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DVD Forum to stamp out region-crackable players

Threatening to seek import bans on 1 October

The DVD Forum, the movie and consumer electronics business-backed consortium that controls the DVD standard, has begun taking steps to eliminate Chinese-made players and drives that play fast and loose with DVD region encoding.

Its tactic: to threaten Taiwanese DVD player makers with legal action to enforce a ban on all unofficial DVD products, the prohibition to take effect on 1 October.

To beat the ban, consumer electronics companies must have their DVD machines certified by that date. After that, if they haven't been certified by the DVD Forum, they will have to cease using the 'DVD' logo on their products.

So claim Taiwanese sources close to the DVD Forum, cited by the Taiwan Economic Times.

As we've reported on The Register before, the DVD standard includes region coding to prevent discs being used in specific territories. For example, a US (ie. Region 1) DVD should not be able to be played in a European (Region 2) player, and vice versa.

DVD technology licensees have to agree to support this restriction, and the DVD Forum certifies machines to ensure that that's the case. Officially certified players and drives are then allowed to carry the DVD logo.

However, that hasn't stopped Far Eastern manufacturers punching out cheap machines that only play lip service to region encoding. The Web is full of pages outlining ways the players can be reprogrammed, usually through their remote controls, to ignore a discs restrictions.

For that reason - and because they tend to be cheaper than official products - these Far Eastern machines have become rather popular, particularly in Europe where buyers pay more for DVDs than their US counterparts, have a poorer selection of discs to choose from and have to wait longer for them to ship.

Taiwanese manufacturers will account for around 14 per cent of the global DVD player market. Next year, that figure is expected to rise to 23 per cent.

The TET's source says that the DVD Forum first approached Taiwanese player makers a year ago. Clearly the Forum's overtures were rejected, hence the new 'get tough' stance.

Of course, it's hard to see the ban having much of an effect in the US, where there's relatively little need for region busting thanks to the wide availability of titles. The European and Japanese markets are different, however, and import restrictions enforced in these territories would hit manufacturers hard.

Assuming, of course, such a ban could be made to stick. All Taiwanese vendors need do is remove the DVD logo and they can continue importing their products. It's questionable to what extent potential customers look for the DVD logo when buying a player rather than just the letters D, V and D on the box. ®

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