Are Subtitles Illegal?


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!