Free Subtitles = Two Years In Jail?

from the but-why? dept

This one was submitted last week, and a few other sites had stories about it late last week or over the weekend, but the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it became. It's the story of a group of folks in Poland getting arrested after having their homes raided for creating free translation subtitles for various movies. Not only is this considered copyright infringement in Poland, but it could net the pro bono translators two years in jail. This raises the question that no one seems willing to answer: under what logical basis could you possibly see this as a crime worth two years in jail? The most interesting part is that the guy who runs the site that distributes these subtitles claims that official translators often use the unofficial translations from the site. In other words, they're helping the industry in many cases -- and now police time (both German and Polish police) was wasted for no good reason, followed up by eventual court time and resources wasted. Aren't there more important things for German and Polish police to be taking care of these days? More importantly, though, what does it say about copyright law in Poland that creating an unofficial translation of a movie is considered a crime punishable by two years in jail?
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  1. identicon
    JJ, 21 May 2007 @ 1:29am

    I think it is stupid that someone actually pressed charges. The author of the works should have the right for their works not to be reproduced and distributed without their consent. 2 years in jail is way to harsh of a punishment for a first offense of this nature. I would say that a fine/warning would be more appropriate.

    These are probably the concerns:

    1. Someone could just read the transcripts like a book and not watch the movie.

    2. Another issue is that there may be words or terms that get changed for that country due to political correctness. The movie may not authorize those specific subtitles as they might offend people due to a bad translation.

    3. These translations are targeted to the pirated video download market. It helps make it easier for people to download movies illegally when they can understand what is going on. When the movies come out in Poland, they will have the appropriate subtitles.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    HistoricalDude, 21 May 2007 @ 1:57am

    Soviet Era Prison Time for Bablefish

    Well, after discussing this with Polish friends, it seems it was implemented during Communist times. The Soviets were worried by people subtitling US movies, which would allow ordinary Polish people access to uncontrolled view of western media. By preventing translation of those movies, they prevented ordinary people watching them.

    Surprising parallels here between Communism and *AAism.

    As for JJ's comments above:
    1. I don't see how people would find reading subtitles a substitute for the movie. It's not plausible.

    2. I don't think political correctness should have a criminal penalty. That's insane.

    3. If person X copies a movie it's THEIR copyright infringement. Why should this other person, PERSON Y, face jail time just because person X finds it easier to copy the movie?

    What next, prison time for Bablefish?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Don, 21 May 2007 @ 2:40am

    Ultimately futile

    This is ridiculous for several reasons. For starters, most of these effort are being forced by content/copyright holders who have managed to create a system that deprives most actual content/copyright creators of the advantages that copyrights and patents were intended to provide and creates little more than a form of welfare for corporate stockholders (stocks having become little more than a corporate welfare system themselves in most cases).

    The problem here is the more they tighten copyright and IP protections to benefit a small class of individuals (mostly corporations), the more the general population is going to simply ignore even the historical "legitimate" use of copyright. This has, in fact, already started to happen. I know quite a few people who used to be hardcore supporters of copyright stop caring about it altogether the more organizations/companies like the RIAA and Disney tighten their restrictions. This only really hurts the people copyright was actually designed to help.

    In the end it doesn't really matter what they make "legal" or "illegal", society as a rule will merely ignore what they consider to be bad laws and regulations. And if the industry and governments think they can eventually enforce acceptance of these rules permanently, I suggest they go pick up some history books and read how successful other cultures/societies have been in the long run.

    I particularly recommend some reading of Colonial America in the 1700's. Oh, sure the British were able to enforce their dictates and "laws" for a couple of decades, but in the end the backlash was simply too much. The same will eventually happen here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Wolfger, 21 May 2007 @ 5:15am

    at least its not my country with the stupid law... this time....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2007 @ 5:33am

    people waste time and effort to bring outside info to Poland people, so that that won't be ignorant . but Poland choose to be ignorant .

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    RandomThoughts, 21 May 2007 @ 5:58am

    But Poland choose to be ignorant?

    Everone here so PC that not even one Polock joke comes out?

    See, the RIAA and MPAA don't seem all that bad now do they?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Matt Bennett, 21 May 2007 @ 6:14am

    Isn't it normal to say "close captioning paid for by ______" I.e., subtitles (or CC, same difference) are a service worth actually paying for? SO who cares if someone does it for you for free?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Buzz, 21 May 2007 @ 6:40am

    That is messed up.

