back to article Blu-ray region locks popped by hardware hacker

Scores of Blu-ray players from the biggest names in the industry contain security vulnerabilities that allow region coding to be unlocked, hardware hacker Matthew Garrett says. The players use an antiquated digital rights management scheme to control the distribution of movies meaning some films could only be played in the …

  1. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Linux

    Region Locks

    What a pain in the arse ... the sooner they're gone, the better. I always flash the firmware of DVD drives in my Macs to remove it.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Region Locks

      The reason is not just price differentiation. It's also that different countries/regions have distribution deals with different companies. So the region lock supports a company which has bought distribution rights for a film in their region to protect their investment from imports from outside the region by a different company that has no rights there.

      If a film has different release dates in different regions/countries, it also protects the rights of the distributor in the country that releases the film later or last.

      I admit it's all still pretty arbitrary and possibly petty from a consumer's position, but not from the distribution company's point of view.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: Region Locks

        "So the region lock supports a company which has bought distribution rights for a film in their region to protect their investment from imports from outside the region by a different company that has no rights there."

        In other words - a cartel cornering the market. Things like that are illegal in every other industry. Why should they be allowed for media rightsholders?

        1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

          Re: Region Locks

          "Things like that are illegal in every other industry. Why should they be allowed for media rightsholders?"

          Well not quite. Weren't Tesco sued for selling Levi jeans that they legally bought in the US, then legally imported into the UK, paying all required duties and taxes? (note to our cousins Tescos is a retailer in the UK, and Levis here cost ~50x the price in the States)

          Didn't Levi say that they owned the "rights" to the mark "Levi", and that Tesco were selling things that had that mark on without permission? (IMHO not the fault of Tesco - it was Levi that put the mark on the jeans!)

          However, you'll see the words "Rights" again. The big companies have them, the rest of us can just FK off it seems.

          1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

            Re: Region Locks

            Yeah, whenever any kind of "intellectual property" is involved - expect a legalised racket there...

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Region Locks @Vladimir

          I see your point, but this is just how publishing rights have ever worked, be they for films, books magazines or music. It's been that way ever since works were re-produced and distributed locally. A publisher or distributor buys the rights from the copyright holder. Just look at how books and CDs are published by different publishers on each side of the Atlantic. The only difference is with DVDs and BluRays there is a technical way to enforce it. It may look like a cartel, but unfortunately it's enshrined in well established law.

          Until we get a completely global market with no trade barriers, common taxation and the same price, adjusted by whatever exchange rate is current, there will always have to be differentiation of the market in different regions. There may also be classification issues as well for some controversial material.

          If you do not give regional rights to distribute these things, then it means that you could only use a distribution company that was global, otherwise some regions would have no distribution at all. If that were the case, you would really find completely different prices depending on how much it cost to import the work from the producing country.

          To change it would require huge amendments to copyright legislation and world trade agreements in general. You might wish it changed, but that does not mean that it is going to happen.

          1. Bucky 2

            Re: Region Locks @Vladimir

            I see your point, but this is just how publishing rights have ever worked, be they for films, books magazines or music.

            I'm not sure I take your point.

            Region codes for movies are analogous to limiting where I can read a book. Like if I bought a paperback for a vacation, but it scrambled its pages if I took it to a beach outside my own country. We're not talking about import/export or reselling or anything commercial. We're just talking about my private enjoyment of something I thought I bought.

        3. Deltics

          Re: Region Locks

          Um, no. A company exercising their legitimate option to territorialise its rights. An option which you will find repeated almost everywhere you look. Having the right to distribute, e.g, Nikon cameras in the UK does not give you the right to start distributing them to retailers in New Zealand. Someone else will be paying Nikon for that privilege.

          Whether you think that doing so make sense for them to do so in the modern world of retail-without-borders is irrelevant and not actually material to whether it is legitimate or not. The fact that it presents an inconvenience to the consumer in the case of products where technology enables enforcement is not an unfortunate by product, simply that enforcement in action.

          If Nikon could make it so that a camera bought in the UK would not work if used by someone who should have bought it from a retailer in NZ, then they would do.

          However, the world has changed since these territorial agreements were first thought of. Not only has the retail landscape changed, but people themselves are now far more mobile than previously. The issue is not the technology for enforcing these agreements but with the agreements themselves.

          Address that, and the technical problem disappears (discs will simply ship with All Region coding, as some quite often already do).

          1. JEDIDIAH

            Re: Region Locks

            > Um, no. A company exercising their legitimate option to territorialise its rights. An

            There is nothing "legitimate" about that what so ever.

