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NetFlix Caught Stealing DivX Subtitles From Finnish Pirates 284

Posted by timothy
from the why-duplicate-effort? dept.
An anonymous reader writes with word that NetFlix recently opened its streaming service in Finland and was promptly caught stealing movie subtitles from a local DivX community site. How were they caught? NetFlix failed to remove references to the pirate site in the subtitles.
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NetFlix Caught Stealing DivX Subtitles From Finnish Pirates

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  • by v1 (525388) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:31AM (#41721479) Homepage Journal

    telling us how piracy is hurting their business and costing them money!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:34AM (#41721495)

      The article summary is deliberately inflammatory. It's not "stealing" - it's exactly the sort of sharing which I assume a "pirate" would support. The original DivX site hasn't lost the use of these subtitles. Indeed, it's been given free advertising. The best thing it could do is issue a press release congratulating Netflix for acting in the spirit of cooperation and free dissemination. Everyone wins.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:40AM (#41721543)

        The article summary is deliberately inflammatory. It's not "stealing" - it's exactly the sort of sharing which I assume a "pirate" would support. The original DivX site hasn't lost the use of these subtitles. Indeed, it's been given free advertising. The best thing it could do is issue a press release congratulating Netflix for acting in the spirit of cooperation and free dissemination. Everyone wins.

        Except that they demand money.
        Ripping of some ip and sharing it for free is different from ripping it of and selling it for profit.

        • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:52AM (#41721625)

          I don't see how that means it's stealing.

        • by Jiro (131519) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @11:15AM (#41721775)

          Also, it's hypocrisy on the part of Netflix, since Netflix opposes piracy. Instead of sending out s press release commending Netflix, they should ask Netflix to send out a press release saying that piracy is good because it's nothing more than what Netflix does themselves.

          • by Nyder (754090)

            Also, it's hypocrisy on the part of Netflix, since Netflix opposes piracy. Instead of sending out s press release commending Netflix, they should ask Netflix to send out a press release saying that piracy is good because it's nothing more than what Netflix does themselves.

            Does Netflix oppose piracy? They don't produce anything, they only stream stuff that other people made, so it would seem to me piracy isn't a big concern of theirs. Getting decent prices from the studios would be there concern, other online streaming/DVD rentals would be their concern, but pirating? They probably care less.

          • This is not Netflix policy, then have thousands of employes in many countries, and to get stuff subtitles they have hired many different companies. Presumably one of those companies had an idiot working for them, who did this. And most likely that person is now fired.

        • Except that they demand money.

          They don't demand extra money for subtitles. And the subtitles are not copyrighted by the pirates in the first place. You can't copyright someone's work by just transcribing it.

          Ripping of some ip and sharing it for free is different from ripping it of and selling it for profit.

          Correct. Giving it away is worse. Damages for copyright infringement are not based on whether you profited from the infringement, but whether the copyright holder was deprived of profit. If you infringe and sell the copies, you are competing with the content owner and depriving them of some profit, but if you give the content a

          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @12:16PM (#41722105)

            Except that they demand money.

            They don't demand extra money for subtitles. And the subtitles are not copyrighted by the pirates in the first place. You can't copyright someone's work by just transcribing it.

            Incorrect. Under the Finnish copyright law, the translator has the copyright to the work (i.e. the translation). But since it's a derivative work, the author of the original work also holds copyrights. Unless the original copyright has lapsed, in which case the translator gets the sole copyright.

          • by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @01:41PM (#41722563) Homepage

            Your post uses words that deprive me of profit. Please send me a check for $200,000,000,000.00 right away. The flaw is that companies can demand outrageous sums. I would support copyright if the claimed losses were attaced to their TAXED income.

            You claim that you lost 20 billion? Sounds great, the IRS will be wondering when you will be sending in your taxes on the value of that property.

            this will solve the rampant BS that is copyright overnight. Scumbags wont sit on old works hoarding them if they are taxed every year they are not in the public domain.

