Translated subtitles are a wonderful tool for those who either can’t read the official language of a movie or TV show or are suffering from deafness.
Big Media attacks on those who provide these subtitles have been documented regularly here on TorrentFreak. From WikiSubtitles in Spain, to a broad assault on many outlets in Greece, threats of legal action are commonplace.
Of course, those who rely on translated and home-made subtitles can be very passionate about the enjoyment they can bring, so when anti-piracy groups moved against Legendas subbing group earlier this year, hackers were motivated enough to take their revenge.
While Legendas argued that fansubbers aren’t thieves but avid customers, anti-piracy outfits clearly don’t agree.
One such group is ALIS, Israel’s arm of the MPAA. In late 2007 it assisted in raids on the admins of three sites known as ‘xvoom’, ‘MYakuza’ and ‘Donkey‘ which carried Hebrew subtitles for US movies. In the end ALIS reached private compensation and closure agreements with the owners of two of the sites and took legal action against a third.
Now in 2009 ALIS is again active against creators of subtitles. Targeting Qsubs, one of Israel’s best translation groups, ALIS is threatening legal action against three of its members after sending them cease and desist letters last week.
ALIS is demanding that Qsubs, which has dozens of translators, stops their activities and is ordering the three translators to pay damages of around $264,000 each. They also want the individuals to issue a public apology for creating subtitles. ALIS believes that the three individuals it has identified are administrators of Qsubs.
In addition to copyright claims over subtitles, ALIS lawyer Eran Presenti says that there are further infringements on Qsubs such as movie and TV artwork along with various screenshots.
While the legal ramifications are digested by the Qsubs team, its subtitling activities have been suspended.
According to intellectual property lawyer Ran Camille, movie and TV show scripts are considered “dramatic creations” and therefore subject to copyright law. Article 16 of the Copyrights Act states that only the primary copyright holder has the right to distribute any part of a finished product, subtitles included. However, it is unclear how this legal position is affected by subtitles translated from another language.
“We have been doing this for years and never got a dime for our services, everything was done for free,” Qsubs spokesman Amit told TorrentFreak. “We have a lawyer already which is costing us a lot of money that comes out of our own accounts,” he added.
Although Qsubs can finance their lawyer right now, they need further funds in order to mount their defense or sadly they could be forced to close down and pay huge damages. Anyone wishing to contribute can do so by pressing the PayPal donation button on the Qsubs site.