Every day, millions of people enjoy fan-made subtitles.
These files help foreigners to better understand English entertainment and provide the hearing impaired with a way to comprehend audio.
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The subtitles are often used in combination with pirated files. While helpful to many, they are a thorn in the side for major copyright holders, who see them as yet another threat to their business.
As a result, fansub communities are increasingly portrayed as illegal operations. Several sites are now blocked by ISPs and site operators have been taken to court following copyright infringement allegations.
Given this backdrop, it’s quite unusual to see one of the largest entertainment industry brands using these ‘pirate’ subtitles on its official streaming service. This is exactly what Comcast-owned Sky Switzerland is doing at the moment.
Subscribers of the local Sky platform who watch the last episode of the hit series Chernobyl, with English subtitles enabled, see the following message appearing around the five-minute mark.
“- Synced and corrected by VitoSilans – www.Addic7ed.com.”
The message is part of the credits that are typically added to fan-made subtitles. In this case, it clearly indicates that they were sourced from Addic7ed.com, a well-known resource for these type of subtitles and one that is blocked by ISPs in Australia.
Looking more closely at the official video and the Addic7ed subtitles, we see that the timing doesn’t match. This suggests that the subtitle has been synced separately to fit the Sky video. However, the opening ‘credits’ were not removed.
Also, these subs generally have a closing credit too. These are not visible during the episode on Sky.ch.
The Addic7ed team tells us that it doesn’t mind seeing their subs being used by major entertainment conglomerates. It has happened before and as long as it helps people to enjoy a movie or TV-show, everybody benefits.
“When we started the project we wished that content would be available to a larger audience by breaking the language barrier or providing English subtitles for hearing impaired people, which would otherwise not enjoy videos as much. If this means that others take our work, so be it,” Addic7ed informs TF.
“Professionals or not, our main objective was reached: more people enjoyed the show. Kudos to Sky for keeping the credits.”
Sky Switzerland hasn’t responded to our request for comment at the time of publication. Whether the Addic7ed credit was left in intentionally is highly doubtful though. It seems more likely that someone forgot to remove it.
In any case, the mention hasn’t gone unnoticed either. At least one person has alerted Sky via Twitter, but the company didn’t respond there either.
Interestingly, this is not the first time ‘pirate’ subtitles have been used on a streaming service. In the past, Netflix was caught using “unauthorized” fansubs as well. In addition, American anime distributor Funimation previously used ‘pirate’ subs in their dubbing room.
Update: Sky Switzerland reached out to us after publication. The company informed us that they have a very high anti-piracy standard and that what happened is totally unacceptable. The ‘pirate’ subtitle was quickly removed.