Poland: Nine people held by police for translating movies

[ Thursday, 17 May 2007, michuk ]

Nine people involved in a community portal Napisy.org have been held for questioning by Polish police forces. The possible accusation is publishing illegal translations of foreign movies.

Napisy.org was the most popular Polish portal where users (and there are over 600 thousands active users) were free to submit translated subtitles for popular movies (mostly from English to Polish, but not only). Popular video players could be then used to display the subtitles when playing a movie (usually a DVD-rip).

The website (already shut down) was located on German servers. Zbigniew Urbański from the Polish National Police informed that the police action was supported by German colleagues and the Polish Foundation for protecting Audio-Video content (connected with The Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry, a Polish RIAA/MPAA-like organization):

The people held for questioning are mostly the people who were involved in translating the movies. They were stopped in different places all over the country: in Śląsk (Silesia), Podlasie (Podlachia), Kraków (Cracow) and Szczecin (Stettin). Among the arrested was the service administrator from Zabrze. The case is evolving. Further actions are coming.

During the proceedings, 10 PCs and 7 laptops have been secured by the Police, together with about 2000 CDs containing (probably) illegally copied movies and PC software.

According to Polish copyright law any “processing” of others’ content including translating is prohibited without permission. The people held (aged 20 – 30) were questioned on Wednesday and Thursday and then allowed to leave. In case of being accused of illegal publishing of copyrighted material, they can spend in jail up to 2 years (in the worst case).

Sources: Gazeta.pl, idg.pl, Police [in Polish]

Comments from napisy.org administrator

Dziennik Internautów has just published some comments sent to them by Krzysztof ‘rotorek’ Czerepak, the administrator of napisy.org. Here is a translation:

I confirm that yesterday a few our collegues were held by the police. I personally know of 6 persons (not 9 as the police claims): 2 admins, 3 moderators and one translator (a woman). I can’t tell if there were more holdings.

All the people were taken by the police exactly at 6 in the morning. We don’t know where the police got the information about their home addresses since the personal data of none of them was publicly available.

Pan Urbański (the police chairman) gave the media some false information and some deliberate lies, probably intending to present the police proceedings as a brave and successful action.


As of the future of the service, it’s hard to tell anything right now, since I could not contact the other admin since the police took his phone ( probably hoping to find some information there ;) )

Personally I would like to hear some lawyer’s opinion about the whole situation. I would also like to point that most of the amateurish translations appear long before a “professional” translation is prepared. It is also an often omitted fact that a lot of “professionals” use (or steal, naming the things) our translations to do their job. Nobody calls this a violation of law…

Moreover — the idea of the service is non-commercial. The translators do not make money for their work.

In the next e-mail mr Krzysztof added:

Also, I don’t know anything about those 2000 CDs. I assume that this is another poilce lie.

The two admins had laptops with fully legal software, while the woman-translator had a company-owned laptop.

About napisy.org

Napisy.org was the most popular community subtitle exchange portal in Poland. The service has thousands of translated subtitle files in the database. Its existence was first threatened in December 2005 when a representative of a major Polish film corporation Gutek Film, Jakub Duszyński, demanded that all the subtitles violating the law were removed from napisy.org. The service was even shut down by its administrators for a short while but the administrators eventually decided to continue running it, since the law related to the “fair/personal use” is pretty unclear and the feasibility of real threat seemed to be low.

About the Author

Borys Musielak

PolishLinux.org creator and editor in chief. Professionally -- J2EE consultant in London City. Personally -- free software enthusiast and lobbyist.

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