            • by wvmarle (1070040)

              There is a difference between "lost income/profit" which those rights holders claim those huge amounts for (which normally would be taxed if actually realised), and "asset value" of the copyrighted work which should appear on their balance sheet already.

        • by Mashdar (876825)

          Trading your rip for quid pro quo access to other rips would be considered proffiting in most places.

          Not that I agree with MPAA/RIAA methods for extracting "damages"...

        • by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @04:18PM (#41723565)

          Except that they demand money. Ripping of some ip and sharing it for free is different from ripping it of and selling it for profit.

          Bingo. Nail. Head. Bang. I'm a proud pirate (yarr!), and I love being able to give my friends access to movies and media they wouldn't otherwise be able to get on account of being too poor to afford it on their own. I don't charge (except postage and possibly the USB or SD Card cost), and I never will. It's counter to the spirit of it. Pirates recognize artists are entitled to compensation, and we tell people if they really like something to buy it or send money directly to the artist... and unsurprisingly a lot of my friends do just that. The fact is, most movies and TV episodes people only watch once or a couple of times. Take Hunger Games. I liked the movie, but I don't feel it has much replay value. So I'm not going to buy that. But NCIS? I psychotically love that show, and have picked up several disks on Bluray from pawn shops. It's something I'll be rewatching for years to come. Same with Battlestar Galactica or the new Batman trilogy. I've even sent money to the actors of Star Trek: TNG, because I love their work. And if I had more money, I'd probably go to concerts more than once in a blue moon.

          Piracy doesn't mean not paying money -- for most of us, it's a way to stay in touch with our collective culture without breaking the bank. When everyone is talking about the latest Batman movie, and you're too broke to go see it in theatres, you're going to come to me and say "Hey, I wanna see what all the fuss is about." Well, okay then, here's a copy. And a few months later, I'm over at their house, and there on their shelf is a new Bluray or DVD of it. I certainly didn't give it to them, and they probably wouldn't have bought it if I hadn't exposed them to it ahead of time.

          Piracy isn't anti-artist, it's very much pro-artist. It restores an element sadly lacking in today's market: Try before you buy. Netflix is the only thing that comes close, and you know what? I'm a pirate, and I have a Netflix. I love my Netflix -- it's cheap, and even with the DVD/bluray plans they have, I can get it faster than I can download it, at better quality, and it maintains my ratings so when I have a few extra bucks I can go back and look at my bucket list of things I wanna pickup the next time I'm out at the stores.

          This is how most pirates operate: We love music and movies. We love them so much, we want to share them with others. But since we're not millionaires but working stiffs like you, we help people make sure that when they buy something, they're going to enjoy it. No buyer's remorse when you're a pirate: Every purchase will be something you love, and supporting an artist who deserves it on the merits of his/her work, not marketing buzz.

        • The article summary is deliberately inflammatory. It's not "stealing" - it's exactly the sort of sharing which I assume a "pirate" would support. The original DivX site hasn't lost the use of these subtitles. Indeed, it's been given free advertising. The best thing it could do is issue a press release congratulating Netflix for acting in the spirit of cooperation and free dissemination. Everyone wins.

          Except that they demand money. Ripping of some ip and sharing it for free is different from ripping it of and selling it for profit.

          But in this case, it's ripping off IP that was part of ripping off IP and the second rip-off-er licensed the content that was originally ripped off. The pirates can't copyright what it takes to pirate the work (even American fair-use or derivative work laws don't cover straight-out copying). Pirating lives in a grey space (technically illegal but dubious in market impact depending on the case-by-case basis) and I don't think they have a peg-leg to stand on in this circumstance.

          But it still makes Netfli

      • The article summary is deliberately inflammatory. It's not "stealing" - it's exactly the sort of sharing which I assume a "pirate" would support. The original DivX site hasn't lost the use of these subtitles. Indeed, it's been given free advertising. The best thing it could do is issue a press release congratulating Netflix for acting in the spirit of cooperation and free dissemination. Everyone wins.

        Of course it's not stealing - but it is according to NetFlix (when others do it).

