I can't believe we still have DVD region coding

Today I put in my computer a DVD from a Blackadder set, bought legally for me as a gift a few of years ago.

I happen to have plugged a European DVD into my US Mac, and you can guess what message I got from the Mac OS X Leopard DVD player. You got it: "The disc region does not match the drive region". Yeah, I can change it 4 times. Thanks, that's so generous.

This is simply insane. I had forgotten that this even existed as I don't play DVDs very often. Furthermore, in Switzerland where I am at the moment, standalone players are routinely sold region-free (although that may change with the upcoming and particularly crazy Swiss DMCA).

What is the sense of this region coding? This is the 21st century. People travel. They use the internet. The world is working hard on removing existing boundaries and I don't think it is permissible to build new, artificial barriers. Governments and industries that attempt to do that should be fought.

I understand that I am partly at fault because I am using an actual, physical DVD, a quite old media, and I should have ripped my DVDs a long time ago and be free of these issues. But I think it is still important to talk about region coding, because:
  • Most content sold today is still in region-coded DVD format, while it could be region-free.
  • Recent formats like Blu-ray support region coding as well.
  • DRM in general is pervasive for video content online (if you except P2P networks), and kind or region-coded through stores like the iTunes Store which require credit cards registered in a certain country.
DRM is going away for music now, which is a good first step. There is hope that, as broadband and video-enabled devices become even more widespread, DRM on video will vanish on its own as that will be the only option left to the industry in the face of underground P2P filesharing. Unfortunately, in the meanwhile, as has been the case with music, a lot of harm will be done. I am not sure what we can do about it, except raise the awareness of the issue by talking about it.

PS: In my particular case, there are workarounds, like using VLC to play the DVD (although VLC seems to crash quite often). My previous laptop, bought 4 years ago, was made region-free right away. However on the Mac, making the drive region-free is not as mainstream a process. I wonder what non-technical users do in this kind of situation? Change the player's zone until it is finally locked in the wrong zone?