Netflix agrees to subtitle all movies by 2014
National Association for the deaf calls Netflix pledge "model for the streaming video industry"
Agreement ends a lawsuit the association filed in 2010
In an agreement that the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) calls “a model for the streaming video industry,” Netflix has agreed to caption all of its shows by the year 2014.
The online-streaming giant is already captioning 82 percent of its videos, according to the consent decree [PDF] filed in court yesterday. Now, it’s bound to finish its entire library, reaching the 90 percent mark in 2013 and 100 percent by 2014.
The company has also agreed to speedily caption new content. The agreement says that Netflix will put captions on new content within 30 days by 2014; within 14 days by 2015; and within 7 days by 2016, “and shall strive to reach a point at which Conforming Captions are provided simultaneously with launch at all times.”
Netflix provides its service on more than 1,000 devices; its captioning service works on most, but not all, of those.The company promises to make “good faith, diligent efforts” to get it working on all devices, but it isn’t obligated to get 100% device compatibility.
The agreement ends a class-action lawsuit that NAD filed in 2010, claiming that Netflix’s website was a “place of public accommodation” that was out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. While the parties have made nice now, Netflix spent a fair amount of time trying to get the lawsuit kicked out first.
Netflix said that the ADA didn’t apply in this case, because it was superseded by a new law directing the FCC to set rules for online captioning. In June, however, Netflix definitively lost that argument, when a Massachusetts federal judge ruled [PDF] that the new law was meant to “complement, not supplant” the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The National Association of the Deaf congratulates Netflix for committing to 100 percent captioning, and is thrilled to announce that 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people will be able to fully access Netflix’s Watch Instantly services,” said NAD CEO Howard Rosenblum in a press release accompanying the decree.
As part of the consent decree, Netflix will pay $755,000 to plaintiffs’ lawyers who prosecuted the lawsuit, as well as $40,000 for the decree to be implemented over the next four years.