A collection of Australian ISPs and RSPs have been petitioned by rights holders to black access to websites accused of sharing copyrighted material. And while that's not new, the types of sites being targeting has changed. As well as media-sharing sites, the content makers and distributors have turned their attention to fansub sites. These are websites that distribute subtitles to popular movies.
The latest injunction - filed by Village Roadshow Films, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal, Warner Bros, Television Broadcasts Limited and Madman Entertainment - seeks to block access to 151 domains linked to 77 sites that are alleged to be distributing copyrighted material.
You might be wondering why rights holders would have a problem with movie subtitle distribution. As well as helping people that are hard of hearing or for whom a movie's language is not familiar to them, subtitles do have another niche purpose.
Many pirated movies, particularly screeners, are accompanied by crappy soundtracks. Subtitles are used to help the distributors of illegally distributed content broaden the appeal of the movies and TV shows they are providing access to.
Predictably, these latest proposed blocks have led to significant consternation on the part of some people. For example, there's this on Techdirt
Let's be clear about what this represents. The entertainment industry wants entire websites blocked for helping viewers understand what is being said on in their own native languages. If that doesn't smack of overreach, it's hard to imagine what would.
And the judge looking at the injunction says: "You better make sure your evidence in relation to that is particularly thorough. 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".
Torrent Freak has a full list of all the websites the injunction seeks to block.
My view is that the entertainment industry is, once again, looking at the symptoms without addressing the root cause.
The massive illegal content distribution industry grew under the noses of the media production and distribution companies because they failed to see and react to the wide availability of fast internet access as an effective content distribution mechanism. They stuck to their old ways of distributing content, focused on physical media, and they were punished by the market for not giving customers what they wanted. At the same time, the rise of Amazon Prime, Netflix, Stan and other services around the world slid in and handed them their butts.
Media distribution and production companies can fix this problem with relative ease. They can start by distributing movies with subtitles. If every movie is distributed with a full set of international subtitles - something that the technology of today makes far easier than having to produce a different print of each movie - they would effectively negate the need for people to roll their own.
So, to the folks at Village Roadshow and all your friends, the easiest way to make your customers (remember us - the people who pay ludicrous amounts of money to sit on popcorn-filled seats and drink over-priced premix Coke at cinemas) is to make your content affordable and accessible.
Back in the day, I used to go to the cinema every week. I didn't even look at what was playing till I got to the theatre. Today, I do the same. But I do it from my couch with Stan and Netflix.
Instead of wasting your money on lawyers going after subtitle websites, invest in bringing your business model into the 21st century.