      • by lindi (634828) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @11:18AM (#41721783)

        As far as I can see divxfinland uses the CC-NC-SA 3.0 license. This is does not allow commercial usage.

        • by AvitarX (172628)

          this surprises me. I would really expect pirate groups to stick to free and/or open principles.

          I guess they're just another group of hypocrites, ugh.

          note: NC is neither free or open in the sense of the word used in this context. In fact, it could be argued that making the subs themselves available on any site with ads is a license violation, It's almost impossible to safely distribute in any real way something that is marked NC.

          • How is releasing content under CC-NC-SA 3.0 license opposing free and/or open principles?

          • The fact that they don't comply with your expectations doesn't make them hypocrites. If DivX Finland doesn't copy the films for commercial purposes, using a non-commercial license is not inconsistent.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't think Netflix has done much whining about piracy. They don't produce much in the way of content.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe they were taking hints from Ubisoft: http://megagames.com/news/ubisoft-steals-reloaded-crack-fix-its-own-game [megagames.com]

  • From TFA (Score:5, Funny)

    by MicktheMech (697533) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:35AM (#41721507) Homepage

    "Online TV giant Netflix was closed captions unauthorized use of his pants down..."

    I predict "unauthorized use of his pants down" to be the new "not want".

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      It's because Slashdot stole most of the good Google translations and only the lousy ones remained in stock.

  • Makes total sense!
  • by negablade (2745981) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:37AM (#41721523)
    Methinks Google translate is having trouble with Finnish to English. From TFA

    Online TV giant Netflix was closed captions unauthorized use of his pants down, when the Finnish users ...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No that is normal in Finland, we like to get around with our pants down for Google [theregister.co.uk].
      Possibly NSFW.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @11:22AM (#41721807)

      Keeping in line with illegal translations, I'll give you my own translation of the article from Ilta-Sanomat (since Google translation may have missed a couple of nuances):

      Netflix, who opened their service in Finland on thursday, is using crowdsourced subtitles without permission. According to a copyright entity, even translations of subtitles done by hobbyists are illegal.

        Network entertainment giants Netflix was caught red-handed when Finnish users began using their service on thursday. At the beginning of the translations the creator of the subtitles is marked as DivX Finland, which is an Internet community working on translating movies and television series into Finnish.

        DivX Finland shares their subtitles free on the Internet, but according to the licensing rights on their site the usage of those subtitles for commercial purposes is prohibited.

        DivX Finland admin Jarmo Hakala found out about the issue Thursday evening on IRC-chat and received a screenshot for proof.

        - "Oops. :) It's nice that they find the subtitles relevant, but they could've at least asked for permission. I'm sure we'll have a nice discussion with Netflix tomorrow", said Hakala thursday evening on the Facebook page of DivX Finland.

        Ilta-sanomat was able to get hold of Hakala via telephone on Friday.

        - "I feel mostly amused. We're not taking this too seriously. We would've given permission, should they have asked for it. Netflix could've avoided this hassle", said Hakala to Ilta-Sanomat.

        - "But many (in our community) have felt a bit bad, since there's money and commercialism involved. Someone has taken voluntary work for profit and called it their own", continues hakala.

        According to copyright holders' representative Antti Kotilainen, one could say that it in this case something has been stolen from a thief. Legally amateur subtitles even for non-commercial use is not legal, nor does DivX Finland have the copyright for the translations.

        - "It is clear that what DivX Finland does is illegal. As for Netflix, their operations should be governed by contracts that they have done with (program) copyright holders", says Kotilainen to Ilta-Sanomat.

        According to Kotilainen the subtitles do not become legal just because Netflix started using them.

        Kotilainen says that copyright law allows making translations for personal use and copying them to friends and family, but not sharing them openly online.

        - "Translation is from copyright point of view a copy. If you place one on a netsite, you need copyright holder's permission to do so."

        The Finnish representative of Netflix has promised to comment the issue fairly soon.

        Netflix, a U.S. company, broadcasts movies, TV-series and documentaries on the Internet for a monthly fee of 7.99 euros. It has over 27 million customers on three continents.

