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I am using Linux (I have not tried the following on Windows).

I live in Europe. I have a zone 1 DVD that I can read with VLC and a DVD reader connected to the SATA port of an old computer. Problem: when the DVD reader is used outside this computer (using a SATA/USB converter) it is no more able to read the zone 1 DVD! I have been able to check this with another DVD reader, same result: it reads the DVD when connected to the SATA port, but not when used externally.

Here is what VLC writes on standard output:

libdvdnav: Using dvdnav version 5.0.3
libdvdnav: DVD Title: IDIOCRACY_SIDEA
libdvdnav: DVD Serial Number: 3554980E
libdvdnav: DVD Title (Alternative): IDIOCRACY_SIDEA
libdvdnav: DVD disk reports itself with Region mask 0x00fe0000. Regions: 1

libdvdread: Attempting to retrieve all CSS keys
libdvdread: This can take a _long_ time, please be patient

libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VIDEO_TS.VOB at 0x00000130
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VTS_01_1.VOB at 0x000004cd
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VTS_02_1.VOB at 0x000005a4
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VTS_03_1.VOB at 0x000011c8
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VTS_04_1.VOB at 0x0000fd1f
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VTS_05_0.VOB at 0x000228bc
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VTS_05_1.VOB at 0x0002e604
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VTS_06_1.VOB at 0x00211ea2
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Found 6 VTS's
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdnav: Suspected RCE Region Protection!!!
libdvdnav: Suspected RCE Region Protection!!!
libdvdnav: Suspected RCE Region Protection!!!

When one of the DVD readers is used externally VLC stops here; when used internally with the SATA port, it starts reading the DVD without problem. But in both cases the standard output is the same as above.

Any idea to explain this behavior? Why does it work better when the DVD is connected internally? I believed that the "regionalization stuff" was encoded in the DVD reader itself?

Thanks in advance,

Julien

Edit:

More details. In fact I have found another zone 1 DVD in my collection: "TAKEN". It is read without problem by an old external DVD region-free reader (in a USB external box):

$ sudo regionset /dev/sr1
regionset version 0.1 -- reads/sets region code on DVD drives
Current Region Code settings:
RPC Phase: II
type: NONE
vendor resets available: 4
user controlled changes resets available: 5
drive plays discs from region(s):, mask=0xFF
Would you like to change the region setting of your drive? [y/n]:n

When reading the DVD, VLC writes:

libdvdnav: Using dvdnav version 5.0.3
libdvdnav: DVD Title: TAKEN
libdvdnav: DVD Serial Number: 2ef5a0a4
libdvdnav: DVD Title (Alternative): 
libdvdnav: DVD disk reports itself with Region mask 0x00f60000. Regions: 1 4

whereas my DVD that cannot be read in my original post ("IDIOCRACY_SIDEA") is region 1, not "1 4" as Taken above:

libdvdnav: Using dvdnav version 5.0.3
libdvdnav: DVD Title: IDIOCRACY_SIDEA
libdvdnav: DVD Serial Number: 3554980E
libdvdnav: DVD Title (Alternative): IDIOCRACY_SIDEA
libdvdnav: DVD disk reports itself with Region mask 0x00fe0000. Regions: 1

Is this expected that the region-free DVD reader is able to read "region 1 4", but not a "region 1" DVD? I remark that a "zone 2 DVD" chosen at random in my collection yields the following VLC output:

libdvdnav: Using dvdnav version 5.0.3
libdvdnav: DVD Title: OBLIVION
libdvdnav: DVD Serial Number: 42c77106
libdvdnav: DVD Title (Alternative): G7_R1
libdvdnav: DVD disk reports itself with Region mask 0x00f50000. Regions: 2 4

So it is not really a "region 2" DVD, but "region 2 4"; VLC reads it without problem in any of my DVD readers.

What is surprising is that any of my two region-free DVD reader becomes able to read "IDIOCRACY_SIDEA" without problem once directly connected to the SATA port of the mother board of an old computer (see my original post).

