Spanish-speaking volunteer subtitle group aRGENTeaM announced in early December 2023 that it will shut down on January 1st, 2024, after 22 years, according to the Argentine newspaper Clarin (in Spanish).
Members of the group that started in 2001 created subtitles in Spanish for TV series, movies, and documentaries long before streaming became available. Back then, people needed to download files to watch those shows or buy DVDs. The community was also a pre-social network forum for fans to exchange information under a shared passion for TV and cinema, and a commitment to high-quality subtitles, states the article.
According to the news piece, many series were not subtitled at the time the group began (such as Lost and Galactica), and volunteers needed to rip videos, then translate and subtitle them, with series being distributed among amateur localizers working under the anonymity of screen names and via external links.
The “ripping,” continues the article, implied necessarily an issue of piracy, which members could not evade. That is why links to downloadable subtitled works pointed to access via P2P (e.g., eMule) or torrents (e.g., BitTorrent). The group got around copyright issues by not allowing direct downloads from the site, therefore avoiding a direct link to any group members. Besides, no one ever made a profit from the subtitled videos.
The End of Fan Subtitling?
At the time aRGENTeaM began, multiple online communities were already creating subtitles for Japanese anime and other media, explains the article. This practice is coming to an end after more than two decades because the demand that gave birth to them no longer exists —by way of technological advances.
Streaming, the article says, was the last push to shut down the community, but the site administrators also cited other reasons, including the high cost in time and money of maintaining the site. The article also mentions the administrators blame a “persecution against sites like ours, with servers receiving threats so that they do not host us, and a constant struggle to find hosting space.”
The article also quotes the current administrators saying that there are fewer people interested in translating and moderating.
In the online statement announcing the site closure, administrators say in Spanish that “Given that this is an effort done for and by all of you, in a few days there will be a torrent available with all the subtitles we created along the more than two decades of our existence. It will continue to be available as long as there is someone willing to share.”
The administrators closed the announcement by thanking all users, translators, editors, moderators, and contributors to the site.