Netflix To Try Crowdsourcing Subtitles; Will It Get Sued For Infringement?

from the rock-and-a-copyright-law dept

Before getting into the details of this new story, let me bring up a pair of recent Techdirt stories as background. First, there's the story of Netflix being told that not having closed captioning on its streaming movies means it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. As we noted at the time, this raised interesting copyright questions, considering that Netflix may not be legally allowed to put captions on videos. A few days before that, we had written about a student who ran a site that provided crowdsourced downloadable subtitle files for TV and movies, and had been found guilty of copyright infringement.

Knowing both those things, isn't it interesting that Netflix is now experimenting with crowdsourcing captioning/subtitles for films and TV shows? Perhaps it figures that having lost that first legal fight, it should lean in the other direction and see if it gets sued there as well. Either way, it seems like it opens up some pretty serious copyright questions. While some of us think that providing captions/subtitles should be pretty clear fair use, others (obviously) disagree. And, when it's an operation like Netflix -- which is obviously a commercial entity -- you have to wonder if it's going to get sued...

Filed Under: copyright, crowdsourcing, subtitles
Companies: netflix


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  1. icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), 3 Aug 2012 @ 6:45am

    Damned if you, Damned if you don't

    This is a great example of how the people that make/rule on/enforce the laws of this country have no clue as to the true meaning of the law of unintended consequences.

    I'll provide the most apropos explanation just for reference:

    "A negative, unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy"


    Copyright law may make it is illegal to follow the requirements of the ADA. Left hand, right hand, Anyone?

    IMHO If the ADA does require it then that should automatically make it fair use. Or in the case of the student the benefit out weighs the detrimental effect that the copyright holder might (huge might) experience.

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