To summit of toparrow,

A scandal called DVD region code

Beware beware beware

The DVD you bought when you were travelling abroad, or the DVD you bought through the Internet, or the DVD which your son sent you as a birthday gift, may not play on your own DVD player. Instead, you will get to see a nasty message "Playback prohibited due to region code restrictions". Curse yourself, or curse the DVD maker or the DVD Player maker.

There is no way you can avoid the nightmare, which is achieved by way of region-locked DVD players (called region code), which will play back only DVDs encoded to their region (plus those without any region code).

Damn it, this is a genuine and legitimate DVD bought from a reputable store, using your own and hard-earned money. You still cannot play your own DVD on your own DVD Player in your own house, because of some perverted restrictions imposed by a cunning bully. You may not like to do it, but you are forced to use some crooked methods to claim your legitimate and reasonable rights. Although, you may not like to do it, you have to you find a work around, yourself. However, be prepared to face some challenges, and be ready to spend a lot of time, as you fumble around, to find a way out -- it is not going to be easy.

DVD (digital versatile disc) region codes are a digital rights management technique designed to allow rights holders to control the international distribution of a DVD release, including its content, release date, and price, all according to the appropriate region.

Ostensibly, the purpose of region coding is to control release dates of movies, in different countries. This is due to the practice of movie marketing which is apparently threatened by the advent of digital home-theatres. The video is released to cinemas, and then for general sale, later in some countries than in others. This is common partly because releasing a movie at the same time worldwide used to be prohibitively expensive. For example, a physical film copy for a cinema is expensive and the most copies are required for the first weeks after release, so a spread release allows for reuse of some copies in other regions. Moreover, videotapes were inherently regional, since formats had to match those of the encoding system used by television stations in that particular region, such as NTSC and PAL, although from early 1990s PAL machines increasingly offered NTSC playback. DVDs are less restricted in this sense, and region coding allows movie studios to better control the global release dates of DVDs.

Also, the copyright in a title may be held by different entities in different territories. Region coding enables copyright holders to (attempt to) prevent a DVD from a region from which they do not derive royalties from being played on a DVD player inside their region. Region coding attempts to dissuade importing of DVDs from one region into another, although such import is not illegal or prohibited by law.

The inventors of the region code idea indulge in several unfair and dishonest practices. This includes :
  1. Deception and fraud by DVD makers, since they do not place any visibly prominent marking or warning about the region code of the DVD.
  2. Deception and fraud by DVD player makers, since they do not place any visibly prominent marking or warning about the region code of the DVD player.
  3. Perpetual embargo on DVDs being played outside their country of origin.
  4. Blanket suspicion that the world is made up of only thieves and pirates.
Region code is obviously a foolish and self-defeating idea. The region code scandal is perhaps one reason why DVDs and DVD players are gettiing extinct gradually. When was the last time, you used a VCR (video cassette recoder) or a VCP (video cassette player), now it may be the turn of DVDs and DVD players.

If you decide to reclaim your rights, you have to take action yourself. You have two options:
  1. Tweak the offending medium (DVD).
  2. Hack the media player (your DVD player)
The second option above is not a good idea, since it runs the risk of stone-walling your DVD Player forever. The first option above is done outside the medium concerned, and can be a safer bet. But be prepared for a lot of surprises and heartburn.

Challenge #1 : Rip the DVD and extract a stand-alone video file.

Fortunatley FOSS offers several tools and resources for doing this. Choosing the right tool and all its prerequisites is a major hurdle. All distros may not have the codecs you need. All codecs may not support all the video formats your player or TV support. There may be many other dependencies, you must acquire first.

Challenge #2 : Create a video file with the format acceptable to your DVD Player

There is a bewildering variety of formats in which DVDs come. It is strange that all DVD players do not support all popular video formats. The documentation which comes with DVD players are not always helpful in this matter, and in fact, deliberately hide many important details .

Challenge #3 : Transfer the video file to a DVD or a pen drive.

This could pose a major problem at times. If you rip a DVD and get a mp4 file, chaces are your DVD player will not recognise mp4. Try to convert mp4 to an mpg, and the file size would get bloated several orders of magnitude. It may exceed the capacity of a blank DVD. It may not even fit in your pen drive. There is also a maximum limit for the file size, which is decided by the file system you have used.

Challenge #4 : Play the DVD or pen-drive on your DVD Player.

The inconsistent and arbitrary policies of the DVD Player maker regarding standards can also cause major hurdles. My SONY TV can play usb pen drives with mp4 video files. My SONY DVD Player can play only usb pen drives with mpg video files. They can handle pen drives with vfat file system but cannot recognise NTFS or block structured file systems (e.g ext4). You have to be an expert in trial and error philosophy.

Don't give up ! Because there is always a way to defeat unjust and greedy bullies.

(Footnote : All this torture may change soon, thanks to some welcome changes made to the DMCA law.

In the end, you win !

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