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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2012 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re:

    The ADA ruling isn't binding to Netflix. The ADA ruling wouldn't suddenly give Nexflix "fair use". The benefit to the public isn't as large as that, and at any rate is for the studios to fix, not a distributor.

    "The text is just a part of the overall movie, and not necessarily a key part."

    You are suggesting that what the characters say in the movie isn't a key part of the movie? Wow.

    "Putting the subtitles on it will not harm the market for the movie itself "

    Not directly, but it usurps the right holder's position to do this work and provide this with their product.

    I would say that you would be LUCKY to get 2 out of 4 factors here, especially considering the ADA decision is not directed at Netflix or any other retail seller / lender of movies. It's a poor justification for "fair use".

    Now, on the other side, if Netflix has subtitles but other sellers / lenders do not, have they gained a commercial benefit from this action? That might actually hurt the market, making it harder for others to sell or lend their copies, and perhaps causing a decrease in sales.

    So yeah, I can see commercial harm possible here.

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