Movie Corporations Seek to Block Fan Sub Sites in Australia

Major American movie studios are in Australian courts seeking an injunction against several fan sub websites.

Movie watchers can easily take for granted that some movies are simply made in their own native language. Unfortunately, some movies simply are not offered in some languages. That is where the fan sub community comes in. This community steps in where the movie industry stops and goes through the hard work of offering full movie translations in other languages.

Fan sub files are then uploaded to different sites so people can download them and play them back as they watch the movie with subtitles in their language. As such, the movie in question can reach more fans then ever before. Unfortunately, it seems the movie studios are not happy with this volunteer effort and are claiming that subtitle’s are copyright infringement.

That is the effort currently being taken in Australia, a country prone to censorship orders. The effort is being spearheaded by the notorious company Village Roadshow Films. They are being backed by members of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) such as Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal, and Warner Brothers. An injunction was filed in an Australian court to order ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block 77 websites.

This case is being watched closely by a number of observers given the rather interesting set of facts. The complaint itself admits that the copyrighted works are not being distributed. As a result, no one is saying that the actual films themselves are being distributed. Instead, it’s basically a modified text file containing words that they are claiming infringement over. One could easily argue that the subtitles themselves are, therefore, either a transformative work or an original work altogether.

As a result, there are a lot of valid legal questions to be made. It is certainly something that the judge has acknowledged. From Computerworld:

“You better make sure your evidence in relation to that is particularly thorough,” Justice Nicholas said. “There’s some creep here occurring – I don’t say that critically… [but] it’s a new angle so I’ll need to look at that closely.”

At the request of the judge, the applicants said they would make a computer and Internet connection available so Justice Nicholas or his associate could view the sites.

It has frequently been a very quick process to establish a “primary purpose” with previous sites that were the subject of web-blocking injunctions – “I’m not sure that’s the case here,” Nicholas said.

The action is not only the largest single application for a site block injunction in terms of number of sites targeted, but it also has the largest group of applicants and targets the subscribers of more Internet service providers than previous applications.

The article goes on to list the 77 websites that the companies are seeking to block: “2ddl;;; Addic7edAnilinkz; Animefreak; Animeshow; Avxhm;; Bilutv; Bt-scene; Cartooncrazy; Cmovieshd; Ddlvalley; Dnvod;;;; Glodls; Gogoanime; Hdpopcorns;;;; icdramase;; IPTorrents; Kantv; Kimcartoon; Kissanime;;;; Myanimeseries; Nyaa; Nzbplanet; Ondarewatch; Openloadmovies;; Otakustream; Phimbathu;;;; Rmz;; Scnsrc; Seasonvar; Seriesfree; Solarmoviez; Soul-anime;; Subscene; Subsmovies; Torrentday; Torrentfunk; Torrentmovies; Tvbox; Tw116; Two-movies; Ultra-vid; Usabit; VexMovies;; Vkool; Vmovee;;;; Watchonlinemovies; Watchseries-online;; Yify-movies; Yifysubtitles;; Zimuzu; Zooqle.”

It’s very easy to see this as a shaky case. Of course, with the movie industry’s unlimited resources, they can obviously afford the best paid lawyers of the land and appeal this as many times as they see as necessary.

What is particularly difficult to see is how fan subtitles causes the movie industry to lose money in the first place. Already, there has been plenty of evidence to say that filesharing has actually helped boost growth in the industries in the first place. If these sites aren’t even distributing the original works in the first place, that argument that there are lost sales becomes even more difficult to make.

The good news here is that the judge is already showing signs of skepticism in the case. The bad news is that even if the judge tosses the case completely, there’s always that possibility that an appeal would be filed and that a judge with less knowledge about technology could be chosen to look into the case.

In any event, it’ll be interesting to see where this case goes.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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