N.B.: Another DVD reader (a third) being "zone 2" is unable to read both "TAKEN" and "IDIOCRACY_SIDEA" (without surprise):

$ sudo regionset /dev/sr0
regionset version 0.1 -- reads/sets region code on DVD drives
Current Region Code settings:
RPC Phase: II
type: SET
vendor resets available: 4
user controlled changes resets available: 4
drive plays discs from region(s): 2, mask=0xFD
Would you like to change the region setting of your drive? [y/n]:n
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In the beginning, the first computer DVD drives were so-called "RPC I" drives, which would let the CPU deal with large parts of the "regionalization stuff". This turned out to be easy to circumvent, so for quite a while any computer DVD drives on the market have all been "RPC II" drives, which will indeed handle the "regionalization stuff" internally.

But even a "RPC II" drive still needs to be asked to do that, and apparently your SATA/USB converter fails to pass through the necessary commmands for that.

Also, it's not just about regionalization: the original intent of the DRM scheme on the DVDs was to make it impractical to use the multimedia data on DVDs by anything other than authorized player software, to stop/discourage easy copying of the digital data. Or at the very least, force the copiers to use methods that would cause detectable loss of quality.

So the lack of support of the regionalization-related commands in the converter may very well be part of the DRM scheme: hardware manufacturers are supposed to implement those only if appropriately licensed and under the conditions specified by those licenses, under threat of getting sued on patent violations and/or for manufacturing a "DRM circumvention device".

libdvdnav: Suspected RCE Region Protection!!!

This indicates the libdvdnav is detecting that the disc itself might be using an "enhanced" form of region protection. Basically, the disc includes some code that is run in a VM within the player, and that code may also query which region(s) the drive will support. If it gets an answer that indicates more than one region, or that the drive's region code is unset, it will refuse to play the rest of the content. Not all discs have this "enhanced" region protection.

$ sudo regionset /dev/sr1
regionset version 0.1 -- reads/sets region code on DVD drives
Current Region Code settings:
RPC Phase: II
type: NONE
vendor resets available: 4
user controlled changes resets available: 5
drive plays discs from region(s):, mask=0xFF

This output indicates the drive is of the "RPC II" type as I mentioned earlier, but it looks like its region setting has never been actually set to any value. This might mean that the drive's region-freeness could be implemented with so-called "auto-reset" firmware, which will conveniently forget any region settings (and the fact that such settings may have been made previously) whenever power is removed, and/or when the drive tray is opened.

If that's true, then you might want to try using "regionset" to set the drive to region 1 and then play the problem disc. If the setting persists, and the "user controlled changes resets available" counter decrements and stays decremented, the drive might not be really region-free after all. But if the disc plays, and then the drive forgets the setting after the disc is removed/the drive is unpowered, then that might be just what you'll need to do with RCE discs.

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  • Thanks @telcoM for your answer. What is surprising is that I have no problem to read any DRM-protected zone 2 DVD in any configuration I can make with my hardware. Only regionalization is a problem. Does it mean that contrary to my SATA/USB controller, the mother board of the old computer does what it must be done for regionalization? Another question: when buying some hardware (e.g. a SATA/USB converter as mine), there is no way to know whether "regionalization commands" are handled correctly or not? Sep 4 '20 at 18:42
  • 1
    If the DVD drive appears as e.g. /dev/sr0, please run regionset /dev/sr0 with a DVD in drive and see what it reports when connected through the SATA/USB converter. If the command asks "Would you like to change the region setting of your drive", answer "N". If possible, compare the results to what you get when the drive is directly connected over SATA. Please edit your original question to add this information.
    – telcoM
    Sep 6 '20 at 11:09
  • Unfortunately I have traveled today and cannot access the SATA DVD reader anymore (at least for the time being). However I have some new information. I am going to reply to my post below. Sep 6 '20 at 18:39
  • Thanks @telcoM. I have edited my original post and deleted my answer. Sep 7 '20 at 20:30
  • I will not use regionset on my "unset" external DVD reader, because as you indicate if it is not reversible then it will no more be able to read a disk of another zone even without RCE protection (e.g. TAKEN in my original post --- by the way I have indeed checked that the sentence "Suspected RCE Region Protection!!!" is not displayed by libdvdnav when trying to read TAKEN with a "zone 2" DVD reader unable to read it --- so indeed "IDIOCRACY_SIDEA" has something special); I have already made this error for another DVD reader, so I will keep this one "virgin". Sep 7 '20 at 20:40

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