    • by digitig (1056110)
      All your briefs are belong to us.
  • And the people who wrote the subtitles stole them from the movie script whose rights Netflix licences. I fail to see what's the problem here, maybe someone who speaks Finnish can explain.

    • That's what I was thinking. Technically, the copyright owner owns the rights to derivative works. I don't see this as hypocrisy on the part of Netflix, Netflix owns very little content. If the studios did it, then OK, I see that as hypocrisy in a way. But people complaining that someone stole something from thieves? That's a different kind of special right there.

      • by 1u3hr (530656) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @11:39AM (#41721887)

        That's what I was thinking. Technically, the copyright owner owns the rights to derivative works.

        No, he does not. Because it involves the creative work of the translator. This translation is probably an infringing derivative work, and the original copyright owner could stop it being published, but could not claim it as his own property.

        If I write a Spider-Man fanfic, Marvel cant just take it and publish it as their own. They might sue me, but they can't take my work.

      • That's what I was thinking. Technically, the copyright owner owns the rights to derivative works.

        In the sense that you need their permission, yes.
        But the original creator does not own all the rights - you will also need the permission of those that created the derivative.
        You have to satisfy both of them to publish legally.

    • Well obviously not, or there would be no way to tell.
      I assume that they did their own translation, something that costs money (unless you know a translator who works for free) and is not a one to one relationship.

    • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:52AM (#41721629)

      The people that should have made money from writing those subtitles and that probably have done so for Finnish Television or Cinema companies, have not been paid, nor has their product been used. That means that these people are deprived of royalties in favour of illegally obtained translations that have violated the copyright of the show in question.

      Either that, or the whole model doesn't make sense, take your pick.

  • Not the first time (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:40AM (#41721539)

    It has been shown that Netflix also used portuguese community generated subtitle files for its Brazilian site. Netflix used it with errors and all. I don't think that its illegal, technically... but IANAL.

    Here is the source [http://blog.lancamentosnetflix.com.br/2012/09/netflix-baixando-legendas-da-internet.html]
    Sorry, i don't know how to create the fancy links in the comment. :(

  • by Ecuador (740021) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:43AM (#41721561) Homepage

    I mean I am sure the CEO of netflix did not give an order "hey, get pirated subtitles - I am sure they are professional quality and won't contain profanities etc that could get us in trouble".
    So, somewhere in the chain of passing out the requirement for, I assume, low cost translation, some "bright mind" had this idea. It is very likely that even the actual translator paid to do the work thought he/she might save some time!
    But in general, it would be a great thing for someone like NetFlix to hire a well known sub-release group for their translations, but I really don't see that happening...

    • by Rockoon (1252108)

      So, somewhere in the chain of passing out the requirement for, I assume, low cost translation, some "bright mind" had this idea.

      I suspect that they probably contract out the work, and are not going to care because they already went with the lowest bidder.

  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:44AM (#41721575) Homepage

    ... If you are not powerful enough to get away with it.

  • hypocrites (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:49AM (#41721607)

    Stealing? How? Were the pirates deprived of the subtitles? The Slashtard hypocritical use of "stealing" then whining when the "MAFIAA" uses it the same way is hilarious.

    • by Jiro (131519)

      It's stealing by the standards of the people who did the stealing.

      It's not hypocritical to say
      1) it's not stealing but
      2) it's what you call stealing

  • Copying != Stealing (Score:5, Informative)

    by cpghost (719344) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @11:23AM (#41721813) Homepage
    For the n-th time, repeat after me: copying != stealing. The Finnish group still has access to its subtitles, they were merely copied, not moved/stolen. If we complain that the MAFIAA uses wrong terms in its campaign against free file sharing, so we should also refrain from using the same flawed terminology.
    • But they did not get credit for their work. The correct term here is plagiarize. And Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.
      • Sure they did:

        How were they caught? NetFlix failed to remove references to the pirate site in the subtitles.

        • Caught is not the same as giving attribution.
          • by green1 (322787)

            Except that the method of getting caught was because they accidentally were giving attribution...
            getting caught != attribution but attribution == getting caught

      • by brit74 (831798)

        But they did not get credit for their work. The correct term here is plagiarize.

