Region Free = Happy Me
March 1, 2004 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Advice sought for (completely legal) region-free DVD players. [Explanation inside...]

I know we've talked about region-free players before, but my situation is a bit different. We need to develop the DVD collection my library. Because of the subject matter (the Holocaust), we will be collecting films from around the world, but primarily Regions 1 (North America) and 2 (Europe). Of course, we need to have the ability to play these DVDs in the library (our collection does not circulate).

Looking at websites like and, I get the impression that all "region-free" and "region-switchable" DVD players, even the ones you buy from retailers like, have been modified in some way to make them play multi-region DVDs. Because we are a U.S. government agency and have to jump through certain hoops to acquire hardware, we must be completely aboveboard about buying our equipment. My supervisor absolutely forbids any hacks or modifications, unless I can prove somehow that modded players are--and will continue to be--completely legal.

My questions are these: is it possible to buy a region-free or region-switchable DVD player off-the-shelf from a major retailer like Best Buy or Amazon? Or should we buy a DVD player directly from Europe? If we do buy one from across the pond, what are the issues we need to be aware of (PAL vs. NTSC, voltage, etc)?

Alternately, can anyone point me to an article or fact sheet that "proves" region-free players are on the up-and-up, before we go spending your tax dollars on the gray market?

I've thought about getting a DVD-Rom drive and setting it to Region 2 before having it installed, but our current computers are not quite powerful enough for this, and there's been no talk about upgrades.

Much obliged!
posted by arco to Technology (12 answers total)
There are DVDs with software that allows for region free use. My current DVD player is the Gateway Connected DVD, which I inputed a code to unlock. I went to and ordered some DVDs not available in the states and they played fine.

If you have an OS X machine, there are a few utilities to unlock the regions before you play each DVD (I don't know if you can just set it to region 9 to play all). Just search for "region free."
posted by mathowie at 10:34 AM on March 1, 2004

Yeah, you can. This Malata is region free out of the box and is only C$75. Proof of its region free ness can be found here. As long as it was manufactured after Oct 2003 you won't have a prob. This unit was on boxing day sale for $49 so they sold out and have restocked. Essentially, any you buy from them now should be post-Oct.

Since you're in the usa, what I would do is just go to a best buy web site or wherever you prefer to shop and look at their "no-name" dvd players. Then go to the hacks site and search for them by model number and find ones that are region free out of the box. That's how I found this one.
posted by dobbs at 10:40 AM on March 1, 2004

Oh, notice that the first hack in the second link requires you punch in codes. That is the pre-october units, to my knowledge. Scroll further down for verification that it's region free out of the box.

Also, I don't know how your boss feels about this, but you can buy a great many DVDs in Region 0 code. Most of these are coming out of Asia. i've bought a number of them and they all seem rather legit to me (high quality packaging/excellent transfers/menus, etc.) This is useful for titles that aren't out in other regions.
posted by dobbs at 10:45 AM on March 1, 2004

No "region-free" player will be legal in America unless it costs 5x the cost of a normal player. Sorry, the DMCA has you, etc, etc.

If you are just looking for a plausible deniability excuse, a player pre-hacked from another country, which doesn't advertise it as being hacked, might be an option.

But, legally, consumer DVD players are only licensed for single region mode, AFAIK.

There are probably expensive "professional" DVD players where the extra licensing fees are pre-paid that can do all regions, but I would personally just buy 5 separate DVD players, one for each region, if I cared about the DMCA (I don't).
posted by shepd at 12:34 PM on March 1, 2004

HKFlix sells many (apparently unmodified and above-board) region-free DVD players, including several from Malata.

I've bought movies from them in the past and they've been good about responding to email inquiries, so I suggest you ask them--they should be relatively well-informed about the issue of region-free DVD players and their legality in the US.
posted by hashashin at 6:27 PM on March 1, 2004

Couldn't you contact a donor and have them donate some region-free ones as a gift? It's very valuable in presenting the collection, and would circumvent you purchasing them, no?
posted by amberglow at 7:01 PM on March 1, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, everyone! I'll definitely be investigating the Malata players.

Cost is not really an issue--well, we don't want to spend too much, but we do want to get something legit and of good quality. I'll run these suggestions by my boss and see what he says. As long as it doesn't involve physically modifying the machine (i.e. adding a chip), I think my boss might go for it. The DMCA might be an issue, though, but I don't think anybody would ever say anything to us about it.

Again, thanks, and if you're ever in DC and want to spend a delightful afternoon learning about genocide, let me know!
posted by arco at 7:48 PM on March 1, 2004

Entirely off topic, I thought it wasn't called "The Holocaust" anymore, as that implies a voluntary sacrifice, but rather some Hebrew word that means "disaster"?
posted by signal at 8:03 AM on March 2, 2004

Response by poster: signal, you mean "Shoah" or ("Sho'ah"). A discussion of how we came to use the word "Holocaust" (with a capital "H") in this context can be found on our FAQ page. There is some semantic discussion among scholars around what word(s) to use to describe the event ("Final Solution," "Sho'ah," "Holocaust" etc), though there are plenty of other, more pressing concerns in the study of the Holocaust for it to have a serious effect on the generally-accepted terminology. Most historians accept both "Shoah" and "Holocaust," depending on context.

And regarding DVD players, it appears as though you can buy (modified) multi-region players from Amazon UK, but they don't deliver outside the UK and Ireland.
posted by arco at 8:38 AM on March 2, 2004

Arco, I ordered one of the Malata ones I linked to. Should arrive soon and I have a non-region 1 disc coming in a week or so as well. Once I've tested it, if you'd like me to get you one and ship it from Canada to the USA, I have no problem with that. Just send me an email if you're interested.
posted by dobbs at 9:22 AM on March 2, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, dobbs! I'll keep your offer in mind.
posted by arco at 9:36 AM on March 2, 2004

Arco, I got the unit but no disc to test yet. However, with the remote, you hit set up and it allows you to chose geographical location and switch between ntsc/pal/multi-system. It's built right into the menu system and isn't a hack at all. Overall, I'm very happy with it.
posted by dobbs at 9:11 AM on March 4, 2004

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