The Consortium is still at the proposal stage. We are looking not only for persons interested in membership, but also for comments and suggestions on the form and content of the consortium. Once we have obtained both enough interested members and enough comments, we will write up an official set of membership regulations which members will be required to sign.
Interested persons should contact Aaron Gerow at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the main difficulties in studying and teaching Japanese film is the availability of subtitled films. Films by the masters such as Ozu, Kurosawa, and Mizoguchi are generally available on film, video, or even DVD, but few works outside of a limited canon can be found anywhere outside of Japan. Even if one knows enough Japanese to use non-subtitled work in one's own research, those films can rarely be used in class and are not available for reference by non-Japanese film specialists who may be reading that research.
It is due to this situation that some of the members of Kinema Club, taking a hint from the many anime clubs that have subtitled Japanese animation for their own purposes, have decided to form a consortium to make and share English subtitled video copies of films currently unavailable, in order to further research and education on Japanese cinema. We are looking for members willing to take part in the consortium.
While in an ideal world, it would be nice to cooperatively make subtitled copies and have them available to anyone interested, the unfortunate tendency is for many to take advantage of the work created by others without doing the hard work themselves needed to produce the films. An incentive is needed in order to get members to participate in the subtitling. That is why the subtitling consortium will restrict distribution of the created videos only to those who have produced an original subtitled work for the consortium. Those who join, then, must have the will and the way to produce at least one subtitled video copy of a film. Once that copy has been produced, the member can receive all the copies available at that time and in the future. (However, once every member has produced at least one film, members must produce another subtitled film in order to receive the batch of second films.)
Membership is available to individuals and to institutions, with the stipulation that the resulting work will only be used for educational and research purposes. Institutional membership will be limited to smaller instutional entities, such as departments, not universities. Any member who uses the films for commercial purposes will be immediately expelled and prohibited from using the consortium videos. In order to participate, members must have the ability to translate a Japanese language film into English and to create subtitles on a video tape. The former obviously requires Japanese language skills, and the second, video subtitling equipment (character generators) or computer film editing software such as Adobe Premiere.
Members are free to choose, within limits, the film they wish to subtitle. It should be a film for which no subtitled print readily exists (simply transferring subtitles of a print or video already in existence is not considered fulfillment of membership requirements). Hopefully, it should also be one that is important for research and education in Japanese cinema and which will interest other consortium members. In order to subtitle a film, a good video, laser disc, DVD, or film copy without subtitles must be available. It will also be easier for the subtitler if the film chosen has a printed screenplay available which can be referred to when subtitling.
There is the problem of copyright. Copyright for films produced in Japan is currently in effect for 50 years after the date of release; everything released before that is technically public domain. As many of us know, however, Japanese film studios often claim copyrights even when they have expired. While we insist our creation of subtitled prints for research and educational use is protected by the fair use clause in copyright law, it is important that we treat this issue seriously and with care. The following guidelines should thus be respected when selecting films:
1) For the time being, the selection should concentrate on films in the public domain.
2) If a member insists on doing a film for which copyright is still in effect, it is recommended that they obtain written approval from the copyright holder (usually the production company).
3) Since copyright law exists in part to protect commercial interests, we must be careful that our distribution of tapes cannot be considered as hurting those interests. Many films are now available commercially on video in Japan and thus we require that any member receiving a consortium-subtitled film buy the commercially released non-subtitled copy if it is still available. That way we can say our tape distribution is not hurting sales (it is in fact increasing it). This does not apply, of course, to films not currently available for sale on video.
Depending on the equipment available to a member, subtitles should be produced on video in a reasonable way that are accurate (both in terms of translation and timing) and easy to read (both in terms of visual readability and subtitle length). The subtitles need not be of professional quality, but they should be usable; translation need not be of top literary style, but it should be done with the viewer in mind. Members may want to experiment with new subtitling techniques, but should keep in mind their duty to provide copies usable by all the members.
Once a member has produced a subtitled video copy, they should send a single copy to each member who has produced a copy before. Efforts should be made to produce copies without too much of a degradation in sound and image. When a member has produced a tape, the member will notify the others, who will then send a blank tape of the right length complete with a self-addressed, stamped envelope. If a member can put subtitles directly on commercially produced video copies of the film, that might be the best option. Those who can, should insert individual member numbers on the tapes they make for each member so that the tapes can be better managed and dubbing prevented.
It goes without saying that the consortium can only work if usage of the tapes is in general restricted to members of the consortium. One of the duties of members will then include making sure that no one who is not a member will be using these tapes without permission. Permitted uses includes showing the films in class and at conferences as a part of a research presentation, but members must refrain from lending copies to non-members. If others want to use the tape, tell them to join the consortium. This may seem restrictive, but the crucial issue is preventing unwanted distribution and dubbing. Once you lend it to someone, they make a copy which then gets lent to someone else, and so on. Not only does this threaten to undermine the consortium, it makes it easy for unscrupulous video retailers to get a hand on our work. Institutional members should take special care in restricting use of the videos to responsible people and in preventing all dubbing. Libraries that are members must not lend the videos and must restrict use to responsible researchers.
Any member found distributing the films against the consortium rules will be expelled and prohibited from using the films.
If a noncommercial institution which is not a member is interested in using our subtitled copies on a one-time only basis, that can be approved by vote of the membership. Any further use will demand such institutions join the consortium.
Producing subtitles is producing copyright. While some of those who disagree with the commodification of intellectual production may feel we should not copyright our subtitles, there are several reasons we should claim copyright for what we do:
Basically, the subtitles produced by the consortium will collectively become the copyright of the consortium. If a company (a legitimate distributor or the original production company) is at a future date (or at the time of the subtitling) interested in using the subtitles commercially, the right to use the subtitles can be lent to the company for a fee decided through negotiation (the right to use the film itself must be negotiated with that copyright holder). The funds accrued will be used by the consortium to further its activities, though further consultation among members will be needed in order to decide how to manage and use such funds. Credits for the subtitling will be shared by the consortium and the individual(s) who did the actual subtitling.
Any violations of the rules of the consortium, or any form of adjudication among members, will be determined by a three-member council initially made up of Abé Mark Nornes, Aaron Gerow, and Maureen Donovan. The decisions of the council will be final.