January 2007

Fundamental rule of business number one:

Make it easy for your consumer to give you money.

As a consumer my approach to DRM is based on this rule number one of business:

As long as you make it easy for me to purchase and consume media in any way I wish I don’t really care that much about DRM. OK - I do care but not enough to do anything about it. Make it easy for me to purchase and consume and I will give you money. It’ll be a guaranteed annuity stream for you as I will continue to give you money. And. Quite a lot of it actually.

So why all the stress? At the moment I am continuing to binge watch. Right at the moment it’s The Shield and Grey’s Anatomy. The thing is, not all DVD sets are available in the UK. For Series 3 & 4 of The Shield I needed to get Region 1 NTSC sets. Similarly, I will need to get Series 2 of Grey’s Anatomy in the same way (although interestingly it does seem to be on sale in France).

Now, when I rip The Region 1 The Shied in my MacBook I need to change the region from 2 to 1. I am only allowed to this this a limited number of times. To ensure the drive does not get locked (and to keep a buffer of allowed changes for safety) I can’t do this again. No problem, right - DVD players can be flashed or hacked to be multi-region, a pain but no problem. Except the MacBooks have Matsushita drives which cannot be flashed and remain RPC-2 (locked to a specific region) whatever you do with them. Completely locked-down.

Right - so now this gets difficult. There is a utility for Apple called RegionX which will reset the region changes counter but only for the OS not for the DVD drive (which in this case has its own region counter) and will only work if the attached drive is RPC-1 (region free). So what I think I need to do is this:

  • Get an external DVD drive for the MacBook
  • Check that I can flash the firmware to be RPC-1 (if I need to)
  • If I play a Region 1 DVD in this drive without flashing the firmware will OS X recognise this as trying to change the Region of the OS?
  • If I need to flash it find the utlility that will do this for me.
  • Find the RPC-1 firmware for the drive.
  • Use it and cross my fingers

But I am not so sure - I have not yet found reliable information about how OS X responds to an external drive in a different region setting.

Why do they make it so hard for me to give them my money.

And the irony here is that I am not the only one facing these issues - it would seem that some people just give up and buy Region free pirated copies of the material they want to watch. Or maybe this is a new twist on Catch-22.