Several Subtitle Site Members Arrested in China

Written by Bill Toulas
Published on February 4, 2021

The Chinese police have arrested 14 members of the ‘YYeTs.com’ (aka Renren Yingshi) subtitling website, which is still online at the time of writing this. This is a platform that has been listed in the USTR’s “naughty list” more than once, so there was some international pressure to track down and arrest its operators.

However, seeing the law enforcement authorities in China taking such steps is rare, so this is a unique case that holds special interest.

Subtitling pirated content is considered copyright infringement, and this has been established quite well in the previous years. The particular platform started by offering Chinese subtitles for Western content, which helped boost piracy rates of Hollywood movies or Netflix titles in the massive Chinese market. If it weren’t for YYeTs, many Chinese pirates would not have indulged in pirated content, as they wouldn’t be able to enjoy it as much.

Source: SCMP, Credits: Weibo

YYeTs has had trouble many times in the past but always managed to survive and continued to grow. Possibly, the fact that the authorities never arrested anyone created a sense that laying low for a while following other actions against similar sites would always do the trick. Truth be told, it actually did it.

However, this time, things are different, and while the 14 members who fell into the hands of the police may not be the entire YYeTs team, it is unlikely that the others will continue. That is even if the website is still up right now.

According to local media outlets, the arrested members are the most prolific of the group, downloading movies from peer-to-peer networks, adding subtitles, and redistributing them from their own network of servers.

Source: SCMP, Credits: Weibo

This content was accessible through a dedicated app (desktop, mobile, or TV) or right from the website. It is estimated that approximately eight million people were active subscribers on the YYeTs platform.

The subtitles were created by translators who got paid around $60 per film for their work. It is unknown how many translators were contracted by the pirating platform. However, considering how many films and TV series were on offer, Renren Yingshi must have collaborated with a small army of people.

As the Chinese authorities don’t like to share much info about their internal affairs, we don’t know if any translators are among the arrested individuals. Still, we may see further action led by interrogation clues soon.

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