DVD player [photo: Henrik Hemrin]

DVD records replaced e.g. the analog VHS cassettes, for renting and buying movies. DVD, as being digital, made it possible to include a digital lock on the DVDs. A regional lock was included in many or most of pre-recorded DVDs. It was as far as I know an economical thing for the lock – it should stop customers (and other import channels) to buy the DVD from a country (region) where the prize level was different to the prize level the home country.

The DVD player you bought was (and I believe same when you buy today) coded for one specific region. DVDs from other regions didn't work to play. However, it was often possible to clear this code from the player, making it possible to play DVDs from any region. I recall when I bought my player, it was possible in the store to get a paper instruction for the specific player I bought how to clear the regional bar, quite a simple process. Also DVD players/burners for computers have a regional bar, and can be changed perhaps five times.
Today, DVDs are less frequently used. But watching movies via any sort of play function over internet is becoming more and more common.

Some movies (and other programs, radio stations and more) are open, but many are limited to a country. Again it is, to my opinion, because of financial reasons. The provider may only have license for certain country, or want to keep different prizes in different countries. Or maybe, it can also be to launch a new movie at different times in different countries.

I use a Virtual Private Network, VPN. I use it to improve my privacy and security in my online activities. I use it for all my devices: PC, tablet and phone. When I use VPN, I create “a virtual private tunnel”; the traffic is routed via a server owned by the VPN company. I can choose a VPN server from multiple places and countries. The outer world will only see this server and not my own device. If I choose a VPN server located in another country, the outer world will believe I am in that country. By the way, this a fast and environmental friendly way of travel!

This opens up another way of using VPN: to access media restricted to that country. You bypass the country lock with VPN! In a similar way as you can bypass the region block on DVD records.
Disclaimer: I do not discuss whether it is good or bad it is possible to bypass those restrictions, nor that I encourage to do it. I only discuss the technical matters in this article.

But I indeed recommend VPN of privacy and security reasons. Be careful when you select VPN provider - generally do not choose a free one, choose one you pay for. It is important to trust or know the provider does not monitor or log your traffic. 

Some media providers knows the addresses to those VPN servers and therefore block traffic via them. So it is not always this way of bypassing works technically.

Finally, my VPN provider has servers in Hong Kong. But they do not have in mainland China. So I can route my traffic via Hong Kong, but not via China. An observation in those days when there are massive protests in Hong Kong regarding the extradition bill that the Hong Kong parliament plans to legislate. Which is feared to open for extraditions to China, and one further step for Hong Kong to loose the democracy and human rights it still has and Hong Kong becoming as any China city. And VPN services are becoming more and more forbidden in mainland China. 

Henrik Hemrin

14 June 2019

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