Published on 7 August 2014 – Studios including Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox are suing 15 South Koreans for creating their own homemade subtitles in Korean for popular shows in English. The subtitles were most likely written and stored in extension (.smi) files, which are designed to sync with a content file so that the viewer can see the subtitles while watching the show.
The studios contend that the 15 violated copyright because they didn’t have permission to subtitle the shows, and that their earnings took a hit because viewers watched shows using unauthorized subtitles, rather than watching the official versions, which aired on Korean TV with professionally made subtitles.
The U.S.-based entertainment companies have hired a Korean law firm to file the suit in local jurisdiction. Under Korean law, these amateur subtitlers could face five years in jail or a five of up to 50 million won (48,600 U.S. dollars).
Some have wondered about the impact the case could have on Korean fandom culture. Ardent fans often create subtitles as a way of showing their affection for their beloved show, and they leave their names, online IDs and email addresses at the end of the subtitles in order to receive feedback from other fans.
Others have pointed out that no matter if the subtitles intended harm or not, the reality is that downloading subtitles easily leads to downloading the whole show without properly paying for it. Yet only one subtitler among those being sued is believed to have created and circulated the subtitles for commercial purposes.
Read more: globalvoicesonline.org – Written by Lee Yoo Eun