        4. admiraljkb

          Re: Region Locks

          > In other words - a cartel cornering the market. Things like that are illegal in every other industry. Why should they be allowed for media rightsholders?

          While I agree that its probably of questionable legality in view of various international treaties on trade, WHO is really going to both challenge it and have the proper legal standing in International courts? The Governments who signed the treaties but also did various local bits of legislation that allows region locks? Probably not...

      2. jzlondon

        Re: Region Locks

        If a film has different release dates in different regions/countries, it also *pretends to protect* the rights of the distributor in the country that releases the film later or last.

        There you go, fixed it for you. All these things seem to operate in a weird alternate universe where Bit Torrent doesn't exist.

      3. southen bastard

        Re: Region Locks

        What a load of shit.

        region locks are so the bastards can charge more, as much as the market will bear, which is different where ever.

        how ever pirated copies have no such problems , so ANOTHER way to encourage the pirates

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Region Locks

      Why would you even need a BluRay player these days? Just download the rip and play it on your Xbox One or other non Cinavia infected media player.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just download the rip and play it on your Xbox One

        It's for kids. Grow up.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just download the rip and play it on your Xbox One

          "It's for kids. Grow up."

          No - the Xbox One is a fully featured DNLA media centre and IP TV system. With HDMI input, hardware PiP processing, optional Digital TV tuner, etc, etc. Probably you are thinking of the Playstation 4 - which can pretty much only play games.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: you are thinking of the Playstation 4 - which can pretty much only play games.

            Based on sales, it seems that consumers want consoles to play games on (and also that they prefer 1080p).

            Presumably the XBone is for people would rather go online and post a list of irrelevant features than play games.

            Still, good to learn that you can buy an OPTIONAL digital tv tuner to make the XBone useful. (If you have a TV that doesn't have a digital tuner built in.)

            Do you work in marketing? You should.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Region Locks

        Why would you even need a BluRay player these days?

        Good question. I've never figured out why I'd need a BluRay player any day. To play BluRay disks, I suppose, but I've never felt the urge to do that. Seems like on the rare occasions that I want to watch recorded video, it's available on DVD, or on-demand from my cable provider.

    3. paulc

      Re: Region Locks

      you're lucky you can still flash your firmware... soon they may block that as being a circumvention measure...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And they wonder why we pirate?

    We buy the movie legally & they treat us like shite for having done so. Or we grab a copy from a torrent site, sans the DRM bullshit, and get it in a format that we can then play anywhere we've got the computer capacity. Tablet, Phablet, SmartPhone, laptop, ultrabook, or print it out & turn it into a damned FLIP BOOK if that's what we want.

    But the MPAA/RIAA (aka the "Mafia" for their strongarm tactics; if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and has a corkscrew penis like a duck, it'll happily fuck your corpse like the MPAA/RIAA... errrm, Duck) makes it as difficult as possible for the law abiders to get what they want, and then wonders why there's so many law avoiders out there?

    (Shouts) HERE'S A HINT! Give us what we fucking want at a fair price, and we'll stop pirating your shit instead!

    (Ok, maybe not all together, but we'll at least slow it down a bit. Maybe. If we think you're serious & not just pulling our leg.)

    1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      Re: And they wonder why we pirate?

      Fascinating insight into the mind of a serial copyright abuser, thanks.

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: And they wonder why we pirate?

        Shouty comment not-withstanding, you have to admit that it's a bit daft that if you pay money for a DVD, you have to sit through unskipable piracy warnings, whereas pirates just get to watch the film.

        When the music industry finally got of their arse, and offered a product that was comparable to the pirated copy, they suddenly started making some money again. I wonder when the film industry will have the same epiphany?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Headmaster

        Re: And they wonder why we pirate?

        > Fascinating insight into the mind of a serial copyright abuser, thanks.

        You didn't call him a thief.

        Thank heavens for small mercies.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And they wonder why we pirate?

        "Fascinating insight into the mind of a serial copyright abuser, thanks."

        You prefer to pay for movies?! What a weirdo.

      4. JEDIDIAH
        Mushroom

        Re: And they wonder why we pirate?

        > Fascinating insight into the mind of a serial copyright abuser, thanks.

        No. You're just a corporate apologist eager to strip real people of all property rights in favor of corporate overlords.

      5. RAMChYLD

        Re: And they wonder why we pirate?

