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What does "Region Free" Mean?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The term “region free” refers either to a DVD that can be played anywhere in the world, on any player, or to a DVD player that is capable of handling discs from anywhere. This term is also used to describe game consoles and games in some areas of the world. Consumers may opt to purchase region free products so that they have more access to products they are interested in, and some manufacturers choose to produce such goods to appeal to more consumers.

Various parts of the world are broken up into “regions” divided by numerical codes. The idea of separating the world into regions is that manufacturers can produce products that will only work in a particular part of the world. This is theoretically done to protect copyrights and embargoes, such as when a movie that has no distribution rights in the United States is released on discs that play in the European region only. The regions also allow manufacturers to charge differing prices to consumers, however, taking advantage of the fact that people in one region may be willing to pay more than consumers in another.

Region one encompasses North America, while two reaches over most of Europe, the Middle East, and Japan. Region three is located in Southeast Asia, with region four covering South America and Oceania. Most of Africa and Asia are covered under region five, and region six is reserved for China. Region seven is currently unused, except in special circumstances, and region eight is designated for international settings, such as cruise ships and planes.

When a disc is marked with a particular region code, it means that the disc will only play in DVD players that can handle that region, or all region player. Region six DVDs, for example, will only play in region six or all region players. A manufacturer can also choose to mark a disc as region zero, all region, or region free, meaning that it will play in all players. Likewise, a DVD player can also specify that it will only play discs from one region, or that it will only allow a limited number of region changes, which means that people can't endlessly alternate play of, for example, region three and region five DVDs.

Initially, many DVD players came with region encoding, although crafty consumers figured out how to bypass it. More manufacturers today are building products that will play discs from any region, however, in response to consumer demand. Products that are not totally region free may have simple bypass techniques available, and sometimes the manufacturer even publishes this information for the convenience of consumers.

When buying a DVD player or DVDs, region encoding is something to think about. A DVD player that is not tied to one region will be less frustrating for people with mixed DVD collections, while someone who lives in the heart of a particular region and only watches mainstream films may not be too hindered by a player with region restrictions.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon1004821 — On Apr 24, 2021

What if the dvd says: Region: 1,2,4,5

Will it play on any dvd player?

By geektools — On Feb 15, 2011

Regions are just another protectionist effort by the film and game industry designed to stop pirating. If they would pull their brains out of the dark hole between their cheeks, they would see that if they lowered their selling cost, people would not need to pirate jack snot. DVDs are less than 50 cents apiece, takes a few minutes to record (and they record them en masse, like 100 at a time or more) but, yet once they record on it, it becomes worth 20-40 dollars. How stupid is that?

Look at what you pay for going to the movies: 15.00 to get in, 10 dollars for popcorn (that costs about 10 cents or less to make per person), even water costs 5 dollars, when you can go to the water store and pay 1.25 for five gallons. How stupid is america, and the rest of the world, for letting them do this?

Stay away from movies, don't buy snacks when you *do* go, and for pete's sake don't buy movie dvds once you have seen the movie. It will be on cable soon enough.

I personally do not go to the movies, don't buy retail movies and use torrents to download any movie out there and it only costs me the cost of the dvd to put it on and less than 20 minutes to record it. View away. In the time it takes you people to watch one movie, I can record 10, then watch them at my leisure.

Spend that money, or make the idiots at the movie studios stop pulling their stuff. Who do you think came up with that protectionist stuff, anyway? It certainly wasn't some consumer asking to be screwed some more, I guarantee it. It was the studios, saying they weren't making enough money.

Why do you think they built in copy-protection, so you can't copy the VCR's you already bought nad paid for to dvd. How stupid is that to think I am going to rush out and buy the dvd, because I have seen the vcr tape, oh, about a hundred times. They paid congress to allow them to do this. If you take away their money base, they won't have the money to pass laws that screw the consumer.

The consumer is always the first to get screwed, and the last to have any rights at all. Federal law says you are entitled to one backup of anything you buy, so how is it they get away with copy protection? The rest of you need to know there is always a way around that copy protection, anyway. Always.

By Denha — On Jan 08, 2011

@helene55, I agree. While I understand that region coding also allows Hollywood especially to be careful and planned out in their release of big movies, allowing for multiple premiers and DVD releases across the globe, on the take-home level it just does not make sense. There are many movies that friends and relatives have introduced to me, both from Europe and the UK, which I would love to watch. However, because I cannot watch their DVDs easily, I have to either watch them online or wait for American versions to come out. While this happens more than it did in the days of VHS, it still is a bad thing for the consumer in general.

By helene55 — On Jan 07, 2011

I am personally glad that there is a growing availability of region code free merchandise and region free dvds especially. Considering that a person anywhere in the world can visit any number of internet websites and watch movies for free, albeit illegally, you would think that production companies would be faster at accepting that if they do not make more movies and video games region free, people will not be willing to buy them legally at all.

By sapphire12 — On Jan 05, 2011

@anon137671, the VHS videos,DVDs or games in different regions are identical products, the "region" merely affects whether they can be played in the same machine. For example, DVDs from the US, region 1, cannot be played in European region 2 DVD players. Other than that, they are in the same language as the original, though they might offer other subtitle options in different countries' editions.

By anon137671 — On Dec 28, 2010

Will the sound be for all languages or will it be the language that it was made in?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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