        Actually, the pirates did (inadvertently) get credited for their work. The summary says "Netflix failed to remove references to the pirate site". I'd say that counts as getting credit for their work.

        Besides, it's kind of a weird paradox to say that NetFlix plagarized the pirates. It's a bit like - if I gave a speech in public, then someone writes down my words, and then I copy-and-pasted the text - now I'm guilty of plagarizing the textual version of the speech I originally wrote. Generally speaking,

  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @11:27AM (#41721841) Homepage
    People still use DivX?
  • Aren't the subtitles openly available to anyone?
  • Finnish perspective (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @11:44AM (#41721931)

    A few comments from someone who lives in Finland.

    First, Netflix reacted by posting a note saying it was sorry for the trouble (the exact wording changed a time or two). It has also removed those programs where the DivX Finland subtitles were used. Or said that they will do so, I am not a subscriber, so I am not able to check.

    The representative of DivX Finland is just feeling amused, although he did say "well they could've asked for permission..." (this from TFA) - there is no outrage there.

    Apparently Netflix buys their subtitles from Broadcast Text International, who in turn buys them from a multitude of sources, including a number of freelancers. Probably one of those sub-contractors just got them from the easiest location.

    According to a blog post [blogspot.fi] (in Finnish) from the website av-kaantajat.fi (video subtitler's site), Netflix is getting their subtitles with super-tight schedules and expecting to get 1,5h worth of subtitled programs per day, whereas to do this properly it would usually take a week.
    From the same blog post, in an interview with the Netflix subtitling chief Neil Hunt, he said outright that he's not interested in quality. So apparently the subtitling for them is just a feature checkbox that needs to be ticked off, with minimum cost and without other considerations.

    Now for some background. At the same time as this has happend, the major Finnish TV media house MTV3 has recently in September outsourced all of it subtitling and translations to the same Broadcast Text International. MTV3 used to employ more than a hundred translators in-house. The difference is that BTI is offering to pay freelance translators to what amounts to less than a third of the income from a monthly salary.

    The translators have been taking quality seriously, and now with these changes the quality is expected to go down a lot. While this saves money for the media companies, there is an argument that there are subtle effects on the population. For example, many Finnish children and youths start to learn to read from subtitles, and some also start to learn the English language from English programs with Finnish subtitles. Another point was that poor subtitling may make the whole movie worse, without the viewer realising that the source of poor dialogue is not in the movie itself, but just in the translations for the subtitles.

    Netflix's approach to "quantity over quality" is just another move in the same direction, and as such, worrisome. It's also not a surprise that when paid very little and expected to deliver a lot, someone would resort to the easiest approach. Also, given Netflix's attitude, I'm not surprised if they don't have any quality control of their own for the subtitles which is why something like this would pass through.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Wizzu (30521)

      The above was written by me. Ah, didn't notice I was logged out, didn't mean to post anonymously. Not that it matters.

  • This might be a heaven-sent opportunity to force the copyright Nazis into court on the OTHER side. The RIAA is already involved in a lawsuit intended to make sharing one's Netflix password illegal. It seems to me that dragging Netflix into court for this instance of piracy might also force the RIAA or one of its sister groups into court, and get them involved in a nice, bloody dust-up with people who can fight back.

    If nothing else, it should create some case law in Finland that might apply more widely

  • The copyright on a non-protected derivative work automatically reverts to the original copyright holder. In this case, if I transcribe the dialogue to a movie, the dialogue still clearly belongs to whoever owns the copyright on the movie. If they license Netflix to use the dialogue as subtitles, then Netflix are within their rights to take it from transcriptions done without license.
  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @03:01PM (#41723025)

    ...the subtitles also explicitly prohibit the use of same for commercial purposes! Double whammy!

  • by lightversusdark (922292) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @04:49PM (#41723783) Journal
    I just watched "The Cape" on NetFlix with English subtitles on and at the end of each episode the URL of the subbing group comes up!

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