Netflix is being sued for streaming Bicycle Thieves
The 1948 film is in the public domain, but subtitled versions may still be subject to copyright law
Netflix is being sued for streaming Bicycle Thieves, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The black and white 1948 film, widely deemed a classic of Italian neorealist cinema, is regularly voted one of the “greatest films ever made”. Directed by Vittorio De Sica and set in post-war Rome, it tells the story of a poor man whose bicycle – the key to his livelihood – is stolen. Along with his young son, he must try and hunt down the thief.
The film has been in the public domain since 1985, but Netflix may have still breached copyright law, by showing a copy with subtitles: the judge who presided over the 1985 ruling noted that dubbed and subtitled versions of the Italian-language movie may still be protected, as they represent an additional level of creative effort, and are technically a derivative work.
A company called Corinth Films is now claiming that it owns the subtitled version of the film used by Netflix, and is seeking “an injunction and monetary damages”.
"At no time have defendants contacted the plaintiff in order to seek its license for the Internet exhibition of the picture, either in whole or in excerpted portions," the complaint states (via The Hollywood Reporter). "Despite lacking any rights to exhibit the English sub-titled version of the picture, defendants act as though they have exhibition rights."
Netflix is yet to comment on the allegations.