Guide To DVD Regional Codes.
The following information was taken from DVD FAQ written by Jim Taylor.
Motion picture studios want to control the home release of movies in different countries because theater releases aren't simultaneous (a movie may come out on video in the U.S. when it's just hitting screens in Europe). Also, studios sell distribution rights to different foreign distributors and would like to guarantee an exclusive market. Therefore they required that the DVD standard include codes to prevent playback of certain discs in certain geographical regions. Each player is given a code for the region in which it's sold. The player will refuse to play discs that are not coded for its region.
This means that a disc bought in one country may not play on a player bought in another country. Some people believe that region codes are an illegal restraint of trade, but no legal cases have established this. Regional codes are entirely optional for the maker of a disc. Discs without region locks will play on any player in any country. It's not an encryption system, it's just one byte of information on the disc that the player checks. Some studios originally announced that only their new releases would have regional codes, but so far almost all Hollywood releases play in only one region.
Region codes are a permanent part of the disc, they won't "unlock" after a period of time. Region codes don't apply to DVD-Audio, DVD-ROM, or recordable DVD (see below for more detail).
Seven regions (also called locales or zones) have been defined, and each one is assigned a number. Players and discs are often identified by their region number superimposed on a world globe. If a disc plays in more than one region it will have more than one number on the globe.
1: U.S., Canada, U.S. Territories
2: Japan, Europe, South Africa, and Middle East (including Egypt)
3: Southeast Asia and East Asia (including Hong Kong)
4: Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Central America, Mexico, South America, & the Caribbean
5: Eastern Europe (Former Soviet Union), Indian subcontinent, Africa, North Korea, and Mongolia
8: Special international venues (airplanes, cruise ships, etc.)
Technically there is no such thing as a region zero disc or player.
There is such thing as an all-region disc.
There are also all-region players.
About Jim Taylor.
Jim Taylor, the author of DVD Demystified and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About DVD. Jim has been in the DVD business since before there was a DVD business.
He found out about the upcoming DVD format in 1995 and began writing articles to let others know about this amazing new technology. Jim received the 2000 DVD Pro Discus Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Industry, was named one of the 21 most influential DVD executives by DVD Report, was an inaugural inductee into the 2002 Digital Media Hall of Fame, and was named one of the Pioneers of DVD in the October 2003 issue of One to One magazine.
Jim has worked with interactive media for over 20 years, developing educational software, laserdiscs, CD-ROMs, Web sites, and DVDs, along with teaching workshops, seminars, and university courses. He writes articles and columns about DVD for publications such as Widescreen Review, serves as President of the DVD Association, and sits on advisory boards of leading-edge companies in the DVD industry. Jim was formerly DVD Evangelist at Microsoft, and is currently Chief of DVD Technology and General Manager of the Advanced Technology Group at Sonic Solutions, the leading developer of DVD authoring systems.