What Blu-ray and DVD Region Codes Are
Region Codes are pieces of data that are embedded into Blu-Ray and DVD Discs to act as a restriction. This data, or region code, is read by the player and if it doesn’t recognize the region code as compatible or local, the disc will not play. Since region codes are specific to certain geographical locations, a disc can typically only be read and played by a Blu-Ray or DVD Player that was manufactured and/or intended for use in that same specific region.
In other words, if a disc is inserted into a player that originated from another region, it will not play because the region code does not match that of the player. Usually this doesn’t pose a problem to the average user, but it may for someone who has purchased discs from a foreign website or while visiting another country. For example, if you live in the UK and purchased a few DVD discs while on vacation in the United States, those discs are not going to be playable in your DVD Player back in the UK – since the discs have been embedded with a region code for the US, they are only able to play on a North American DVD System. It’s the same situation for nearly all areas of the world; playback depends on the region code which the disc was embedded with and the region where the player was manufactured.
There are a handful of different reasons as to why region codes are used to restrict the playback of discs. The first and foremost reason is the fact that new films nearly always have different release dates (sometimes months apart) for different areas of the world. Movie production companies and movie studios (as well as the general box office) utilize region coding in an attempt to prevent losses that could be incurred if certain areas of the world had premature access to unreleased films. For example, when a film has been in North American theaters for quite some time and is ready to be released to Blu-ray or DVD, it may have not yet even had its official UK theater release. This means that people from the UK could easily order a copy of the DVD from the US prior to the UK theater release date, which in turn, would negatively affect UK box office sales. Region coding helps deter this practice, thereby allowing vested parties to reap maximum profits. This also applies to differences in currency value, preventing people from paying much less for movies by ordering them from a country where the monetary exchange rate is very high.
Aside from profitability, there are other reasons for the use of region codes. Governments and Religious Groups in other regions of the world often have strict authority over what type of content is acceptable for viewing. In these areas, region coding is effectively leveraged to censor content that is considered to be unethical, improper, or undesirable.
The region coding system for Blu-Ray Discs varies from that of DVDs. This is explained below to provide you with an accurate understanding.
Blu-Ray Region Codes
In total, there are 3 separate Blu-Ray region codes. These codes are classified alphabetically as Region A, Region B, and Region C. Blu-ray discs that have been manufactured in region A are embedded with region code A, and are therefore only usable with players from region A. The same is applicable for regions B and C. Below is a map showing how Blu-ray region codes are separated and administered by geographic location.
Region A: This region covers all of North America, South America and South East Asia.
Region B: This encompasses Europe, Africa, Middle East, French territories and Greenland.
Region C: Region which covers the rest of the world including Russia, Asia, and China.
DVD Region Codes
There are 6 individual region codes with which DVDs are embedded. These 6 region codes function in the same way as Blu-ray region codes. A DVD disc from region 1 would be encoded as region code 1 and is therefore only operable in a DVD player that originated from region 1. The same is true for region 2, region 3, and so on and so forth, all the way to region 6. The map below shows how DVD region codes are separated and administered by geographic location.
Region 1: USA & Canada, Bermuda, and US Territories
Region 2: Europe (with the exceptions of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus), Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Middle East, Egypt, Lesotho, and Greenland
Region 3: Southeastern Asia
Region 4: Latin America and Australia
Region 5: Russia, Asia (non-southeast), and Africa
Region 6: China
Additional Region Code Information
As a side note, there are technically 3 other region codes aside from regions 1-6. These are region 0, region 7 and region 8.
Region 0 means that no type of region code has been embedded, or that the disc has been embedded for regions 1 through 6. This type is generally referred to as being a “region free” disc.
Region 7 is reserved mainly for future use. As of now, region 7 is only used by MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and in Asia for copies intended only for use by the media.
Region 8 is employed only for international use and therefore only utilized for discs used by airline or cruise ship industries.
In general, the consumer only needs to be concerned with discs from region 1-6 as they are the only type to be sold commercially.
Learn More About Region Codes
For more information on Blu-ray and DVD region codes, purchasing a region-free Blu-ray DVD player, how region codes apply to you, and exactly what you need to have in order to watch discs from other regions, please check out our Region-Free Buying Guide.