[A2k] Swedish Fan-Made Subtitle Site Is Shut Down By Copyright Police by John Biggs

Manon Ress manon.ress at keionline.org
Wed Jul 10 06:01:33 PDT 2013


Swedish Fan-Made Subtitle Site Is Shut Down By Copyright Police
John Biggs

In a move that should give Twilight slash-fic writers pause, the Swedish
copyright enforcement agency, called Intrångsundersökning, raided and
seized the servers of Undertexter.se, a fansub site dedicated to collecting
fan-made English and Swedish subtitles. The raid happened in Stockholm
yesterday morning.

Fansub sites supply specially coded text files that viewers can use to sync
the audio with translated subtitles. They are obviously very popular with
consumers of pirated content, but even Netflix used some fansubs to add
subtitles to their movies in Finland. What’s more, the subtitles aren’t
copies of the text available on, say, DVDs or Blu-rays, but are mostly
renditions of the on screen action (that are often actually hilariously
bad). However they are still unpaid labors of love produced by fans of
certain shows and movies, more akin to a remix than wholesale piracy, and
they are very valuable in underserved markets.

In short, Hollywood picked exactly the wrong folks to bother. And,
incidentally, the data is still online.

Undertexter.se is no longer live. They have placed a message on their
Facebook account and domain, translated here by Falkvinge:
This morning the police raided Undertexter.se and seized both servers and
desktops. We who work on the site don’t consider a interpretation of dialog
to be something illegal, especially not when sharing it for free. Henrik
Pontén [the copyright industry's primary henchman in Sweden], who is behind
the raid, disagrees. Sorry Hollywood, this was the totally wrong card to
play. We will never surrender. [...] We must do everything in our power to
stop these anti-pirates. [...] More info soon. / UT Crew

The Swedish Pirate Party also issued a statement saying “Today’s monopoly
scuttles and inhibits creativity in a way that is completely unreasonable.
The raid against undertexter.se is yet another piece of evidence that the
time has come to reform the copyright monopoly from the ground up.”

While there is a lot of highfalutin talk about freedom and means of control
flying around about the shutdown, it’s clear that fansubs are the least of
Hollywood’s concern. That they would see fit to have the Swedish government
pull a set of text files of tangential importance to the film industry is
like shutting down an artist who paints portraits of Wesley Crusher kissing
Data – it’s obviously unpalatable and destroys far more good will than
money it saves.

A similar case appeared in Poland in 2007 when a popular fansub site was
shut down. Polish authorities recently closed the case. From DobreProgramy:
Elizabeth Łowicka, deputy head of the Prosecutor’s Office in Zabrze, today
announced that the prosecution has decided to discontinue the case. The
reason for this decision was justified by the ignorance of unlawfulness of
the conduct exhibited by the translators.

In short, the translators didn’t think it was wrong – and, in the end, I
hope more copyright enforcers agree it wasn’t.

Manon Ress, Knowledge Ecology International, KEI
manon.ress at keionline.org, tel.: +1 202 332 2670
KEI is a not for profit non governmental organization that searches for
better outcomes, including new solutions, to the management of knowledge
resources. KEI is focused on social justice, particularly for the most
vulnerable populations, including low-income persons and marginalized

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