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Vol. 9, Issue 8
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Netflix Sued by Deaf Civil Rights Organizations for Not Captioning Streaming Videos Jennifer Dans-Willey SIGNews Editor-in-Chief On July 16, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), the nation’s premier civil rights organization of deaf and hard of hearing individuals, announced the filing of a major federal lawsuit against Netf lix in the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, Western Division in Springfield, Ma., the organization’s Web site, www.nad.org announced. The lawsuit charges the DVD and streaming videos giant, claiming that they have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide closed captioning for most of its “Watching Instantly” movies and television streamed on the Internet.
Flashback to July 2009 issue of SIGNews
SIGNews reported in its July 2009 issue’s “Deaf Up-
set at Netf lix for not Captioning Instant Videos,” written by Erick Posner, that two years prior to the article, that Netflix had unveiled a new online movie streaming to the customer’s TV or computer at no charge to members and that many deaf people were thrilled to have this capability, reasoning that most DVDs they rented often has had subtitles or closed captioning. To learn that the online streaming wouldn’t have the same capabilities, the deaf and hard of hearing community was in for a huge disappointment. With an interview with Steve Swasey, the vice president of Corporate Communications for Netf lix, Swasey defended the Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings’ comments regarding the captions’ availability and the difficulties and the costs of making the technology to have streamed videos captioned even regardless of the $22.4
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102 N. Krohn Place, Sioux Falls, SD 57103
million first quarter profit they had made in 2009. That comment sent bloggers all over the nation on a blog rampage and encouraged the community to make the switch over to another DVD mailing company, Blockbuster and acknowledged that Netf lix had no legal accountability to caption or subtitle the streaming videos online. Swasey was quoted, “There are many in-
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stances where we are not able to provide everything to everybody all the time and this is one of those circumstances. It is nothing but a resource, time and tech issue and I real-
ly think we are hearing much more of emotion around this than the facts would necessitate,” upon hearing about the uproar of the signing community.
What is “Watching Instantly”?
Netf lix elaborates on their product, the largest and the solo provider of “streaming” entertainment, by listing all the answers under its frequent asked questions section on their website. “You can watch instantly via your Xbox 360, PS3, Wii or any other device that streams instantly from Netf lix…(instructions on how to stream videos for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii are mentioned).You can also watch instantly via some Internet connected Blu-ray players as well as some Internet connected HDTVs. You also watch instantly via your TiVo and Roku.” When asked if one could watch instantly on iPad or iPhone, they responded, “Yes, just download the FREE Netf lix application from the Apple App store and log into your Netf lix account.” Anyone can even watch instantly online on their PC or Mac by just “clicking” play butNetflix, continued on page 2
2 • August 2011• SIGNews Netflix, continued from page 1
it. Netf lix developers continue to work on closed captioning and we will keep deaf and hard of hearing community apprised of the progress.” Three days after the letter, Fisher declined NAD’s request for a meeting, the recently filed lawsuit court record said.
Volume 9, Number 8 Editor-in- Chief Jennifer Dans-Willey Editing Support Derric Miller
Who are Involved in the Lawsuit?
L ay o u t E d i t o r Deb Kuglitsch Co n tac t I n fo r m at i o n To subscribe email@example.com Letters to the Editor firstname.lastname@example.org News tips, articles & photos email@example.com To advertise in SIGNews and/or on SIGNews’ website firstname.lastname@example.org All advertising published in SIGNews is subject to the current rate schedule and is available upon request. Customer Service email@example.com • A publication of Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc. 102 N. Krohn Place Sioux Falls, S.D. 57103 • Toll Free Voice: (866) 295-4899 Fax: (605) 367-5958 Videophone: (605) 496-0028 or signews.csd.tv • AIM: SIGNews1 • www.signews.org • Regular subscription rates: 12 months, $19.95 Group rates and discounts available • SIGNews, a monthly newspaper serving the signing community, aims to bring its audience news and information of journalistic integrity and accuracy. • Any opinion or bias expressed in the submissions contained in SIGNews does not imply endorsement by our publication. • SIGNews does not endorse and is not responsible for any statement made or represented in advertisements in the newspaper. SIGNews is not responsible for any third party content or error, omission or inaccuracy in any advertising material contained in this publication. • SIGNews and SIGNews logo are the trademarks of Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc. Communication Service for the Deaf, CSD, and the CSD logo are the registered trademarks of Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc. © 2011 Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Bobbie Beth Scoggins ton on the screen and watch it online through Internet connected computers. Many videos online that are streamed to a deaf or a hard of hearing person’s devices of their choice are not subtitled or captioned.
