The streaming movie giant were unable to prevent a civil rights complaint from successfully moving to a federal court, the complaint details around Netflix not providing closed captioning.
Lee Nettles, from Greenfield brought about the lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which argues that Netflix have failed to provide closed captioning to all of its full complement of Watch Instantly titles. Nettles is seeking Netflix to change its procedures and provide closed captioning to all of its titles.
Acting in a way that discriminates
As a result they believe that Netflix are acting in a way that discriminates against the hearing impaired; however the company petitioned a United States judge to throw the lawsuit out, on the grounds that an online service does not fall under the scope of the ADA, the Judge Michael A. Ponsor went on to reject this and other arguments. His response centred on discrimination not being allowed to take place in any venue, including the internet.
In 1996 a federal law was introduced that meant that all closed-captioning was required for all TV programs; however at the time no one could have possible foreseen the potential that movie streaming would provide.
By March 2014 the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulations will require all US internet videos that were produced after 1996 to include closed-captioning.
Netflix’s arguments centred on their theory that they believed that the FCC regulations took precedence over the Americans with Disabilities Act; however Judge Ponsor was quick to remind Netflix that the FCC timeline reflected only the, “minimum compliance standards”, and that a court would be within its powers to invoke closed captioning at a much earlier date.
Closed captioning is of course the method of providing text on a movie or TV program, typically it consists of the transcript of the audio commentary; very often it is referred to as subtitles. However, in both the United States and Canada the term ‘subtitles’ implies that a viewer will be able to hear, but won’t necessarily be able to understand the spoken language.
Additional language options
Many movies or programmes will feature additional language options, which of course makes them a much more attractive proposition for people who aren’t familiar with the language that is being spoken. Of course in the case of the hearing impaired it is essentially the only way that they are able to watch and enjoy the particular movie or program being shown.