Is it legal to translate and distribute movie subtitle files? Consider the following cases:

  1. Ripped movie subtitle is downloaded from an online sub sharing community.

  2. Writing subtitles from audio and translating/distributing them.

  • 1
    The answer is no for every country I know the specifics about, but which country are you asking about? – David Mulder Aug 7 '15 at 18:33
  • Thanks @DavidMulder. I am asking generally. Imagine a online store for selling subtitles. Would that be legal? does it differ from country to country? – alandalusi Aug 7 '15 at 23:22
  • Depends on where you sell them... but it wouldn't be in the country where I live right now, however there might be a country somewhere where it is legal. – David Mulder Aug 7 '15 at 23:24
  • I know two countries where it is de jure legal, and one where it is de facto legal. I doubt you live in any of them, though. – Mark Aug 9 '15 at 20:15
  • @Mark: Don't tease us so! Which countries? – feetwet Aug 23 '15 at 21:41

In the US this would be copyright infringement (unless you obtain permission) Translations are derivative works of the original.

This would also be true in all countries that adhere to the Berne copyright convention, which is the vast majority of all countries on earth. I believe that Iran and Iraq are the largest non-adherent countries.

| improve this answer | |
  • There are quite a few countries (the U.S. is not one of them) that have specific exceptions or special rules in cases where the source work is not available in the principle language, or just in one of the languages, of the country in question. The procedures tend to be elaborate and country specific and resemble the right to cover a copyrighted song under U.S. law. – ohwilleke Oct 9 '18 at 1:27
  • A law review discussing the history is jetlaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Gervais.pdf – ohwilleke Oct 9 '18 at 1:42

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