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Subtitle site “Undertexter” raided by police

Posted by Annemieke, July 10 2013

A Swedish subtitle website,, which used to provide online subtitles for existing movies has lost its servers in a police raid today. The site’s founders are also facing up to two years in prison.

Last year, the owner of a site offering a similar service, Norsub, was warned that his site was breaking the law. He shut it down shortly after the warning was issued and he was fined £1,640. It appears that, although Sweden used to be a country where users could share files online freely, recently companies in Hollywood are cracking down hard on online subtitling sharing in an effort to protect their intellectual property. Their argument is that websites such as Undertexter are profiting from the work of others.

The site’s founder, Eugen Archy, said: “The people who work on the site don’t consider their own interpretation of dialog to be something illegal, especially when we’re handing out these interpretations for free,”. Undertexter’s added on their Facebook page “Hollywood... we will never give up, we live in a free country and Swedish people have every right to publish their own interpretation of a movie/series”.

Ernesto van der Sar is the editor of the Torrentfreak news site. He told the BBC: “"These subtitles are created by the most passionate fans the industry has and they are not in any way out to make a profit, these sites exist because they offer a service to the deaf and foreign language audience that's often lacking through legal channels."

Although it is fantastic that passionate film fans want to make movies available to the deaf and foreign language audiences, this type of subtitling is harmful to the film and subtitling industries. Whilst these subtitles are created by film enthusiasts, they are almost never checked by professional subtitlers or translators. Lack of editing and proofreading inevitably results in a lower standard of the subtitles from both a linguistic and a stylistic point of view, which can and often does detract from an otherwise well-made movie. This does injustice to both the original movie as well as the subtitling profession.

Additionally, in the longer term the trend to online ‘free’ subtitling could force professional subtitlers out of their job and lead to declining quality levels in the subtitling profession. Being a professional subtitler takes time, effort and money. The technical challenges are just the start. The art of subtitling requires the linguist to be able to successfully render speech into two lines of 37 characters without losing any of the directors’s intention or nuances in the script, whilst ensuring that the text flows so naturally that it does not detract from the viewer’s experience. This is a job best handled by professionals.

  Posted by Annemieke, July 10 2013