        You don't live in a country where shows are not brought in because the TV stations and distributors are dickheads who love inane brain-melting crap TV shows and hate actual intellectual shows, don't you?

      6. ckm5

        Re: And they wonder why we pirate?

        You can put your head in the sand all you want, but the reality is that people will keep downloading free content until the content providers decide to sell them what they want at a fair price. This is EXACTLY what happened with music. The pirates delivered exactly what people wanted and won all the market share - at least until the music industry Apple delivered most of what people want wanted.

        The same thing needs to happen with film/video, but it likely will never because one 'rights holder' can demand 'upfronts' in exchange for agreeing to an 'internet release'. For most studios, this puts them in an impossible position of having to shell out potentially lots of $$$ without knowing what the return might be. And agreeing to one upfront would open the floodgate for every rights holder to demand the same. Because most film/video content has a LOT of rights holders (often every single performer retains non-specified/unforeseen rights to their performance), if there is even one holdout, it doesn't get released.

        What studios really should do is publish a list of people who are blocking 'internet releases'. That might actually shame people into agreeing to workable terms..... I would note that this is much, much less of an issue with post-internet content since that distribution medium is already included in the rights licensing these days.

        TL;DR - it's easy to blame the 'pirates', but the actual problem is with rights holders demanding upfront compensation. That's what is driving underground sharing.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When the content industry pulls stunts like this leading to them being battered by piracy is it any wonder the public doesn't shed the slightest tear for them ? Hello and wake up, the world is now a single market so get used to it and forget the bad old days of regional price gouging.

    Can pay but won't give in to copyright extortion.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Trollface

      Can't disagree with a single word there but....I bet you get into some real shouting matches with your brother.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @skelband , yes Andrew is the Peter Hitchens of the family.

  4. Fuzz

    hackers on bluray?

    I didn't think Hackers was available on bluray so was he actually bypassing the DVD region lock on a bluray player?

  5. Mage Silver badge

    Region Locking

    Should be illegal. The folks elsewhere in the Galaxy can buy each others video.

    I have no illegal copy DVDs. Despite in Europe Region I have had to buy some USA (inferior 480 line vs 576 line and sometimes films with gratuitous 3:2 pull down shudder) DVDs as the title isn't available anywhere else. They play on my DVD player, but not on any BD player.

  6. h 2

    Forced to view content (Adverts etc.)

    I hate the 5 mins lost when you first insert a DVD/BD. I just want to put in a disk and watch a film as with an audio CD. I don't need to know there is a new film out next spring etc, because I still watch films more than once, by the second third time the 'new' release has already long gone.

    I don't need to watch the anti piracy video etc.

    1. HMB

      Re: Forced to view content (Adverts etc.)

      I don't need to watch the anti piracy video etc.

      Clearly you do because you bought the film... wait a minute, was that a logic FAIL?

      Quick! You wouldn't steal a baby.

      1. e^iπ+1=0

        Re: Forced to view content (Adverts etc.)

        'I don't need to watch the anti piracy video etc.'

        Of course you need to watch that anti piracy video - it's supposed to help you make the right choice next time.

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Forced to view content (Adverts etc.)

      It got to the stage I stopped buying that companies DVDs, having to rip and burn a brand new DVD just to watch it was taking the piss.

      So cut out the first stage.

      Yes sales are lost due to forced adverts.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Forced to view content (Adverts etc.)

        "It got to the stage I stopped buying that companies DVDs, having to rip and burn a brand new DVD just to watch it was taking the piss."

        Like Disney DVDs. I point blank refused to buy any more after having that happen to me, and just download them now.

    3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Forced to view content (Adverts etc.)

      What amuses me is Disney FastPlay on DVDs.

      They spend 15 seconds explaining that you will be advertised to, and then play about 4-5 minutes of adverts before the move automatically starts. This is supposed to be playing faster?

      The alternative is jumping to the top menu and selecting "Play Feature". OK, it's more button presses, but a whole lot faster than the default.

      1. moiety

        Re: Forced to view content (Adverts etc.)

        I don't need to watch the anti piracy video etc.

        And let us not forget that the soundtrack for the "you wouldn't download a car" was stolen.

      2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Forced to view content (Adverts etc.)

        "The alternative is jumping to the top menu and selecting "Play Feature"."

        'That action is prohibited' <- Another good reason to rip/re-author

        1. BenR

          Re: Forced to view content (Adverts etc.)

