Blu-ray Disc players and movies expected on sale later this year in Japan and the US will share the same region code, according to a report in a Japanese newspaper.

Current DVD discs and players on sale in the two countries use different region codes so that software bought in one country will not work on players purchased in the other. The system was designed to allow content producers to better manage release and sale of content around the world.

The theory is that a movie can go to DVD in the US before it hits cinemas in Japan with little impact on Japanese box-office takings because the US discs won't play in Japan. In practice, the system has proved easy to hack, and multi-region players that accept software from any region are readily available and popular among consumers.

In all, there are six DVD regions but content producers and hardware makers have been discussing changes for the new Blu-ray Disc system, which is being positioned to replace DVD for HD (high-definition) content. Backers of the competing HD-DVD format are waiting on a decision by the Blu-ray Disc Association with the idea of using the same region coding system to avoid confusion among consumers.

The Japanese report, in the the evening edition of today's Nihon Keizai Shimbun business newspaper, was not confirmed by Sony. A spokesman for the company in Tokyo said that any comment on the report would have to come from the Blu-ray Disc Association in the US.