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A regional lockout (or region coding) is a class of digital rights management preventing the use of a certain product or service, such as multimedia or a hardware device, outside a certain region or territory. A regional lockout may be enforced through physical means, through technological means such as detecting the user's IP address or using an identifying code, or through unintentional means introduced by devices only supporting certain regional technologies (such as video formats, i.e., NTSC and PAL).
A regional lockout may be enforced for several reasons, such as to stagger the release of a certain product, to avoid losing sales to the product's foreign publisher, to maximize the product's impact in a certain region through localization, to hinder grey market imports by enforcing price discrimination, or to prevent users from accessing certain content in their territory because of legal reasons (either due to censorship laws, or because a distributor does not have the rights to certain intellectual property outside their specified region).
The DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and UMD media formats all support the use of region coding; DVDs use eight region codes (Region 7 is reserved for future use; Region 8 is used for "international venues", such as airplanes and cruise ships), and Blu-ray Discs use three region codes corresponding to different areas of the world. Most Blu-rays, however, are region-free.
On computers, the DVD region can usually be changed five times. Windows uses three region counters: its own one, the one of the DVD drive, and the one of the player software (occasionally, the player software has no region counter of its own, but uses that of Windows). After the fifth region change, the system is locked to that region. In modern DVD drives (type RPC-2), the region lock is saved to its hardware, so that even reinstalling Windows or using the drive with a different computer will not unlock the drive again.
Unlike DVD regions, Blu-ray regions are verified only by the player software, not by the computer system or the drive. The region code is stored in a file or the registry, and there are hacks to reset the region counter of the player software. In stand-alone players, the region code is part of the firmware.
A new form of Blu-ray region coding tests not only the region of the player/player software, but also its country code, repurposing a user setting intended for localization (PSR19) as a new form of regional lockout. This means, for example, while both the US and Japan are Region A, some American discs will not play on devices/software configured for Japan or vice versa, since the two countries have different country codes. (For example, the United States is "US" (21843 or hex 0x5553), Japan is "JP" (19024 or hex 0x4a50), and Canada is "CA" (17217 or hex 0x4341).) Although there are only three Blu-ray regions, the country code allows much more precise control of the regional distribution of Blu-ray Discs than the six (or eight) DVD regions.
In older versions of the copy software CloneCD, the features "Amplify Weak Sectors", "Protected PC Games," and "Hide CDR Media" were disabled in the United States and Japan. Changing the region and language settings in Windows (e.g., to Canadian English) or patches could unlock these features in the two countries. SlySoft decided to leave these options disabled for the US for legal reasons, but, strangely enough, in the program "AnyDVD", which is also illegal according to US law, no features were disabled. The current version of CloneCD (184.108.40.206) is not region-restricted anymore.
Some programs (e.g., games) are distributed in different versions for NTSC and PAL computers. In some cases, to avoid grey market imports or international software piracy, they are designed not to run on a computer with the wrong TV system. Other programs can run on computers with both TV systems.
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