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A fansub (short for fan-subtitled) is a version of a foreign film or foreign television program which has been translated by fans and subtitled into a language other than that of the original. This is usually common with animes and asian dramas. Most of these shows in order to get "dubbed" or "subbed" in another language, needs to be licensed in another country. This happens when the series has already finished airing in the home country. Also, when it takes a while for these shows to be officially released in DVDs. Fansubs, however, does it semi-real-time. When an episode is aired, give or take in less than a week, a fan sub will be out, thereby giving non-east asian speakers almost the same pace as their home country counterparts.
Scanlation on the other hand, is pretty much the same thing, although it involves comics, particularly manga. It involves scanning the pages and translating, hence the word. Again, fans do this because it takes ages for manga to be released and more often than not only those popular titles make their way into the English market.
While most of the fansubbers (the people who do the translation and the actual subs) and scanlators (for manga) do it for free and do not gain any profit whatsoever (except maybe the eternal gratitude of the fans), it cannot be denied that under the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, such an act is illegal, to wit:
Authors of literary and artistic works protected by this Convention shall enjoy the exclusive right of making and of authorizing the translation of their works throughout the term of protection of their rights in the original works. (Article 8, Right of Translation)
In the recent years, Japanese Copyright Holders have been aggressive in their fight against piracy, taking down streaming sites as well as actually arresting persons related to such offenses. What has been controversial about this is that minors are involved -since most of the people who do these works are below 20. In fact, just last year a 14-year old boy was arrested for leaking manga in Youtube. This reminds me of Lawrence Lessig's lecture on Remix and how we need to change the current copyright rules in place. This only reiterates his claim that children are now being viewed as criminals.
Entry no. 15