    It's starting to feel much like the olden days where one could be arrested for merely speaking blasphemies. These truly are the days of the Information Revolution. Ridiculous 'dictators' try to control how we perceive their creative output. If a movie is too explicit, that's too bad; no one is allowed to edit it because "it's not how the director wanted it to be seen". Screw the fact that editing it would bring it to another audience that wouldn't see it otherwise. This subtitle gig is the same thing. If someone's idea wasn't the dictator's idea first (despite the idea being a good one) then that someone is immediately arrested and/or sued.

    I'm going to go start my own country. Who wants to come with me?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Tarky7, 21 May 2007 @ 8:56am

    Enough is Enough !

    The influence of the RIAA and the MPAA is getting increasingly ridiculous. Next stop, Thought Police !

    Oh, wait a minute...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Allan (profile), 21 May 2007 @ 9:26am

    way different

    editing a movie to remove content that was included by the creator is a very different thing than translating the audio into subtitles...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Rob, 21 May 2007 @ 11:03am

    Oh man, this hurts the deaf! How the heck can a deaf person watch a show without subtitling/captions? Slap judges for discriminating against the deaf.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2007 @ 9:03pm

    World of Crazies

    What's this world coming to? Why are we retrogressing instead of moving forward? Someone actually takes the time to do a little pro bono work so that others can have wider access to good programming from foreign lands, which will no doubt expand their horizons and teach them many new things they did not know earlier, and the translators get slapped down for it? The really sad part is, I can only see utterly moronic behaviour like this increasing the world over...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    me, 21 May 2007 @ 9:32pm


    Here's you answer:


    Americaaaaa, fuck yeeaaahh!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    entr0py, 22 May 2007 @ 1:42am

    I've come here for an argument

    I do agree that 2 years is crazy. . . not that they've been sentenced or anything, the authorities still have a chance to give them a warning or slap on the wrist.

    But, when you think about it, subtitling a film is a vital step in pirating movies made in a foreign language. Obviously no one is going to attempt to watch a movie in a language they don't know unless it has subtitles. . . with the exception of porn. And why would a studio go to the expense of making a legitimate localization when the audience there has already seen a much cheaper pirated copy several months ago? I know at first it seems like a victimless crime, but imagine how much copyright holders could make in Poland if their attempts weren't sabotaged from the get go. That money ultimately would go into the production of more movies, which if you can follow my reaganesque logic, will trickle down to the poor families of under payed theater cleaners and video store employees. Thus moistening their miserable existence with droplets of hope.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch some fan-subbed anime.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    JMB, 22 May 2007 @ 8:35am

    From the article:

    Aren't there more important things for German and Polish police to be taking care of these days?

    Yes, the German police are busy arresting and imprisoning those who doubt the official/approved version of the so-called "holocaust". Look up Germar Rudolf and Ernst Zundel. The "Thought Police" are alive and well and living in many European countries and are eager to arrive in the US. Being imprisoned and fined for thought crimes is now happening in many countries.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    dame_magdusia, 24 May 2007 @ 4:20am

    Hi! I`m from Poland. Can you see in how country I must live.:/
    My only hope is escape.:( I`m dreaming about study at university in USA. My only problem is english;) because in Poland isn`t appropriate books to studies english. Here is terrible.:( Help me
    I`m shame on `my` country.

    ...and this is really crazyyyyy. Miserable youths. They`re 20-30 years old. And Attack carry out at 6.00am.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    peter, 1 Jun 2007 @ 4:57pm


    You don't have to live in Poland Magdusia.
    Poland is EU member now. You can go anyplace you want.
    So stop complaining at your country. If you don't like it - change it but remember: fatherland is only one!
    I'm shame on YOU for this topic! And other Poles should be as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2008 @ 2:29am


    suk ya mom

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    kirsty luvin nigel n dan xxx, 18 Jun 2008 @ 2:32am

    Re: Re:

    hu gives a shit its nt anyone elses problemo...
    suck ya mom

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Inaki, 29 Apr 2010 @ 5:47am


    For your first reason, it could also be banned to tell someone about the movie or its contents. After all, they might end up not going to the cinema if they get a picture of the storyline from my speech. Much more so if I tell them it's a bad movie. Let's ban negative critics too!

    The second reason doesn't stand either. If some Polish dude writes a subtitle saying "Hitler was a great guy" where the movie doesn't even say it, the viewer might get mad at the Polish dude, not at the producers of the movie, right?

    The third reason is a fallacy of negative consequences. Selling knifes also helps people stab each other, and they are not banned, AFAIK.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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