US, Japan to share Blu-ray region code

Blu-ray Disc players and movies expected on sale later this year in Japan and the U.S. will share the same region code, Sony said Thursday.

Current DVD discs and players on sale in the two countries use different region codes so that software bought in one country will not work on players purchased in the other country. The system was designed to allow content producers to better manage release and sale of content around the world.

The theory is that a movie can go to DVD in the U.S. before it hits movie theaters in Japan with little impact on Japanese box-office takings because the U.S. discs won't play in Japan. In practice, the system has proved easy to hack, and multi-region players that accept software from any region are readily available and popular among consumers.

In all, there are six DVD regions but content producers and hardware makers have been discussing changes for the new Blu-ray Disc system, which is being positioned to replace DVD for high-definition content. Backers of the competing HD DVD format are waiting on a decision by the Blu-ray Disc Association with the idea of using the same region coding system to avoid confusion among consumers.

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