Making subtitles is also piracy

Making subtitles is also piracy

8 May 2017

News Piracy

We have all seen dubbed or subtitled movies. As a matter of fact, for those who don’t speak English as a first language, “sub or dub” is the eternal debate. And, so far, we know that downloading movies, dubbed or not, is piracy. But, can downloading subtitles be piracy?

According to intellectual property laws, move, theater or series’ scripts are also subject to copyright. This is why Holland has declared making subtitles an illegal practice, if you do not have the corresponding consent. The thing is that dialogues and scripts are the basis for any movie or series. Plus, a lot of work and time is invested in the writing of scripts. Proof of this is that there are awards aimed solely at screen writers: The Writers Guild Awards.

The truth is that subtitling is every time more and more popular. In the United States, films in other languages are viewed in special “Foreign Films” cinemas and are usually subtitled. Everyday, more and more, people are learning language and deciding to consume films and series in their original language with subtitles.


To declare making subtitles illegal and distributing them is a step, by the Dutch Court, that brings more awareness to the issue of piracy. Besides, subtitle creators can be fined and even incarcerated.

This decision is a product of a lawsuit against BREIN, the Dutch organization of Copyright in the Entertainment Industry. A group specialized in making subtitles called “Free Subtitles Foundation” filed a lawsuit against BREIN in response to their conduct against the fansubbers (this what fans that make subtitles for films and series are called). They claimed that subtitling was protected under freedom of speech.

But, after analyzing the suit, the court ruled against the fansubbers and declared the publishing and making of subtitles is a right reserved to the owners of the audiovisual product. Additionally, they stated that making subtitles without permission is an infringement on copyrights. This has made a lot of fansubbing sites shut down.

This kind of subtitling were used by individuals and legal sites or broadcasting companies because no one linked it to piracy.

The Dutch decision could change the rules of the game.

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