DVD Region Codes: What You Need to Know

Not all DVDs play in all DVD players

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While video streaming services have impacted home entertainment like nothing before, physical media sales are still quite popular.

The introduction of the DVD is the main reason the home theater experience has become popular, serving as a foundation for elevating video and audio quality. However, DVD also has a confusion and often complicated side: Region Coding.

DVD inserting into a laptop optical disk drive
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DVD Region Codes, or How the World Is Divided

DVD players and DVDs are labeled for use within specific geographical regions. The DVD world is divided into six major geographical regions, with two additional regions reserved for specialized use.

DVD regions are assigned as follows:

  • Region 1: USA, Canada
  • Region 2: Japan, Europe, South Africa, Middle East, Greenland
  • Region 3: S.Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, parts of South East Asia
  • Region 4: Australia, New Zealand, Latin America (including Mexico)
  • Region 5: Eastern Europe, Russia, India, Africa
  • Region 6: China
  • Region 7: Reserved for unspecified special use.
  • Region 8: Reserved for cruise ships, airlines, and other international venues.
  • Region 0 or Region ALL: Discs are uncoded and can be played worldwide. However, you must play PAL discs in a PAL-compatible unit and NTSC discs in an NTSC-compatible unit.

All DVD players sold in the U.S. meet Region 1 specifications, and Region 1 players can only play Region 1 discs. Region code numbers are on the back of each DVD package.

DVDs encoded for regions other than Region 1 cannot be played on a Region 1 DVD player, and players marketed for other regions cannot play DVDs coded for Region 1.

The Reasons for DVD Region Coding

Coding is a tool to protect copyright and film distribution rights. This is because movies are sometimes released in theaters in different parts of the world at various times throughout the year. A summer blockbuster in the U.S. may end up being the Christmas blockbuster overseas. If that occurs, the movie's DVD version may be out in the U.S. while it is still showing in theaters in another region. Also, copyright is not the same in every country, so by limiting DVDs by region, it also protects the copyright holder.

Home DVD Recording

While not as popular as in the recent past, creating your own DVDs is not impacted by region coding. Any DVD recordings you make on a consumer-based DVD recorder, DVD camcorder, or a PC are not region coded. If you record a DVD in NTSC, it will be playable on DVD players in countries using that system, and the same for PAL. There is no further region code restriction on home-recorded DVDs.

The Bottom Line

Be aware your DVD commercially-bought collection might not play if you move to another country in a DVD player also from that country.

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