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NetFlix Caught Stealing DivX Subtitles From Finnish Pirates 284

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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:34AM (#41721503)

    Maybe they were taking hints from Ubisoft: []

  • 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 []
    Sorry, i don't know how to create the fancy links in the comment. :(

  • Re:subtiles (Score:4, Informative)

    by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:51AM (#41721613) Journal
    Every summary contains an obvious typo, formatting error or similar glitch to encourage people to post and to increase ad traffic. Try putting an oblivious mistake into one of your posts and see how long it takes for people to respond to that rather than your original point...
  • by Kidbro ( 80868 ) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:51AM (#41721619)

    that would probably violate a GNU license equivalent

    No. GNU licenses have never been about restricting commercial use, only prohibitory use.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 [] (in Finnish) from the website (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.

  • by Wizzu ( 30521 ) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @11:46AM (#41721941)

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

  • 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.

  • Re:Small Market (Score:4, Informative)

    by Radak ( 126696 ) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @01:28PM (#41722503) Journal

    Finnish is not a Scandinavian language.

  • by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @03:03PM (#41723035)

    I have had the pleasure of doing foreign (Dutch) captioning/subtitles for an English movie - and a week for 1.5 hours is quite reasonable.

    As you mention, the problem is not so much in just word-for-word translation (although that can be challenging as well - not all words translate well. A favorite of mine is 'siblings'. There's no such word in Dutch. We just say 'brothers and sisters'.

    But now that sentence is a lot longer. Does it still fit the area available for captioning? If it doesn't, does it need to be re-timed to fit the video? Do we start it a fraction of a second sooner? Make a choice to cut some words elsewhere?

    Titles are also challenging. The WHO (World Health Organization), for example, is not referenced as the WHO in Dutch. It's WGO. Nobody is going to tell you that, though - you're going to have to do the research and find out if the local language does indeed have a localized term.. and whether that is official or just in common use.

    Jokes involving wordplay are also a good one. Good luck translating that. Odds are you'll just have to drop the joke because the language being translated to has no similar wordplay to fit the situation and trying to shoehorn it in will just make the reader think the subtitle was awkward.

    Proper subtitling is hard. As much as I think it's great that the community add subtitles for 'pirated' movies where no official subtitle is available, the quality is often appalling. Not that official subtitles are always perfect, but when you get somebody subtitling who only barely understands English in the first place and fails to grasp context entirely, you get things like Data from Star Trek happily being translated to 'gegevens'.. until the translator realizes it's a proper name and then switches to Data, but leaving the earlier mistakes in place.

  • 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!
  • by mdielmann ( 514750 ) on Monday October 22, 2012 @12:56AM (#41725949) Homepage Journal

    I'm sure you're a troll, but it needs to be said. Once upon a time, when unicorns and fairies roamed the earth, there was a real possibility that copyright would lapse. Nowadays, the possibility is only theoretical, and will only happen when the copyright holders stop bribing the lawmakers.

Help! I'm trapped in a PDP 11/70!