Founder Of Fan-Subtitle Site 'Undertexter' Loses Copyright Infringement Appeal

from the sinnesjuk dept

Just a quick update on the current craziness going on in the Swedish court system. In the middle of 2017, we wrote about the Swedish authorities raiding the offices of Undertexter, a site that provides fan-created subtitles of movies. Many people were confused by this, but the film industry has long branded fan-made subtitles as contributors to piracy, allowing people in foreign countries to download films and append the subtitles to watch them, rather than buying the localized version. The industry also argues that these subtitles are themselves copyright infringement, as they essentially reproduce the film's script in another language.

Founder Eugen Archy was convicted of copyright infringement. Ever the fighter, he appealed, but now we learn that Archy has lost his appeal as well.

On appeal, Archy agreed that he was the person behind Undertexter but disputed that the subtitle files uploaded to his site infringed on the plaintiffs’ copyrights, arguing they were creative works in their own right.

While to an extent that may have been the case, the Court found that the translations themselves depended on the rights connected to the original work, which were entirely held by the relevant copyright holders. While paraphrasing and parody might be allowed, pure translations are completely covered by the rights in the original and cannot be seen as new and independent works, the Court found.

The Svea Hovrätt also found that Archy acted intentionally, noting that in addition to administering the site and doing some translating work himself, it was “inconceivable” that he did not know that the subtitles made available related to copyrighted dialog found in movies.

Now, the good news is that losing this appeal only results in his original conviction and punishment of probation and a $26,000 fine. All told, that isn't the craziest punishment we've seen for copyright infringement. Those caveats aside, let's all remember that Undertexter gave away the fan-translations it hosted. The site didn't sell them. They were offered for free. And for the crime of providing free translations in markets that are often underserved by Hollywood, he now has a copyright infringement conviction on his record and a five-figure bill to pay.

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Filed Under: copyright, fan subtitles, fans, subtitles, sweden
Companies: undertexter

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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 27 Mar 2018 @ 1:14am

    "Many people were confused by this, but the film industry has long branded fan-made subtitles as contributors to piracy, allowing people in foreign countries to download films and append the subtitles to watch them, rather than buying the localized version."

    Which only makes sense if you ignore reality and split the world up into your preferred easy to manage pieces. When reality intrudes, you will find that people have many interested that go beyond whatever a studio is happening to be trying to sell them at that moment in time. In this case, there are reasons for which they will want to buy a version with subtitles in languages other than the one where they live.

    Perhaps they are learning a new language not covered by the official local version, or they need teaching materials to help other do the same. Perhaps they are travelling, and want to access something they can understand since their native language isn't supported locally. Perhaps they have moved country altogether but don't wish to be completely isolated from their native tongue. The people in charge of these studios may be people who only bother to learn one language or live in one place all their lives, but their audience may not be.

    These are all niche requirements, you may argue. Well, so is the site in question. This is all compounded by the fact that fan subs are often higher quality than the official version if a localised one is available anyway, but the basic driver for such sites is that the version a person wants to buy is not available in their location. Offering that would yet again be more sensible than shutting down the unapproved version before offing a legit option. Saying "you live in the wrong place to get what you wish to buy" is never going to be a winning argument when trying to get a customer to buy from you.

    So, yet again - a fan doing something to benefit other fans in his area of interest, causing no real harm but providing some real benefits. Shut down because the industry would rather dictate to its fans what they should be buying, rather than offer what they really want.

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