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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 8:37am

    The first time I heard the term "fansub" was probably 1995. People with the right equipment (which were few and far between at the time) would add in the subs to Japanese anime (not a big genre at all back then), sometimes their own cultural difference commentaries (in text) before each episode started.

    There was so little chance of getting any anime getting a full VHS release back then, not to mention subbed with the original audio, that fansubbing was literally the only way of getting a half-decent version of an anime to Western shores.

    Same should apply here. If there is demand enough for someone to sub it, same "rules" from those old days probably apply: Buy it once there's an official version to support the original creators.

    Sometimes the fansub itself is also the catalyst to others demanding an English-subbed/dubbed version, less so nowadays with high-quality anime streaming services like Crunchyroll, but I'm sure it still happens.

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