This week many sites offering homemade Greek subtitles received legal threats from an organization representing the TV and movie industries. Very quickly, fansub sites closed down or removed access to subtitles, leaving thousands of Greek file-sharers quite literally in a position of not understanding what is going on.
EPOE, Company for the Protection of Audio-Visual Works (known as Eteria Prostasias Optikoakoustikon Ergon), is a non-profit organization working to protect the copyrights of its for-profit members. Operating at the behest of its members, EPOE is given authority by Greek law enforcement and works under license of the Greek Copyright Organization, which itself is linked to the Ministry of Culture. Its members include many Greek companies but its international members are most easily recognized as they include MPA, Columbia, Fox, Universal, Buena Vista, MGM, Warner and Paramount.
On Tuesday, virtually every site offering user-generated Greek subtitles (fansubs) for English language movies and TV shows received legal threats from EPOE. Within a very short time, all sites including greektvsubs.gr, subtitles.gr, greeksubs, subs4u.gr and apsubs.com had either closed down or removed all subtitles. A sample of the translated complaint issued to greektvsubs is shown below:
According to our information and evidence, in your capacity as owner and manager of the website under the name www.greektvsubs.gr, without right and in violation of the provisions of Law 2121/93, without the required prior written permission of the legitimate beneficiaries of copyright and related rights of our member-companies, are engaged in a totally illegal activity, which consists of right without translation in the English language texts / dialogues and subtitles creation of films or television series, the royalties of which belong to our member companies, which you have then illegally and without right, distributed via the Internet.
So why are the Greeks file-sharers so upset? Yiannis, a user close to the subtitling sites explained to TorrentFreak: “Greek TV networks are most of the times very slow in airing the popular shows (one or two years is common), not showing them at all or the worst, or show a season or two and then forget about them, leaving the fans looking desperately for solutions. DVD distribution companies are no better. Some popular shows do not even exist in a translated form.”
“A couple of years ago dedicated fans started working to translate and create subtitles of their favorite shows and they teamed up to create a few web sites to share them with the rest of the fans,” Yiannis said “One of the biggest was greektvsubs.gr. These people managed to do with hard work, love and dedication what the TV industry failed: translate TV show episodes hours after they were aired and offer the subtitles for Greek speaking people to be able to watch their favorite show.”
There is currently a fierce debate surrounding the legality of such fan-subtitling sites. The Greek subtitles (in common with user-generated subtitles in other locales) are the result of hours of really hard work, listening to the TV show or movie in its native English and then translating by hand into Greek. The ‘subbers’ don’t have access to the original scripts, everything is created from scratch since the movie or TV show isn’t even available in Greek, so on this basis some believe the sites operate legally. However, some are suggesting that under Greek copyright law, a translation could be considered as a ‘derivative work’ and as such requires permission from the original copyright holder.
Whatever the truth – and this is echoed in the emails we’ve received here at TorrentFreak from the fans – there is obviously a really healthy demand for these products in Greek language (not to mention from deaf people who absolutely rely on subtitles), yet the media companies spend their money on litigation, instead of addressing the core issue of giving the fans what they want.
In the meantime, while EPOE throws its considerable weight around, the show goes on for Greek subtitling fans as they head to their new home at gr.tvsubtitles.net.
Thanks to Yiannis and fakeb0us