Hacking DVD players - Legality and a little ATMB

I’ve got a DVD player. By entering a simple code I can add support for other formats like VCD and can change my region. Is this legal?

The best answer I could find on my own was this one from DVD Demystified FAQ.

Even the DVD Copy Control Association was blurry on the matter. All of this along with the presense of region free DVD players leads me to believe that it is legal. Can anyone confirm? Sure I void my warranty but I increase my options. Fair trade.
Now specifically for the Mods and Admins. If this is not easily resolved by us and no conclusion is drawn as to the legality can we discuss altering our own DVD players here?

I say who cares? If you’re okay with voiding the warranty, what’s the issue? Even if it were against the law, I say FIGHT THE POWER and enjoy entertainment from around the world.

I’m not sure why you have to tamper with your player to get VCD support. That’s strange.

The issue might not be in tampering but in parallel importing. So it’s possible that you could legally mess with your machine but not legally buy DVDs from other regions. But WTF cares? It’s not a law that’s enforced in the case of individuals or that shouldn’t be flagrantly broken.

What kind of code?

Some (if not most) computer DVD-ROM drives allow a finite (4 or so) changes of Region entirely legally and with no warranty being made void. Further region changes may be requested by shipping the drive back to the manufacturer (this bit is from memory, so i’m not too sure)

Making your DVD-ROM drive totally region free involves patching the DVD software and reprogramming the DVD-ROM drive’s Flash ROM chip. I’m not sure of the legality of this. It might void the warranty, and in some cases irrepairably destroy the DVD-ROM drive. But i’d take the chance.

I agree, who cares. If it is illegal to do it, that is a law I would happily break.

I beleive it is 100% legal to do any hacks to your machine (region free, vcd, custom screen saver etc.) EXCEPT defeating the copy protection (Macrovision). The law that makes disabling copy protection illegal is the DMCA, this law is stupid and I see no reason to pay attention to it in this case.

I wouldn’t want to discuss specifics until I get the go ahead but each player has a different code. Actually I don’t think they’re really codes but rather menus that you go through, only you can’t see options. Some players have codes. Other players have CDs you can buy to change (upgrade) the player limits like the Apex AD-1100W. On some you can disable Macrovision. On others you can change PAL to NTSE. For mine it’s a code for VCD and region.

Not all players support VCD. For instance the JVC XV-M565BK doesn’t. Now VCD is not such a big deal, the region code it the one I’m most interested.

I want to know if it’s legal so I can feel free to discuss it around the net, here and other places.

The laws in your country may vary but at least in Australia and I would think the US, last I heard Sony et al have not been given the power to make laws. Last I heard, only the government can do that. And there are no laws that say a DVD player shall be region locked that I am aware of.

You may be in breach of contract (such a trivial academic breach that I wouldn’t worry about it). You may void your warranty, although even that is doubtful at least in Australia. But you are not doing anything illegal.

Oh, and you say the DVD Copy Control Association was blurry on the matter. Yep, that’s what I’d expect. They certainly wouldn’t want anyone who was needlessly concerned that region hacks were illegal from being disabused of that notion, would they?

Region encoding isn’t copy protection, so the DMCA clause about defeating copy protection doesn’t apply.

Imported DVDs are not illegal for you to buy, although they may be illegal for some vendors to sell, depending on their contract with the company making/distributing the DVD. But that isn’t your problem.

It’s legal to own a region-free DVD player (or hack a region-coded one to be region-free), but you can’t use it for illegal purposes. Watching imported DVDs is not illegal.

However, many DVDs (ones that use something called REA) won’t play on region-free DVD players. Getting technical, they won’t play on code-free players, but will play on code-switchable players. If you’re buying a region-free player or mod chip, make sure it’s code-switchable and not just code-free. Expect the MPAA to mess things up again at some point in the future, requiring you to buy new hardware again.

