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A region code is a digital rights management (DRM) technique that directly gives control to film distributors in aspects relating to film release such as content, release date and pricing according to region or country. This is implemented through region-locked players (DVD or Blu-ray), which only play optical media that contains the correct region code that the player is allowed to play. This means that a DVD or Blu-ray released in North America may not work on a player sold in the Middle East.
Region coding is a way to segregate content, enforce price differentiation and allow film distributors to conform to multimedia laws governing a specific country or region. For example, the Middle East is generally more conservative than the West, so there are many things that are not allowed to be shown in movies or TV shows. Region codes help enforce these laws since movies with prohibited content are simply not marked for that region, meaning all players for that region are not able to play those movies, even if the user wanted to. This can help the distributor avoid lawsuits if some of their media happen to make it to those stricter regions. This also helps enforce region-specific pricing since consumers from a certain region cannot simply get a cheaper copy from a region they are visiting. For these reasons, consumers have largely considered region coding as a bad practice, which stifles the freedom to choose. However, most film distributors are now releasing media, especially Blu-ray discs, as region free because they now believe that it is better for sales and coverage.
Region coding for DVD:
Region coding for Blu-ray: