Each DVD-Video disc contains one or more region codes, denoting the area[s] of the world in which distribution and playback are intended. The commercial DVD-Video player specification dictates that a player must only play discs that contain its region code. In theory, this allows the motion picture studios to control the various aspects of a release (including content, date and price) on a region-by-region basis. In practice, many DVD players allow playback of any disc, or can be modified to do so. Entirely independent of encryption, region coding pertains to regional lockout, which originated in the video game industry.
|0||Informal term meaning "playable in all regions"|
|1||Bermuda, Canada, United States and U.S. territories|
|2||The Middle East, Western Europe, Central Europe, Egypt, Greenland, Japan, Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland|
|3||Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea and Taiwan|
|4||Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, Oceania, South America|
|5||The rest of Africa, Former Soviet Union, the Indian subcontinent, Mongolia, North Korea|
|7||Reserved for future use|
|8||International venues such as aircraft, cruise ships, etc.|
|9||Pirated disc often purchased in the Middle East|
European Region 2 DVDs may be sub-coded "D1" through "D4." "D1" identifies a UK-only release. "D2" and "D3" identify European DVDs that are not sold in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. "D4" identifies DVDs that are distributed throughout Europe.
Any combination of regions can be applied to a single disc. For example, a DVD designated Region 2/4 is suitable for playback in Western Europe, Oceania and any other Region 2 or Region 4 area. A so-called "Region 0" disc (actually coded Region 1/2/3/4/5/6) is meant to be playable worldwide.
The term "Region 0" also describes DVD players that were designed or modified to incorporate Regions 1-6 simultaneously, thereby providing compatibility with virtually any disc, irrespective of region[s]. This apparent solution was popular in the early days of the DVD format, but studios quickly responded by adjusting discs to refuse to play in such machines. This system is known as "Regional Coding Enhancement" or RCE.
Nowadays, many "multi-region" DVD players defeat regional lockout and RCE by automatically identifying and matching a disc's region code and/or allowing the user to manually select a particular region. Others simply bypass the region code check entirely. Some manufacturers of DVD players now freely supply information on how to disable regional lockout, and on some recent models, it appears to be disabled by default.
Many view region code enforcement as a violation of WTO free trade agreements; however, no legal rulings have yet been made in this area.