And unless you also have the power to ignore lawyers and your bank balance, I wouldn’t be so quick to ignore laws, even stupid ones like the DMCA. But region-free DVD players are, at the moment, unquestionably in the clear.


I have switched my player to be region-free, and although I’m usually playing region-free or R3 releases on it, I have yet to run into an R1 release that didn’t like the fact that I have a rebel player. Maybe more of those things will be produced in the future, maybe not, but unless it costs a lot of money for some reason I don’t know why they wouldn’t do it to all new releases, and I’ve been playing new releases just fine.

Osiris, considering there are whole sites dedicated to codes and hacks I’m sure you can get away with a little loose talk, especially since you are, people seem to agree, legally in the clear.

One would think. But I’d like to hear it from the powers that be. Sometimes they’re very testy about these kind of things.

Or maybe I’m just being paranoid. Still given their stance on file sharing and copyright infringement I figured better safe and sorry.

I’m sure you’re curious why I didn’t post this in ATMB. Well I figured that since I did have a greater GQ (Is this legal?) that it would get more exposure here. I suppose eventually it could get moved to ATMB.

Oh, Space here’s a link on Regional Coding Enhancement which can make it so you can’t play certain DVDs on region free players. They have a pretty good list of such movies and discuss the matter thoroughly.

Slightly off-topic:

was reading Pioneer Electronic’s page the other day.

In addition to a component CD copier (the ad copy read something about “Tired of borrowing CD’s and not being able to copy them? Then this machine is for you!”).

and, if that doesn’t upset copyright-holders enough, they are promising a fall, 2002 release of a home DVD recorder - Hook up your A/V receiver/ VCR / DVD plaver to this puppy, and burn up to 2 hours. Media may not play on all DVD players. MSRP: $2000.

I’m going to enjoy the upcoming circus…

That’s odd… I KNOW my player is all-region because it’s playing discs that have been confirmed to not play on R1 players, but despite it being on the list I have no problem playing Snatch. Maybe I just got lucky somehow?

After reading This site it may be that you are just lucky.

I guess it’s like the first link said RCE is still in it’s “testing phase.”

Boy I could have done that quote better.

A little info about the DMCA:

The DMCA makes it illegal to “circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected by this title.” They define “circumvent a technological measure” as “to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright holder.”

No doubt you’re now saying, “But region coding is easy to crack, so it isn’t very ‘effective’!” Ah, but hang on; the DMCA defines “effectively controls access” as “the measure, in the ordinary course of its operation, requires the application of information, or a process or a treatment, with the authority of the copyright owner, to gain access to the work.” (bolding mine)

So, you may disagree, but it sounds to me like region coding is indeed a method that effectively controls access (it requires the application of information in the ordinary course of operation), and removing or altering the coding would be a forbidden act of “bypassing, removing, deactivating, or impairing” a technological measure that controls access.

Now, do I think the DMCA goes too far in bending over backwards to kiss the asses of movie studios and record companies in helping them protect their holdings? Yes, but that’s another debate…

If you bought a DVD that was illegal for the vendor to sell, how is that different from receiving stolen property? I don’t understand why this wouldn’t also be illegal or at the least, your DVD could be confiscated by the authorities without compensation.

Well, you can buy region free dvd players legally in the US, I saw them at Circuit City.
You can buy players that play vcds too from that store.

So far, I don’t see any illegal activity.

I miss nested quotes. Anyway, I think that in the post you quoted, it was meant that the vendor may be in breach of their contract, which is illegal, though not “lead you away in cuffs” illegal.

And since possession of something sold under breach of contract (a similar case would be buying scalped tickets, methinks) isn’t a criminal act, AFAIK (IANAL), and the consumer would be in the clear.

The administration of the SDMB cares. We’re not allowed to share details on how to break the law, or to encourage others to break the law. Even if it’s a teensy tiny little law.

Now, based on the statements of some of the posters, it seems that this particular practice is legal, but that’s an important distinction.