If you’re a movie buff, chances are you might have used subtitles to watch movies that are unavailable in your native language. The debate between subtitles and dubbed is eternal and never-ending. A lot depends upon users’ personal choices whether to watch a dubbed movie or add subtitles to movies and TV shows.
There are several websites on the internet offering subtitles in multiple languages for movies and shows. Most of the subtitles available on such websites are fanmade or ripoff from copyrighted content. The process of generating subtitles by fans is called “fansubbing.”
The term is quite popular amongst anime lovers. The role of a fansubber involves translation, subtitling, and distributing the subtitles. Since subtitles are not generally offered by the copyrighted content owners, they fall under the category of pirated content.
If you’re wondering whether subtitles are illegal to use, we have provided you a answer to it.
Are Subtitles Illegal? Apparently, Yes.
According to a court order passed by the Amsterdam District Court in 2017, subtitles are illegal unless created and distributed after obtaining permission from the original content holder. Anyone generating subtitles without obtaining the required permission could be punished under copyright infringement, as per the court order.
Similar legal barriers could be in place in other regions as well. Thus, subtitles are illegal and could land you behind bars, or you’ll need to pay a fine for using illegally generated subtitles.
For a long time, fansubbers have received harsh criticism from anti-piracy groups and copyright content creators. BREIN, an anti-piracy group hailing from the Netherlands, has been at the forefront of the fight against fansubbers and subtitles. The group has forced several subtitles creators to shut down their shop.
However, in 2017, a group called “Free Subtitles Foundation” (Stichting Laat Ondertitels Vrij – SLOV) decided to fight BREIN in the Netherland court against its campaign targeting fansubbers.
Surprisingly, the court sided with BREIN and issued an order stating that subtitles are illegal if generated/circulated without permission from the original content creator.
After the decision, BREIN director Tim Kuik said, “With this decision in hand it will be easier for BREIN to maintain its work against illegal subtitlers and against sites and services that collect illegal subtitles and add movies and TV shows from an illegal source.”
Everything is not gloomy though, Netflix and Youtube encourage publically sourced subtitles to make it easy for deaf users and those who are keen on watching foreign language shows and movies.
But, the order by the Dutch court very well means that subtitles are indeed illegal and it could have implications for fansubbers around the world.