updated 09:45 pm EDT, Thu October 11, 2012
Suit filed in 2010 claimed that Netflix violated the ADA
To settle a lawsuit filed in 2010 by the National Association for the Deaf (NAD), Netflix has agreed to caption all of its videos by 2014. According to the court filing from yesterday, Netflix already captions 82 percent of its videos, and is obligated to hit 90 percent by the end of 2013, with full captioning on everything by the close of 2014. Netflix promises to make "good faith, diligent efforts" to make the over 1,000 devices that its service is provided on compatible with captioning, but has no obligation to make 100 percent of them compliant with the new effort.
The suit was originally filed by Lee Nettles, a staff member at the Stavros Center for Independent Living in Springfield, MA. Nettles claimed that Netflix movie streaming discriminatesagainst the hearing-impaired as the streaming aspect of the service doesn't routinely embed captions. The lack of captions forces the deaf to pay for more expensive DVD rentals, which typically come with captions. The complaint was filed by Nettles, the National Association of the Deaf, and the Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired.
As part of the agreement, Netflix has also agreed to more rapidly caption new content. Netflix must apply captions to new content within one month by 2014, within 14 days by 2015, and in 7 days after release by 2016. The ultimate goal is same-day captioning, with the media streamer striving to "reach a point at which Conforming Captions are provided simultaneously with launch at all times." Netflix owes the lawyers prosecuting the lawsuit $755,000, and an additional $40,000 for oversight of the decree going forward.
NAD CEO Howard Rosenblum said in a press release accompanying the decree that the NAD "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."