updated 07:37 pm EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
Rights holders concerned about advertising dollars paid to site owners
Fan-curated movie subtitle repository Undertexter has been shut down after a police raid by Sweden. The site provided completely user-driven film and television show subtitles, which combined with some set-top boxes or video playback applications provide on-screen text of the show's dialog and action in alternative languages or for those who were hearing-impaired. The video content itself wasn't hosted on the site.
"Our copyright law doesn't allow people to make a transcript from a film that is copyright-protected without the copyright owner's permission and certainly not to make it public," said Paul Pinter, Sweden's national chief of intellectual property crime. "The investigation is still in its early stages. Our forensic experts will now go through the material on the seized computers and there will be follow-up interviews." Potential penalties in Sweden include fines and up to two years in jail.
A post by the site owners claimed to challenge the legality of the raid, and vowed to fight on. Undertexter's Facebook page stated that "Hollywood ... we will never give up, we live in a free country and Swedish people have every right to publish their own interpretation of a movie/series," and added that the service was provided free of charge to its users. Companies such as Netflix have used the free subtitles to provide language translations for films on its own service, presumably also without the rights-holders permission.
A lawyer for the Swedish intellectual property rights group Rights Alliance, Sara Lindback, said that "the movies they put subtitles on have often not yet reached Sweden or are still in cinemas. The translations have not been cleared by the rights-holders." Lindback claimed that the members of the Rights Alliance were concerned about the level of advertising on the site, which allowed the site owners to capitalize on "the work of others."
"See the movies, but make sure that the ones that created them are the ones that get paid, not the pirates," Lindback added. "That way new movies can be made, which benefits everyone."