Julie McDonough Dolmaya, of Toronto's York University, sends me an amusing but cautionary tale about fansubbers and the pitfalls of copyright. Fansubbers, in case you don't know, are
“people who painstakingly do their own translations and subtitles on programs they love, and then put them up on the Web on places like YouTube.”As it's unpaid, most of them are Native Translators who’ve presumably learnt their skill from watching previous examples, although this is something that needs more research. (For other posts about them, enter fansubbing in the Search box on the right).
“What happens when you bring together the internet, a niche international fan base, and an obscure German soap opera… Hand aufs Herz (Hand on Heart)? Quite possibly, the future of television. It sounds harmless and probably good for publicity, right? Well, the broadcasters aren’t always so keen.”The programme may not be a leading one in Germany, but it has a large international lesbian following. You can see why from the picture above and the following translated dialogue sample:
“First I was afraid but now I THINK: we will survive!There’s also subtitling in Italian as well as in Chinese, both traditional and simplified – though as someone comments, the dialogue is so simple that the double Chinese orthography is hardly necessary.
Because we’re talking about a revolution!
Hand aufs Herz, even if you seem to be a million miles away at the moment, there ain’t no mountain high enough and you’re in my sweet dreams - just the way you are - you are so beautiful, my genie in a bottle, my kiss from a rose.
No matter if I were a boy or a son of a preacherman, no matter if you want me to get the party started in English or fight for you in German: Nur mit dir macht fernsehen Spaß und wir werden keinen Zentimeter zurückweichen.” (The last sentence is left untranslated.)
The complication in this case is that the fansubbers didn’t translate entire episodes. They selected just those portions that most interest a niche lesbian audience and packaged them together on their own website, ignoring other characters in the drama. The Jenny and Emma storyline was really intended to be only a secondary one. “Essentially they’re creating their own show out of an existing one,” and called it Jemma. Then the Herz auf Hand creators struck back. They invoked copyright and forced YouTube to remove all the Jemma clips. Of course bootleg copies abounded on other sites and blogs, but they too were forced off within hours, as was that of one poster who plaintively declared, “I own nothing. This is for non-profit. No copyright infringement intended.”
Finally, however, the outcry was so loud that the originating TV station, SAT1, caved in:
“SAT1 came up with an unprecedented plan: They set up a place on their official website where Jemma fans could watch every Jemma scene from the very beginning. And not just German fans — SAT1 decided not to geoblock the Jemma clips. Viewers from around the world are welcome to watch all Jemma scenes, and the last five full episodes.The first moral of the story is obvious: fansubbers ought to check the copyright of the material they translate and make sure they have permission before they re-broadcast it. The second is that the fansubbing movement has become a rising tide that’s impossible to hold back, and that it especially benefits groups which might not appear attractive to commercial sponsors.
When SAT1 launched the test phase of their viewing plan, fan sites got back to business. Jemma International set up a website offering translations for Jemma clips and for whole episodes. And Jenny and Emma International utilized the GreenFish Subtitle Player. You just load their translations into the program, and a semi-transparent subtitle window plays over the official Hand aufs Herz clips.”
Julie McDonough Dolmaya’s own blog is at present showing some interesting preliminary data about the translators for Wikipedia. Go to the Blogging about translation and localization button in the list to the right.
The Art and Commerce of Fan Love. Spark 151, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation podcast, 2011. http://www.cbc.ca/spark/2011/06/spark-151-june-12-15-2011/.
Hand aufs Herz. Wikipedia, 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_aufs_Herz.
Jenny and Emma International. http://jennyandemma1.blogspot.com/.
It gives German source clips and multilingual subtitles.
Heather Hogan. Glee, Hand aufs Herz fans demand more from lesbian TV storylines and get it. AfterEllen, “the pop culture site that plays for your team”, 2011.
Image: Photo from Lili-Fee.