Recently my thoughts have been wavering between notions of rage due to the unfairness of the entertainment industry and its common copyright infringement attacks. But I am not so concerned about video content itself— merely the subtitles that accompany that content.
When Brian Zuggy’s SubRip software was introduced, it brought about a very simple yet powerful file format known today as SRT (SubRip text). This format can be displayed inline with video content in software media players. It can be rendered over videos with a specified size, position, and styling, and it offers the user extreme efficiency/flexibility.
SubRip files, along with SSA/ASS files, have become something of a standard among the internet subtitle groups, yet they are never found with officially distributed media. Isn’t it ironic that a more flexible and powerful technology not be more widely supported by the industry at large? God forbid more than ten Blu-Ray/DVD player models support playback with these types of files.
I read various articles around the web about the incident involving a Norwegian guy who was sued and fined ~$2,500 USD for sharing subtitles. A few of these articles brought to light another ridiculous concern of copyright prejudice. Fan-generated subtitles are being ruled as copyright infringement by courts. I am sorry but as a human citizen of earth, I cannot stand for that as good judgment. I just don’t understand why an industry that is not hurting by any means, will not lay down their guns for once. It’s always some financially-driven objection of balogna.
As a long-term language learner, I find subtitles to be an invaluable resource for anyone acquiring language. Subtitles allow us to pick up new vocabulary organically while integrating into our standard dose of screen-watching. I believe anyone with the rights to video content should also have rights to its captions.
The idea of having openly accessible captions to equip our media with sounds wonderful, but I would have to wage war against the industry to accomplish such a feat. I have previously considered creating a database with a similar model to OpenSubtitles.org, but it would pose risk for all this infringement garbage in the process. The corporate scum mentioned above just won’t allow me implement that option. For now, I have put my personal opinions on internet piracy and ethics aside and considered two options:
From a ‘legally viable’ standpoint, I could make a site with openly accessible captions for public content. What if this content could be injected with subtitles for people to enjoy and learn from? What if the content creators worked with me to provide both? Wouldn’t everyone be happy? Where would I get this content? Would people even watch it? I don’t know, probably not. They would want to watch things that are entertaining, which led me to Option #2.
The other option is to create a streaming service with both licensed video content and subtitles available. But then, we can just use Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, etc., and we start the vicious thinking cycle over.
While both ideas sound nice, I don’t think either is something I am willing to pursue at this point in time. If anyone else has similar aspirations, I would love to hear your thoughts. Please do share your comments.
UPDATE: Rakuten Viki
Rakuten bought Viki, which is a collaborative video content platform specializing in Asian dramas. They have solved the problem I presented above. Their platform is excellent and includes tools for the community to create fan-driven subtitles for the shows hosted on their site. The best part is that it's all legal as they obtain licenses and permission to stream the content and have fans create transcriptions.
The only issue is they focus heavily on Korean/Chinese dramas and the other regions' content gets neglected. Since I came for the Japanese content, it isn't great for my needs. Isn't it ironic and sad to see a Japanese company putting more effort into promoting and providing other countries' entertainment rather than their own? I think so, but money makes the world go 'round. Money makes businesses run. And Rakuten is more concerned with putting more yen in their pockets than the cultural prominence of their streaming service. In fact, I haven't seen a new Japanese drama hit Viki's list since I joined. I think Viki is a wonderful resource for Korean and Chinese language learners because they have access to so many shows with subtitles, but if you're learning Japanese, I'd hold off and just keep an eye out for the future.