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16 April 2006
Most people are familiar with DVD Region Encoding and are aware of Multi-Region DVD players, but you can now do the same for your PC.
Having different DVD regions is used by the film industry to inflate the prices of DVDs in different countries. This means that if you buy a DVD in America (where they are often cheaper than the UK) it will be a region 1 DVD which will not work in Europe which requires region 2. Many commercial DVD players get around this either by offering multi-region support, or by having something that can be used to bypass the region encoding (e.g. a special code or it may involve a physical change).
For computers the DVD drives are the same regardless of the region so normally they allow you to select the region a maximum number of times (typically 5). After the DVD drive has been changed that number of times it then becomes locked and cannot be changed again. For my laptop I have two DVD drives, one of which is region 1 and one is region 2, but this is both expensive and means carrying around more bulk.
I have however now found AnyDVD which is created by Skysoft, who are better known for Clone DVD (featuring a sheep as a mascot). The software installs as though it is a device driver which intercepts DVD traffic and decodes it on the fly. This is the same as your Computer DVD player (e.g. PowerDVD or Interactual Player) would need to do, but it's done at the point of accessing the drive rather than in the player software. I assume that this performs a raw read of the disc so that it can bypass the region setting.
The result of this is that it also allows you to make copies of DVDs. Whilst I do not condone pirating and selling copied DVDs there are some genuine uses for this. For example making a backup copy of a DVD so that your child doesn't scratch the original (I have certainly lost a number of CDs which have become scratched so that they are unusable, and find if you rent DVDs they are often badly scratched) or as a way to remove the annoying messages that you are forced to watch through. For example some of the Simpson DVDs force you to watch the copyright message in up to 10 different language / country settings. What they should do is to create a DVD for each of the different countries (after all they are happy to create extra DVDs for the different regions when it suits them). So using AnyDVD you can then use other DVD shrink software (e.g. the one in Nero Burning Software, which only works with non-copyright protected discs will work using AnyDVD).
The software can be downloaded and has a 21 day trial, after which the software costs about $40, which isn't too bad. I don't have many region 1 DVDs so I haven't decided whether to buy it yet or not, but if you do use multiple region DVDs a lot, or want the ability to make backups of your DVD then it's worth taking a look at.