The movie subtitle fansite undertexter.se has been raided by the police and copyright industry. This marks an escalation of the war against sharing culture and knowledge, as the site contained nothing but user-submitted translations of movie dialog. We are quickly coming to a two-tier justice system, where the copyright industry is right against single parents by definition, and that’s not taken very well.
The movie subtitle fansite undertexter.se, literally meaning subtitles.se, is a site where people contribute their own translations of movies. This lets people who aren’t good at the original language of a movie or cartoon put those fanmade subtitles – fansubs – on top of the movie or cartoon. Fansubbing is a thriving culture which usually provides better-than-professional subtitles for new episodes with less than 24 hours of turnaround (whereas the providers of the original cartoon or movie can easily take six months or more).
What’s remarkable about this raid is that the copyright industry has decided to do a full-out raid against something that is entirely fan-made. It underscores the general sentiment of the copyright monopoly not protecting the creator of artwork, but protecting the big distribution monopolies, no matter who actually created the art. The copyright industry in Sweden has previously asserted threateningly that the dialog of a movie would be covered by the copyright monopoly, and that any fan translation – even for free – would be a violation of that monopoly. Still, going all-out with a police raid backed by the copyright industry’s enforcement arm in Sweden is a clear escalation of violence.
(In Sweden, the copyright industry can legally order police raids. Such raids are called intrångsundersökning and are technically executed by the Enforcement Authority who enlist Police in turn. Details on the exact chain of command in this specific raid remain unclear as of Wednesday morning.)
In short, this event shows that the copyright industry will stop at nothing to reverse time to where they and they alone decided what culture and knowledge was available, and to whom. This war will not end until 1) the copyright industry is dead, or 2) they have complete control over access to the planet’s culture and knowledge. Pick your sides and place your bets.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the police is acting to protect the copyright industry, and not to uphold the law. This is very, very serious. When Netflix copied fansubs for their Hollywood movies from the fansub site DivXFinland, everybody was amused – even though it was a textbook copyright monopoly violation of those fansubs. But Netflix is part of the copyright industry, and therefore, they are above the law.
When the Swedish video-on-demand service Voddler sat up on its pretend high-horse-in-shining-armor and proclaimed its love for the copyright monopoly and how important it was to all of civilization, while at the same time building its entire service on GPL code and thereby committing a huge copyright monopoly violation themselves, there’s a pattern here. The rights, monopolies, and privileges don’t matter in the slightest; what matters is who holds them.
This is the emergence of a two-tier justice system, where some rules apply to one set of people (“high justice”), and other rules apply to the rest of people (“low justice”). But a two-tier justice system is not a justice system at all; it is an oppression system.
This game is a dangerous one to play for the political elite. When ordinary people are told that there aren’t police resources to investigate who raped them, who stole their car, and who broke into their home, and get the investigations closed in 15 minutes (which was the case with a rape investigation recently) – but there are police resources to conduct raids against fan-made creations from the common folk, just because the wealthiest feel like it (there’s not even a credible threat to base the raid on) — that’s a recipe for more than growing discontent. That’s a recipe for an uprising, in one form or another. Which form such an uprising takes will depend entirely on how bad the corruption has fested.
The crew from undertexter.se has a statement out as of this morning:
Undertexter.se has had a police raid this morning (July 9) and servers and computers have been seized, and therefore, the site is down. We who work on the site don’t consider an interpretation of dialog to be something illegal, especially not when sharing it for free. Henrik Pontén [the copyright industry's primary henchman in Sweden], who is behind the raid, disagrees. Sorry Hollywood, this was the totally wrong card to play. We will never surrender. [...] We must do everything in our power to stop these anti-pirates. [...]
The Swedish Pirate Party has published a press statement:
“The copyright industry is resorting to increasingly desperate measures to defend an obsolete copyright monopoly”, says Anna Troberg, leader of the Swedish Pirate Party. “Today’s monopoly scuttles and inhibits creativity in a way that is completely unreasonable. The raid against undertexter.se is yet another piece of evidence that the time has come to reform the copyright monopoly from the ground up.”
(The subtitled frame illustrating the story is from the movie TPB AFK by Simon Klose.)
UPDATE; In the Facebook thread, Adam Kumiszcza tips about a similar Polish case where the charges were dropped and the expert opinion was that translating from hearing and sharing for free is not infringing the copyright monopoly. This is relevant as any EU court sets precedent all over the EU.