Are Subtitles Illegal?

Really Old Subtitles
Here's an odd item from the file-sharing legal front: The guy who ran a subtitle-file sharing website has gotten in trouble with the law -- he's had to shut down and pay a Norwegian court 2,500 bucks for copyright infringement, according to TorrentFreak.

This specific case provides some info about how movie and music studios treat subtitles in the U.S., too.

The entertainment industry, as it turns out, considers subtitles to be intellectual property -- just like movie scripts. (FYI: subtitles come as text files. With some media players, you can run them alongside a video.)

However, this just doesn't apply to officially sanctioned subtitles commissioned by studios: They might consider user-generated subtitles to be infringing content, too.

So, if you were to translate Lost in Translation into Pastho because it doesn't exist elsewhere, you could theoretically be on the hook for piracy.

This has actually happened in the U.S., though it is rarer than run-of-the-mill movie piracy prosecutions. The lesson? There are seemingly endless ways to get in trouble with IP stuff, so be careful, people!

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.

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Hi, Theranthrope -- thanks for commenting. I just wanted to write up something quick about the lawsuit, because I found it interesting that people who do subtitle translations (on their own) apparently have gotten in trouble for alleged cases of infringement. Thought people might want to know so that they could be careful. As I mentioned, it seems that with IP stuff, it's super easy to get in trouble for things -- even when it's questionable whether someone should get in trouble in the first place, etc. 


 How the bleep could user-generated subtitles possibly infringe anyones rights?

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