The Secret Deafie: I pay my subscriptions but I’m forced to get my subtitles the illegal way

Posted on October 29, 2017

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I have an access need that requires me to break the law.

My issue is about subtitled programmes in the UK. I am one of those people who have paid the top dollar for access to high quality programmes with subtitles. My subscription to Sky comes to nearly £100 per month. It might be expensive to some but you have to remember that I don’t spend money on other things like concerts tickets, music downloads and other content for the audiophile audience. I pay money to watch the best visual entertainment a deaf person can buy.

I hope you can agree with me that I have fairly contributed to the film and TV industry to satisfy their desire for royalties on protected content. I am not only paying for the content that I do see, but also the content that I don’t, as my subscription is a flat fee each month.

And yet, I turn to channels like SyFy, which airs programmes without subtitles. That is my problem, you see, I am an avid Science Fiction fan. I don’t care what type of Sci Fi it is but I would much rather watch Defiancethan Downtown Abbey. The subtitled content on territorial channels does not meet my desired viewing habits.

A friend introduced me to peer-to-peer file sharing where there are lists of uploaded programmes that are available to download. Using a file-sharing tool is in itself not illegal but the act of downloading a TV programme or film onto your computer is. In actual fact, I am more likely to see subtitled content here than in my Sky box.

My argument is that I have already paid for the programme. TV series like Continuum, Defiance and Revolution are such programmes that I would like to see and I can see them on the SyFy channel that I have paid for … but there are no subtitles. I look at that channel with clouds of fury escaping from my nostrils … why no subtitles! Why?

But you might ask, if you are downloading the same programme, are they also no subtitled on downloaded content too. Well, that’s the thing. There are websites that provide free subtitled files in multiple languages, including ‘English for the Deaf and HoH’. It is just a case of downloading the .mp4 file, which has the film, and the .svt files, which has the subtitles, and placing both in the same folder with the same name (exactly the same). You can then open your media viewing application and the subtitles will just appear. Just imagine, the next time you see a programme on your TV without subtitles, could you bear knowing that, somewhere else, the subtitles exist?

So, I have started downloading some American Sci Fi series, such as: Defiance, about a town that continues to survive after a post-apocalypse alien invasion; or Continuum, about a gang of revolutionaries and a police officer who all sent back in time; or Revolution, life when electricity is switched off. I watch them all with clear and accurate subtitles on my lap top as well as, with my Apple TV, my HDTV too.

There is one more programme that I have downloaded that I have yet to see on the channels I have paid for. I feel that I, as a deaf person, have a right to see. ‘Switched at Birth’ is an American ABC series about two daughters who learn they were switched at birth, where one of the daughters is deaf. The story unravels the complexity of accepting and embracing Deaf life, with the problems along the way. It is just the kind of programme we need to see here.

Knowing our TV companies, I doubt very much that such a radical programme will arrive here – we are not very good at showing stories about issues unless they are labelled a ‘soap opera’. So, I have committed my crime – I have downloaded the entire series that I haven’t paid for, which I have enjoyed tremendously.

While TV companies continue to flout the Equality Act and air programmes without subtitles, as well fail to bring programmes to my screen about deaf lives that I want to watch; I am going to continue downloading programmes illegally.

This Secret Deafie got in touch by anonymous email. Not even the Limping Chicken knows who this was.. But what do you think ? Is the Secret Deafie within his rights to download pirate content in the circumstances?

The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. 

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