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ADA May Force Netflix To Provide Closed Captioning On Content 694

Shivetya writes "Last year Netflix was sued by the National Association for the Deaf for failing to provide closed captioned text through its on-demand streaming service. Now, a judge has denied Netflix's attempt to have the suit thrown out, saying that the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination in any venue — not just physical structures. The easiest means to comply would be to remove all videos which do not have a closed captioning component, the other route would require Netflix to pay to have this done to any video it wants to provide. The implications to other providers is immense as well. The plaintiffs will still need to prove that Netflix is legally obligated to provide closed-captioning, but the ruling is still significant for recognizing that Internet sites may fall under the purview of the Americans with Disabilities Act."
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ADA May Force Netflix To Provide Closed Captioning On Content

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @08:24PM (#40460849)

    And, believe or not, there's actually a movement against that. There are deaf people that want deaf children, and want them to remain deaf. I'm a type 1 diabetic, and I can't imagine forcing that on a child. It makes like a pain in the butt.

  • by XaXXon ( 202882 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [noxxax]> on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @08:25PM (#40460861) Homepage

    I'm pretty sure you missed the entire point. The OP was asking what power congress has to CREATE the ADA, not what does the ADA do.

    There's nowhere in the constitution that gives congress the power to regulate how private businesses operate. Some would say (not saying I do) that we should let economics figure this out. if there's money to be made, then companies will make it happen.

    Anyways, I think that's what the real question was.

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @08:25PM (#40460863)

    >>>Then obviously you didn't read the ADA, which covers it explicitly at the start.

    Thanks. Now show me *in the constitution* where Congress was given authority to regulate private business. They certainly have the authority over commerce among the states, but PER THE 10th AMENDMENT do not have authority over businesses that exist wholly *inside* a state. Like a private store. Or a private office. Or a private school. Or a private farm. Or.....

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @08:28PM (#40460887)

    Oh yeah, my roomie regarded those implants as the enemy, and any deaf person who supported them as a traitor.

  • Re:Mixed feelings (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nethemas the Great ( 909900 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @08:32PM (#40460949)
    They're not ripping DVDs. They're purchasing content from digital distribution houses such as Funimation, Weinstein, Dreamworks, Starz (well at least used to), etc.. The content provider would have to make the subtitles available to Netflix to push onto the stream. If they don't/won't then Netflix would be on the hook if they are legally recognized as a "multi-channel video programming distributor [fcc.gov]".
  • by WinstonWolfIT ( 1550079 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @08:39PM (#40461031)

    I used to be involved with ADA, and I believe the lawsuit will eventually fail. There are two components to ADA that they might go after, Telecommunications or Public Accommodation. However, The language of the law is pretty specific, and there's no way Netflix will fall under either of these categories. As many have already pointed out, Netflix losing would be a catastrophically slippery slope, and no court would initiate that without clear intent from Congress. Just because a case isn't summarily dismissed doesn't mean it will win, it simply means the judge believes it's worth hearing.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @08:46PM (#40461105) Homepage

    This is just a preliminary ruling. Netflix tried to have the suit dismissed, that didn't work, and now it gets tried on the merits.

    At some point, the ADA runs into the First Amendment, which prohibits "forced speech". (Broadcast TV is a special case, because it involves publicly owned RF spectrum.) Book publishers aren't required to produce audio or Braille editions, or translations to another language.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @09:37PM (#40461613)


    Congress can regulate corn you grow on your own land, to harvest by yourself only, used to feed only your own farm animals.
    On Thursday, they will rule on if Congress can force you to buy a product from a private company under threat of fines/jail time, again using the commerce clause.

    After Wickard vs Filburn, there appears to be no limit to what Congress can regulate, within states or between states.

  • Re:Mixed feelings (Score:1, Informative)

    by fatherjoecode ( 1725040 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @09:37PM (#40461615) Homepage

    I am all for "fair access" but if the CC was not made available by the content maker, than how is it netflixes fault for not having them? Shouldnt the judge be charging the movie maker for not providing CC to begin with??

    There are no CC's on any Netflix streaming videos. None. Even if the the movie producer provides CC on the DVD, Netflix can't be bothered transmitting it on the streamed content.

  • by LO0G ( 606364 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @09:51PM (#40461785)

    Here's a hint:

    (4) to invoke the sweep of congressional authority, including the power to enforce the fourteenth amendment and to regulate commerce, in order to address the major areas of discrimination faced day-to-day by people with disabilities.

    The law cites the 14th amendment (equal protection) and the commerce clause.

  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @10:33PM (#40462193)

    Damn, I swear you are now my textbook example for http://xkcd.com/386/ [xkcd.com] .

    Cable is regulated because it's not all a local coax - much of the system is distributed over satellite, etc, which the FCC regulates.

    VHS uses line 21 VBI CC (ie just analog NTSC 480i and totally irrelevant), DVD uses bitmap images (a horrible format for streaming, and those are subtitles not closed captions anyway), and BD subtitles are way overcomplicated for streaming use. And that's all beside the point, since Netflix doesn't get their streaming from any of those, they get MPEG files from the content providers. Now they are going to have to go get CC/subtitle info from all of those providers in a big clusterfuck of content management.

    Given companies like Netflix already have literally 100's of thousands of encoded and encrypted streams already on CDNs, they can't just "dump" anything to a stream. They will all be coming up with ways (some standard most somewhat proprietary) of taking CC from the content providers, sending it as separate requests (likely HTTP) and displaying it on devices. And given the FCC is basically requiring CEA-708 feature set compliance (along with the fact these services are on dozens or hundreds of devices with vastly different software), that's going to be a shit-ton of work.

  • by jersey_emt ( 846314 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @11:32PM (#40462807) Homepage
    Or you could simply be a real parent and not tolerate misbehavior. My parents just told me to shut the hell up when it was inappropriate to make noise.
  • Unfortunately deaf pride or whatever you want to call it is a very prevent and prominent culture in many primarily deaf settings. The local school was protesting hearing teachers even with implants. They are pushing for laws to prevent implants to those unable to consent (effectively making it a mute point as you cant wait till 18 to decide the nerves do atrophy). It's pushed pretty heavily by some deaf teachers to impressionable young children under there care. I guess it's not different that other teachers choosing indoctrination of other political agendas as part of there teaching.

  • Re:Mixed feelings (Score:2, Informative)

    by atriusofbricia ( 686672 ) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @12:38AM (#40463361) Journal

    well we could take it to the next logical step, What about blind people? we need to make sure blind people can access the internet and "watch" their videos as well!

      I am all for "fair access" but if the CC was not made available by the content maker, than how is it netflixes fault for not having them? Shouldnt the judge be charging the movie maker for not providing CC to begin with??


    Also, and I'm speaking as someone who has a loved one who uses CC from time to time, my huge problem with this kind of thing is that the National Association of Deaf People are in essence demanding that Netflix provide a seriously expensive service at no charge. I would be willing to bet that they would also have thrown a holy snit fit if they were asked to pay one red cent to provide this extremely expensive service.

    As to the idea that these kinds of things should just be considered "another cost of business" it really shouldn't. If you want service X, then you should pay for it and not use the power of government to force someone to give it to you for free. As has been said, where do we draw the line?

  • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @05:29AM (#40464967)

    You got me. I'm a horrible parent by letting my 2, 6, and 8 year old laugh and enjoy movies at home.

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