I decided to do a little more research into how I might be able to turn my iBook’s DVD player into a region free DVD player. Then on an impulse, I implemented what I learned – and it worked!
So in case I forget what I did, I’m going to write down the steps involved in this.
I’m not usually one for disclaimers, but I must add is that this is what worked for me, with my G3 iBook that’s two years old. These directions are not intended to be followed by anyone else! Do not do anything in this area unless you’ve done extensive research of your own and really think you know what you’re doing.
The trick is that it was a two step process. The first step was changing my DVD’s firmware from RPC-2 (region locked) to RPC-1 (region free). If I had ignored or botched this step, which is the more obscure and techy, I would have made a huge mess of things.
To begin with, I needed to find out more information about the hardware of my DVD player. In Mac OS X (I’m running on Panther), I went to Applications in the Finder, then opened the Utilities. In there is the System Profilier. Once I opened that application, I chose ATA on the left hand. Then on the upper right hand pane, I selected my DVD-ROM drive, so that I could see the full information on the lower right hand pane. I wrote it all down: TOSHIBA DVD-ROM SD-R2002 1B29
Then I rebooted in Mac OS 9.2 (Go to the Systems Preferences, choose Startup Disk and select the older operating system)
Once that was done, I got onto the web and went to the Mac DVD Resource – where I got most of my information from. I chose the Downloads section – currently linked to on the navigation bar at the top. Then selected Firmware Patches. I then looked up my particular DVD drive by manufacturer. So I saw that the patch for my drive was the XB29. I downloaded it. This particular firmware patch was in the table of Mac OS 9 firmware patches, which is why I was using Mac OS 9 – doing it in Classic mode is not good enough.
I then installed XB29 patch, of course reading the instructions first. My iBook automatically rebooted.
It was now time for the second step, using the Region software utility to reset my region change counter. I chose this software because it was for OS 9.2 and was mentioned as the one to use in the XB29 instructions. This software can downloaded in the Software Region Utilities section of the same site I was using.
This step was relatively straight-forward. I installed the software and launched it, making sure that my region change counter was back to zero.
Then I tested it out by playing Rabbit-Proof Fence. This was the region 4 version, which had been a birthday present from family in Australia – one that I’d only been able to watch once because of the stupid region change counter. It played fine. Then I tried my Björk Live in Cambridge DVD which was region 1. Again, it played fine. It didn’t even ask if I wanted to switch regions.
I also tested this in OS X. This time I did get the region change dialogue box for Rabbit-Proof Fence. But my number of region switches had been reset to 5, and I knew that if I ran out of changes, I could always use Region again!
So it seems to have worked out for me. I decided to change my iBook rather than muck about with region-free DVD players in Australia because the iBook will play PAL and NTSC DVDs without any additional hassles or workarounds.
This is one of those grey legal areas. It could be illegal under the DMCA, but I think that anyone who challenged being sued for this would have a good chance of being vindicated in the Courts. I think that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) know this, which is why they haven’t sued anybody for this particular type of circumvention. It’s nicer for them to have this activity in a grey legal area, rather than taking the risk of suing and having a Court find that non-infringing circumvention of this nature is quite legal. From my brief research, I’m confident that my actions would be quite legal in Australia.
Morally speaking, I feel very good about this. There is no issue of theft here (unless DVD Regioning counts as theft from DVD consumers), only of setting my computer so that it will play what I’ve bought. Because I’ve made this change, I’m likely to buy more DVDs.