More wired than a Roman Internet café
It happens to a lot of North Americans. We visit the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece, buy a DVD, and return home, pop it in the player for the ancient Greek class on Culture Friday and get an error message. Or, we purchase a hard-to-find Classics-themed DVD on-line from Europe and receive it only to discover that while the Region 2 DVD plays through our computers, it does not play in our Region 1 DVD player hooked up to telly. You've bought the DVD from a legitimate source for forty euros and now what? Don't panic. There's plenty of technology out there that can save you as long as you use it only for times like these.
The one place you need to visit to rescue your DVDs is somewhat spookily called doom9.net. Don't worry -- there are no racy adverts, no abundance of black, and no Jolly Rogers. What you do get is a peerless resource of DVD freeware and shareware, plus instructions, on anything from backing up your DVD collection to changing DVD Regions.
For those who don't know, DVDs are copy-protected, and Regions are a form of copy protection. Disks are encrypted to only be able to be played in Regions where they are purchased. For example, Region 1 is North America, Region 2 is Europe (along with other countries like South Africa), Region 4 is a mix of Mexico and Kiwis (I know this because I had to use these tools to transfer data from a New Zealand DVD on Cicero's Pro Archia to Region 1 DVDs for my company), etc.
Anyway, the program that I've found to be best suited to the task at hand is called DVD Shrink and you can download it by clicking here. DVD Shrink is free (and is also devoid of spyware, adware, malware, and viruses), vetted by thousands of users, and is incredibly simple to use. Once you have downloaded and installed DVD Shrink on your PC (sorry Mac users) with DVD-ROM drive, place the DVD you need to "deregionalize" in the drive and DVD Shrink will auto-launch. Press the friendly, big, square button to begin the ripping process -- the fillum and its menus and audio (and everything else) will be extracted to your PC. When finished, you will be prompted to put in a DVD-R (or DVD-R/W). Once that is done, you will be asked a few questions, one of which pertains to the region you would like to encode onto the new DVD. NOTE: Choosing "all regions" will not necessarily work. I tried this and the resulting DVD worked in both PC and Mac and on a portable DVD player, but not on my Toshiba Region 1 DVD player. You may opt for the sure thing and burn the DVD for your own region. The entire process takes about 30 minutes (depending on how fast your DVD drive is), and the result is a lossless copy of your DVD (no degradation in quality).
Please, please, please use this power for Good, and only for those DVDs that you have purchased in one region that do not work on your DVD player either at home or at school.*Thanks to James Starritt for his recommendations on the above procedures.