          <quote> Sir Runcible Spoon: 'That action is prohibited' <- Another good reason to rip/re-author</quote>

          Indeed. When DVDs first came out and they didn't have the advertising bollocks, the film trailers and the anti-piracy copyright shit before the menu even popped up, they were brilliant! Hence why one of my favourite DVDs is 'Mystery Men' ("To ze Old Disco Room!") which has none of that.

          At least when they put all the trailers on VHS tapes, the fast-forward button still worked! Locking out any button-presses/menu access is deeply beyond amusing! You media-conglomerate bastards!

      3. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: Forced to view content (Adverts etc.)

        "The alternative is jumping to the top menu and selecting "Play Feature". OK, it's more button presses, but a whole lot faster than the default."

        On my Panasonic Bluray recorder, trying that just returns you right to the start, so you have to start watching the anti-piracy and adverts all over again. In fact on some DVDs where you have to use the top menu to watch the firm gets you stuck in an infinite loop. Thankfully I still have an old school DVD player, and will never buy Panasonic again.

  7. Nifty

    The content makes want to use the ancient marketing trick of price differentiation.

    The principle in theory is that if they want, they can sell to low income markets at a price that consumers in that market can accept. Especially popular with the pharmaceutical companies.

    Nice if it worked, but in fact, 'official' DVDs and CDs in say, China cost as much in the West, so blowing that justification out of the water.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_discrimination

  8. thomas k.

    "And I thought well, f*ck."

    Unfortunately, an all too common reaction to how things work in today's corporate/oligarchic world.

  9. Lamont Cranston

    Good for him.

    Appropriate choice of film, too (even if it is rubbish).

  10. MJI Silver badge

    I have returned stuff before as unplayable

    Done it with non red book CDs after 3 faulty I gave up. Non red book is a fault.

    Done it with crap filled DVDs, cannot get to the film.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: I have returned stuff before as unplayable

      I also had a few cases where I had to reauthor commercial DVDs because of stupid authoring or encoding errors made by the manufacturers - like not putting 16:9 flags in widescreen video or buggy VM code.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: I have returned stuff before as unplayable

        Yes, sometimes DVD authoring is simply abysmal. Back in the days when there were video-rental stores, I rented a DVD of (the original) The Italian Job. Turned out it was authored with the entire film as a single title with pause, rewind, and fast-forward disabled. We were three-quarters of the way through the film when we were interrupted by something, and there was no way to return and see the rest of it without watching the whole thing again.

        Which wouldn't have been so bad with that particular film, really, except that it was too late that night and I didn't get the chance before I had to return the thing.

        Then you have the terrible DVD menus that aren't accessible to color-blind users, or that don't work properly if you have limited controls. (I've run into the latter problem watching DVDs while donating fractional blood products - a process that takes 90 minutes or so and involves needles in both arms, so movement is restricted. Look, folks: for a DVD with multiple episodes of a show, when one episode ends, start playing the next one. Is that really a difficult concept?)

    2. Jay 2

      Re: I have returned stuff before as unplayable

      Me too, albeit some time ago. Just after my use of MiniDisc and before MP3 players, I had a CD walkman which would play data CDs full of MP3. However at that time is when some CDs came with DRM-type crap to try and stop you ripping. They wouldn't play on my CD player, so back they went.

      I also recall my first few DVD players were hardware modded so you could easily ignore all the warnings/ads etc.

  11. crayon

    "security vulnerabilities" ?

    I think most bluray player owners would not classify this as a security vulnerability, it's more like a bugfix.

  12. Shane Sturrock

    Discs?

    Riiiippppp

    I bought it, I own it, I rip it, I put it away and never use it again.

    1. Thomas_Kent

      Re: Discs?

      I agree. WinX DVD Ripper Platinum works wonders! I've ripped all my DVDs to my computer.

      Prefer watching vids on my computer rather than my DVD player anyway. On my computer, if I have to stop the vid, (like if I have to go somewhere) when I come back and restart the vid, my computer remembers where I was in the vid.

      The player, on the other hand, forgets and starts again from the beginning, so I have to go to the chapters section in the menu and try to get at least close to where I left off.

  13. timcroydon

    Bluray on Linux

    Still waiting for an easy and free way to play legit Bluray disks on Linux.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bluray on Linux

      "Still waiting for an easy and free way to play legit Bluray disks on Linux."

      Just use PopCornTime instead....vote with your wallet.

    2. JEDIDIAH
      Linux

      Re: Bluray on Linux

      > Still waiting for an easy and free way to play legit Bluray disks on Linux.

      That's not even a given under Windows really. BluRay is a really a user hostile format.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019