For some time, the techie’s DVD player of choice was a Samsung, thanks to a ridiculously easy hack that disabled region coding and enabled you to watch US DVDs on a UK player (or vice versa). Now, it seems that Samsung is being sued by Hollywood studios because “one of its DVD players can be used to avoid encryption technology”. Apparently the suit is on behalf of 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Time Warner, Walt Disney and Universal.
I’m surprised it’s taken them so long. Back in October 2004, I wrote about DRM for PC Plus:
if you go on holiday to the US, there’s no law that says you can’t bring a few cheap DVDs home with you, but if you play a US disc in a UK player it won’t work. That’s because of region coding, which designates the US as Region 1 and the UK as region 2; a region 1 player will not play region 2 discs, and vice versa.
Region coding is ridiculously easy to bypass, but the way in which it’s been implemented means that if you disable it, you also disable your DVD player’s copy protection system – which is an offence. In effect, the DRM that’s designed to prevent illegal copying also prevents you from doing something perfectly legal, and the law prevents you from hacking your player to exercise your consumer rights.
The law, once again, is an ass.