Repeatedly Expressed Concerns
An estimated 36 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing. The community has repeatedly expressed concerns through letters, petitions, blogs and social media to Netf lix about the company’s failure to provide equal access to “Watch Instantly,” the NAD Web site reported. “We have tried for years to persuade Netf lix to do the right thing and provide equal access to all content across all platforms. They chose not to serve our community on an equal basis; we must have equal access to the biggest provider of streamed entertainment. As Netf lix itself acknowledges, streamed videos is the future and we must not be left out,” said NAD President Bobbie Beth Scoggins in
the same press release on the Internet. Directing Attorney of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), Arlene Mayerson said in the press release, “There is no excuse for Netf lix to fail to provide captions so that deaf and hard of hearing customers have access to the same movies and TV shows as everyone else. Netf lix admits that there is no technological issue. For people who are deaf and hard of hearing, captions are like ramps for people who use wheelchairs.”
The Wizard of Oz Fiasco
In 2009, Netf lix ignored a request from NAD’s former Director of Law and Policy, Rosaline Crawford’s request to caption the streaming video of The Wizard of Oz which Netflix intended to make available for free to the general public in commemoration of the movie’s 70th anniversary. No captions were shown or no one responded to Crawford until nearly a month later. Catherine Fisher, Director of Communications at Netf lix with a quote, “Netf lix frequently communicates its commitment to provide closed captioning for the TV episodes and movies you can watch instantly, but it was not simple for Netf lix to instantly stream the Wizard of Oz the past weekend, otherwise we would have done
The papers that were filed at the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts Western Division, the lawsuit papers stated that the NAD has teamed up with the Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired along with Lee Nettles. According to the court report, NAD has teamed up with Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired (WMAD/HI), a nonprofit organization headquartered in Springfield, Mass., with a mission to advocate for the rights of and to serve the needs of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in Western Massachusetts, including advocating for increased access to community life through the provision of sign language interprets and captioning. NAD and WMAD/HI is also partnered up with Lee Nettles, a deaf individual and a member of WMAD/HI and NAD. Nettles is the Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Independent Living Services at the Stavros Center for Independent Living in Springfield, Mass. A resident in Westfield, Mass., with his wife, Nettles never subscribed to Netf lix because of its failure to provide full and equal access through closed captioning. Nettles has resorted to purchasing on-demand movies from other services
that are more expensive and are only available at a cost per movie basis, rather than paying a monthly fee for unlimited access. The lawsuit filing can be found at this link: http://www. dredf.org/captioning and click on “Read the full complaint.”
By Jacqueline Thomas www.life123.com and By Wikipedia www.wikipedia.com 1. Netflix was founded in 1997. 2. Mail-order service. 3. 100,000 titles. 4. Removed late fees in 1999. 5. Online membership required. 6. 50 distribution centers across the country. 7. Provided pre-paid postage to return rental. 8. Ships approximately 2 million DVDs per day 9. Annual postage $300 million 10. Accused of “throttling” (Throttling happens when members who rent fewer DVDs receive faster than members who rent frequently, i.e. DVDs can be sent from further distances, making the arrival time longer than one business day). 11. Partners are Marc Randolph, Reed Hastings and Mitch Lowe. 12. Largest online movie rental service in the world. 13. “Watching Instantly” one of Netflix’s options of watching movies. 14. Cost to stream a movie, $.06 for standard screen, $.09 for high definition. 15. Located in Los Gatos, California. 16. Incorporated in Delaware. 17. Employs 2,000 people.