These days it’s a fairly common occurrence for sites offering links to movies and TV shows to attract the attention of authorities. It happens almost every week and considering the power of Hollywood, hardly comes as a surprise.
However, an event in the past 24 hours is a step beyond anything seen so far in Sweden, a country that has long-enjoyed the freedom to share files but has increasingly felt pressure from the United States and its powerful Hollywood-based movie companies.
There are plenty of sites online that offer subtitle files so that speakers of any language (and of course the deaf) are able to enjoy watching and understanding movies and TV shows. Many of these carry subtitles ripped from consumer DVDs and Blu-ray discs so it’s perhaps understandable when copyright holders object to their distribution.
However, there are also sites that offer subtitles created by fans. Enthusiasts watch a movie or TV show and set to work translating the dialog and manually transforming it into a text file. These are then offered on sites various indexes around the web.
One such site, Undertexter.se, paid the ultimate price for their subtitle-creation activities when police raided the site yesterday and seized its servers.
“The people who work on the site don’t consider their own interpretation of dialog to be something illegal, especially when we’re handing out these interpretations for free,” says site founder Eugen Archy.
However, the authorities clearly don’t agree and Archy says he knows who pushed them to that conclusion – famous Rättighetsalliansen (Rights Alliance) anti-piracy lawyer Henrik Pontén.
“No Hollywood, you played the wrong card here. We will never give up, we live in a free country and Swedish people have every right to publish their own interpretations of a movie or TV show,” Archy insists.
Needless to say, the Swedish Pirate Party is outraged at the development.
“The copyright industry is increasingly resorting to desperate measures to preserve their outdated business model,” says party leader Anna Troberg.
“Today’s copyright monopoly inhibits creativity and creation in a way that is completely unreasonable. The raid on Undertexter.se is yet more proof that it is time to completely reform copyright law.”
In October 2012 another fan-subtitling controversy raised its head in Scandinavia when it was discovered that Netflix was using subtitles created by fans on DivX Finland for the show Andromeda.
“We have removed the series from Netflix pending the investigation,” Netflix told us at the time. “We are a legitimate service and pay a lot of money for the TV programs and movies on Netflix, including subtitles.”
And there’s the difference.
Users of Undertexter were getting subtitles not only for free, but also in a shorter time frame when compared to official outlets. Upsetting the status quo in this way probably got them raided yesterday.
“More news coming soon greedy Hollywood,” Undertexter’s founder concludes.