DVD Region Codes are Evil

On my weekly pilgrimage to the mall I purchased some DVD’s which I wanted to watch when I got home on my Mac Mini, alas the powers that be conspired against me and things didn’t go as planned.

So I purchased a few movies at the Musica DVD Store in Canal Walk, Ghost in the Shell – Special Edition, The adventures of Indiana Jones – The complete DVD Movie Collection and Avalon (Weird move directed by the same guy who did Ghost in the Shell, oddly enough with a polish soundtrack and english subtitles.) I arrived home at about 4pm on Sunday with the plan to spend the rest of the afternoon slumped in a bean bag watching movies.

So I popped Ghost in the Shell into my mac and was greeted by the “This is not a region 2 dvd.” message.

I guess at this point I should explain what region codes are… Essentially dvd’s are released for particular regions, the idea being that a movie destined for Australia (Region 4) won’t work in SA which is region 2 and vice versa. This is suppose to stop me buying and watching a movie that has been released in Europe or America before it’s released in SA. Now there are ways round the region codes. You can re-flash the firmware for the dvd rom / dvd player which means you can play dvd’s from any region. Some DVD Players have hidden menus that you can access that allows you to watch movies from other regions and there is software that will play the dvd bypassing the region code check (Like VLC for Mac, Windows and Linux.) So anyway the Ghost in the shell I bought was an Australian version that Musica had imported and therefor was Region Code 4 instead of a South African release that would have been 2. [It was clearly marked on the box as such and I knew I was buying an imported dvd for a different region.]
So my first thought was that all I would need is a firmware patch for the DVD Combo drive used in my mac mini and I would be able to play it. Turns out that there aren’t any for the model of drive in my mini and there is unlikely to be one due to the dificulty in doing it for the particular drive. So I tried using VLC which according to the great all powerful google might work, but it didn’t because the new versions of the drive used in the mini stop sending any data if the region of the dvd does not match what the drive is set for. (I won’t go into the technical complexities of how and why…)
By now I was getting desperate, it was about 6pm and I wanted to watch my movie so I dug out an external drive holder that supports Firewire and USB2.0 and stuck my DVD Rom from my linux machine into it then plugged it into my apple. The standard apple dvd player software wouldn’t work, I still got the region code error, but VLC did work so I finally got to watch my movie about 3hours later.

So while I have no problem with the idea behind things like Region Codes or DRM (Digital Rights Management) I have a problem with the way it tends to get in my way. It’s my computer and it’s my dvd, both of which I legally bought and paid for and I own and all I wanted todo was watch the dvd in my computer. I wasn’t trying to copy it, it was released in SA long time ago (’98 I think.) and yet I couldn’t watch it without lots of fiddling.

And you know whats really silly? I was finally able to actually bypass all of the protection and watch my movie, all it did was get in my way it didn’t actually stop me.