U.S. drama producers sue illegal subtitle makers

June 30, 2014

By Kang Hyun-kyung

Six U.S. television drama producers took legal action against a group of Koreans responsible for creating the subtitles of popular U.S. soap operas available online without getting the permission from the original producers.

On Sunday, police said that the U.S. broadcasters, including Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox, hired a local law firm and sued 15 Internet users responsible for subtitling of their dramas without their permission.

Under the law, subtitles are considered a secondary creation and consequently protected by copyright laws.

People who make subtitles without permission from the original authors or producers can be given a five-year jail term or fined up to 50 million won.

Police are now questioning the 15 who were booked without physical detention.

Investigators said they made Korean subtitles of American television dramas and movies without getting prior consent from the original producers and circulated their translations among Internet users through large online cafes.

A police officer said on condition of anonymity that U.S. television drama producers tend not to exercise their copyrights if individual citizens violate the law.

But, he said, the U.S. producers took legal action against illegal subtitle makers as they believed that the violators circulated their subtitles rapidly through the Internet and as a result the original producers experienced negative fallout on their earnings.

The officer went on to say that a cable broadcast, which has aired U.S. dramas, held an emergency meeting recently after experiencing income loss following dwindling viewer ratings because of the massive spread of subtitled dramas on the Internet.

“Professional translators were also hit hard by the subtitle makers. I understand that the U.S. television drama producers took legal action against them to issue a warning to end such an illegal practice rather than making money through an out-of-court settlement fee,” he said.

Industry watchers say Korean drama producers are now taking the illegal subtitle issue seriously and are moving toward restricting people from making subtitles without their permission.


  1. EKG

    July 10, 2014 at 5:55 AM

    If Hollywood wanted to profit from this, they would start by making subtitled shows more available, instead of alienating the entire community they should be courting as a customer base. They’re interested in a quick bleed of these people as victims, not in a longer game of wooing them as customers.

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