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 @ 6:30pm

    Can we say overreach?

    The ADA should trump copyright, hands down. Actually, it already does in many places.

    I previously worked in a college office that converted books and articles for blind & dyslexic students. The ADA and various federal statutes mandate the conversion of files, which we stored and shared with whichever students required them. These conversion processes were essentially format-shifting, and I'm sure there are some book publishers out there who would be screaming to know we did that, but it happens all around the country right now and is not only legal but required to keep schools from getting sued. As it should be.

    Denying people with disabilities access based on copyright is where the copyright maximalists will start going down, because the disability lobby is a lot stronger than it used to be. Plus, it has the moral high ground.

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