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
    Chosen Reject (profile), 3 Aug 2012 @ 10:00am

    Re: Re:

    The text is just a part of the overall movie, and not necessarily a key part.Not only that, but the subtitles aren't even the entire script, and sometimes don't match the script if any improvisation occurs. Subtitles [usually] don't indicate who is speaking, leaving that up to visual cues, subtitles won't have much if any cues meant for actors/directors/etc such as [SHOUTS] or [SMILES], subtitles also won't have information on setting, such as who is in a scene, where it takes place, what time of day, etc. Subtitles are simply to show what is being said and describe a few other important sounds/noises/music. If the AC above thinks a movie is as easy to make from a copy of the subtitles as from a script, I'd be happy to offer him just the subtitles from a movie he's never seen and see what he can do with it.

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