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Tesco slams ‘unnecessary’ DVD zoning

Offers 'easily hackable' multi-region player

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UK grocer Tesco has launched a one-company war against DVD 'zoning' -- the fixing of DVD players and discs to operate only within specific world markets. In a letter to the president of Warner Home Video, Warren Liebefarb, Tesco world sourcing director Christine Cross dismissed zoning as an "unnecessary practice". She described the regulations as being "against the spirit of free competition and potentially a barrier to trade". Cross' complaint is unlikely to carry much weight with the major movie distributors, including Warner, since they were the very organisations that forced through zoning in the first place by refusing to support the format unless hardware vendors built such a facility into their players. However, the supermarket giant will probably have more luck with its own entry into the DVD market. During a recent sales trial of a DVD player from Cambridge vendor Wharfedale International in three of its stores, Tesco discovered that after a bit of tampering, the machines could be made to play discs from other regions. Even by Wharfedale's own admission, the DEV-750, priced at £179.99, is "easily hackable". "It was not our intention as a manufacturer, but with a few physical adjustments to the machine, it can be made to play discs from Region One," a company representative said. Region One is North America. Under normal circumstances, European and Japanese players, designated Region Two units, will not play US discs -- a shame, since DVDs are cheaper in the US and far more movies have been released in the format over the Atlantic. The culprit is the LSI Logic chip used in the player -- a component used by many manufacturers. Other players, including machines from Samsung, are known to be easily converted to 'Region Zero' -- aka worldwide access -- or to circumvent the zone check altogether, by simply pressing a handful of buttons on the remote control. DVD fans have worked out many ways of converting players for multi-zone playback -- the DVD equivalent of overclocking -- but these usually involved modifications to a player's motherboard. A Tesco spokesman told The Register: "Demand has been massive. We've sold thousands of them since they went on sale on Thursday." In regard to the letter to Hollywood, he added: "We hope that Warner Home Video will decide to end the practice. But our priority now is to keep up with demand for the machines." ® Wharfedale was not permitted to reveal the 'de-zoning' secret of its Wharfedale DVDS-750. The Register would welcome any contributions from readers. Related stories DVD industry is "screwing customers" -- Torvalds DeCCS temporarily banned from the Net

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