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Philips Blu ray has been at the forefront of the industry for decades, first pioneering DVD research and then supporting Blu-Ray development. However, all this also includes the notorious system for price discrimination known as regional coding.

DVDs offered so many things at first – and it’s delivered on most of them. The movie studios loved it because finally there seemed to be a way to capitalize on home video sales, which provided a constant revenue stream for “old” product, while protecting intellectual property interests, which could not be addressed at all by simple videotape technology. Regional coding offered the studios a way to control the distribution of their movies, helping indirectly to forestall piracy a little. But Regional Coding was fairly quickly overcome by various hacks and cracks, leaving Hollywood rather unhappy. Thus Regional Coding Enhanced, or RCE, was developed to contain the breach.

Regional coding was devised primarily as a way for Hollywood to fine-tune its control over release dates outside the United States. With regional coding, consumers in Japan could not simply import a movie that had been released in the United States first, nor could American consumers use discs destined for Japan, as these two countries fall into different regions and the on-disc regional coding would prevent their DVD players from displaying any content. Such a situation can also allow a motion picture studio to charge different prices in different countries, or provide different editions adapted to specific locales. But once cracked, regular regional coding was worthless and the retroactive attempt now known as RCE was created to seal the breach.

RCE was simple in concept. A disc would contain a short video loop coded for, say, regions 2 through 6 while its main content would be coded for Region 1. Now if the disc were to be played in a non-Region 1 DVD player, only that short video loop would be seen, with user controls disabled so that there was no way to escape it. Region 1 players, however, would not play back the video loop, as it had only been coded for other regions, but would just right into the material that was coded for Region 1 – the main feature.

However, RCE was easy to circumvent due to the technological nature of region-free DVD players. Such units try to play a disc using the regional code of the last disc played, so all that’s needed to defeat RCE is to first insert a regular Region 1 disc, then one with RCE. The RCE should then play just fine. Ironically, RCE actually caused some problems with genuine Region 1 players! In any event, it turned out that very few discs were had been given the RCE treatment.