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DVD Region Codes; Software Deals Via E-Mail

Sunday, August 22, 2004; Page F06

When traveling I enjoy watching DVD films on my laptop. But the DVDs I've rented in Europe won't play on it. Do any laptop manufacturers allow playback of DVDs from any region?

As far as I know, every laptop sold in the United States includes DVD software that enforces "region codes" and accepts only discs from the United States and Canada.

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The workaround is to install unlicensed playback software that, since it was developed without help or permission from the owners of the DVD format, ignores region codes and other usage restrictions. Try VLC, a free download for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and other operating systems at www.videolan.org; other choices are listed at www.digital-digest.com.

Major movie studios aren't fans of the software. The studios like region-coding restrictions; by making a DVD sold in one of eight defined markets viewable only on hardware sold there, they allow studios to release movies at different timetables around the world.

DVD watchers overseas have chosen to buy "multi-region" players when available -- they routinely dominate the list of top-selling DVD players on Amazon's British store, for instance.

I am getting lots of e-mails offering me the opportunity to buy software, especially Microsoft's, incredibly cheaply. I assume these offers are illegal, but what else is wrong with them, if anything?

The other problem with those offers is that they're spam -- that alone makes the people behind them unworthy of your business. Don't reward these slimeballs with your money. Ever.

Mail filtering and other technological measures can help stop spam, but ultimately this is an economic problem -- spammers make the effort to send bulk e-mail because at least some people are dumb or foolish enough to respond to it. Otherwise, they'd find some other way of being a nuisance.

-- Rob Pegoraro

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or rob@twp.com.

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