVD regardless of quality because it was cheaper than buying a ticket to the cinema or because they'd rather see the DVD with the extras than buying a ticket. Why not sell to that market? Importing is often to take advantage of cheaper prices due to currency conversion or because the local label is just charging more than they do in the States or because the product is inferior; I personally never buy the domestic release if I know there's a more fully featured version available in the US.

I really don't get this any more than region-coding of videogames. It's a game or a film; if a local company can make money selling a version dubbed to local language then super, let them buy a license and put it out, but what is the point of screwing with people by preventing them from running an import copy if they so desire? Is the grey market so large that it needs thwarting and if so, shouldn't it be embraced rather than trying to fight it by exporting the product in the first place?

#15 of 21 Yee-Ming



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Posted April 21 2005 - 09:50 PM

I fully agree region coding is really an artificial and nonsensical feature, but the issues regarding piracy are quite different.

Sadly, many consumers still feel it worth their while to buy super-cheap knock-offs: it is very hard to argue against their point of view that when a movie ticket here costs S$8.50 per person, a pirate DVD costing maybe S$5 which the whole family can watch is not a worthwhile purchase, even if the pirate DVD is "man with camcorder in cinema" quality. Timing is not an issue in this country, since we get most of our theatrical releases on par with the US, and in one recent example, Constantine, allegedly before it opened in the US.

I suppose one argument in favour of region-coding is to make it more attractive for a studio, or a local licensee, to make customised local variants for local consumption, e.g. our R3 local discs would substitute French or Spanish soundtracks and subtitles, which we don't need here, with Chinese, Malay or other local or regional languages. Without some confidence that these discs will sell in this region and that sales will not be cannibalised by US R1 discs, the local distributor might not be willing to put in the investment.

One past problem was that local distributors would skimp on the product, e.g. drop extras, unattractive packaging, leading local customers to always prefer R1 where available. In the past year or so, however, they seemed to have learned their lesson, or found it profitable enough, that the local R3 version now tends to be substantially similar to the R1, save for soundtracks and subtitles. Factor in their usually slightly-cheaper price, and they are now selling properly and indeed I personally now buy more R3 versions than I ever have before. (Don't get me wrong, though, I am against the entire concept of region coding to begin with.)

#16 of 21 Carlo S

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Posted April 23 2005 - 08:17 AM

I personally hate Region Coding. To me Region COding is all about market control simple as that.

Now me I like buying alot of anime and TV series, especially from the 80s. Many of which will probably never see the light of day in Australia, am I suppose to wait around till doomsday just to see if it ever gets released here, I dont think so.

ANd often even if a series is released in Australia, not only it takes for ever half the time but it even costs alot more.

I am sure those others in Australia can relate to how I feel.

A good example, TV Series like WOnder WOman and the Dukes of Hazzard have still not yet been released in Australia, and I doubt if ever it will.....

#17 of 21 AndyMcKinney



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Posted May 04 2005 - 08:04 AM

Now me I like buying alot of anime and TV series, especially from the 80s. Many of which will probably never see the light of day in Australia, am I suppose to wait around till doomsday just to see if it ever gets released here, I dont think so.

I am sure those others in Australia can relate to how I feel.

A good example, TV Series like WOnder WOman and the Dukes of Hazzard have still not yet been released in Australia, and I doubt if ever it will.....

I'm American and I can relate! I, too, like to buy TV series, and there are many a foreign TV show that I've bought either on video or DVD that have never been released in the US and aren't likely to be in the near future (stuff like Day of the Triffids, The Goodies, Man About the House, Steptoe and Son, etc. etc.).

I'm sure the manufacturers will make region unlocking difficult, but not impossible. Most of the world's players are made in China, and a lot of times, to faclititate mass production, the models are pretty much all the same physically, but with different software ROM versions for different world markets. As has been stated, some foreign markets, which aren't prone to the MPAA's whims, will not tolerate region-specific equipment. I doubt the manufacturers will spend R&D time making different sets of hardware just so American players cannot be cracked ever. I think it's likely to be some sort of a software solution that some enterprising people will be able to figure out and leak to the public).

If US players will not be able to be hacked, I'd almost be willing to wager foreign players will still be hackable out of the box and we niche market customers just have to resort to ordering foreign gear if the domestic stuff doesn't fit the bill.

#18 of 21 Mark_TS



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Posted May 06 2005 - 07:23 PM

The funny thing is, ive read that the new HD sets will be at native resolution, and thus, region TV formats are irrelevant-ie: We wont' need no steenking PAL or NTSC..!

But whatever new REGION locks they create-someone will figure it out-how to get around it.
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#19 of 21 Hendrik


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Posted May 07 2005 - 08:02 AM

...region TV formats are irrelevant-ie: We wont' need no steenking PAL or NTSC..!

...are you sure about that??? There will still be 120V/60c (e.g. Regions 1 and 2/Japan) with 30fps and 220V/50c (e.g. Regions 2/Europe, 4/Australia/New Zealand) with 25fps... yes?... no?... he asked, not entirely innocently...

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#20 of 21 Roger_R


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Posted May 08 2005 - 04:05 AM

The two lowest resolutions, 480p and 576p, are the native NTSC and PAL resolutions. However, 720p and 1080p are the same in all regions. I guess, since it's all digital now, that the TVs and players will support multiple framerates so that we can watch both stuff recorded on tape (29.97fps and 25fps for NTSC and PAl respectively) and movies (24fps).

The region coding will finally be an entirely artifical border between regions and not the PAL/NTSC border we have now. I wonder how they'll be able to continue justifying this crap...

Here in Norway there's a law about paralell-importing that forbids stores to import DVDs from other regions themselves if there's already a region 2 version released here. That's what really pisses me off about the whole region issue. Instead of being able to the UE of The Fifth Element from the local video store, I have to import it and pay import taxes and taxes for paying taxes (yes, it's that stupid)...

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