Every day, millions of people enjoy fan-made subtitles. These files help foreigners to better understand English entertainment and provide the hearing impaired with a way to comprehend audio.
These subtitles are often used in combination with pirated films or TV shows, a thorn in the side of entertainment industry companies, who see this as a threat to their business.
This was also the case with Legendas.tv, a Brazilian fansubbing community founded in 2006. For many Brazilians, Legendas (Portuguese for ‘subtitles’) was their first introduction to characters such as Jack Bauer, Michael Scofield and Hiro Nakamura.
Legal Issues Came Early
The site, which relied on a team of contributors, soon gained a steady user base. With its presence growing, the concerns of major entertainment industry companies increased as well.
In 2009, legal pressure resulted in a temporary shutdown. Representing the major Hollywood studios, Brazil’s Antipirataria Association Cinema and Música (APCM) complained to the site’s hosting company Softlayer, which pulled the plug shortly after.
Legandas.tv’s downfall didn’t last for long. The site quickly switched to a new hosting company, from where it continued to serve subtitles. Meanwhile, sympathizers of the site went after the anti-piracy group. The hackers defaced APCM’s website which started to link to torrents.
Shortly after the crackdown, Legendas.tv team sent out a different message. While the entertainment companies were quick to brand them as pirates, Legendas argued that they were probably some of the most avid consumers.
“We are those who purchase the latest technology products and subscribe to the best cable TV packages and the most powerful broadband plans. We voraciously consume culture. And even with all that, we don’t think it’s enough,” the Legendas team wrote at the time.
The fansubbers argued that they simply wanted to consume content that wasn’t available legally around the world. At the time, many countries had to wait months before popular content became legally available, if it became available at all.
Pirate sites and subtitle repositories have a history of meeting demand when availability is lacking. With the shortening of release windows and the rise of online streaming, the gap has started to close. Today, affordability is a bigger issue than availability. While there is still plenty of interest in subtitles, the Legendas team feels that it served its purpose.
A few days ago Legendas.tv voluntarily shut down. In a message to its users, the site explains that times have changed. There are now many legal platforms making the latest content available, with subtitles included.
“For many years Legendas.TV was one of the main repositories of Portuguese subtitles for a variety of content. Those were other times, the content was distributed in different ways and, after many years, the market took over with more and more accessible streaming services,” the translated note reads.
Funds Dried Up
There are other factors that played into the shutdown decision as well. The team notes that the financial position was dire due to a decline in user contributions and issues that prevented it from having decent advertisements.
The site was not being operated with a profit motive. However, the lack of funds made it harder to cover the costs. Three years ago, the operators threatened to shut the site down unless more people subscribed to their VIP plan. This extended the site’s life, but Legendas eventually made the decision to pull the plug.
The voluntary shutdown is the end of an era but the site’s subtitle archive won’t simply vanish. According to the farewell message, the files will be made available to the public in some shape or form during the weeks to come.
Other than that, Legendas’ journey has come to an end.