Culture

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
ada, compliance, doj, websites

Companies:
uc berkeley



University Puts 20,000 Lectures Behind A Registration Wall In Response To DOJ Pressure On Website Accessibility Compliance

from the nobody-wins dept

Back in 2012, a federal court ruled US websites were "places of public accommodation." The ruling (overturned on appeal) came in a lawsuit brought against Netflix by the National Association of the Deaf. It seems like an obvious conclusion -- more people get their information, news, and entertainment from the web than other sources. But the ruling had plenty of adverse consequences, especially for smaller, less profitable purveyors of online content.

Professor Eric Goldman -- who analyzes a ton of internet-related lawsuits -- had this to say at the time:

If websites must comply with the ADA, all hell will break loose. Could YouTube be obligated to close-caption videos on the site? (This case seems to leave that door open.) Could every website using Flash have to redesign their sites for browsers that read the screen? I'm not creative enough to think of all the implications, but I can assure you that ADA plaintiffs' lawyers will have a long checklist of items worth suing over. Big companies may be able to afford the compliance and litigation costs, but the entry costs for new market participants could easily reach prohibitive levels.

The payoff of this lawsuit -- along with the federal government's requirements for making websites "accessible" -- is finally here. A California university is placing 20,000 audio and video lectures behind a registration wall, making them less accessible to everybody, rather than risk being sued for not making them "accessible" to those with disabilities.

The University of California, Berkeley, will cut off public access to tens of thousands of video lectures and podcasts in response to a U.S. Justice Department order that it make the educational content accessible to people with disabilities.

Today, the content is available to the public on YouTube, iTunes U and the university’s webcast.berkeley site. On March 15, the university will begin removing the more than 20,000 audio and video files from those platforms -- a process that will take three to five months -- and require users sign in with University of California credentials to view or listen to them.

This move has more to do with the DOJ's ADA* accessibility stance, although that stance roughly aligns with the court's 2012 findings. The DOJ is named specifically in the university's statements as being the impetus for it locking up its past content. Future releases will be issued with an eye on compliance, but past lectures are gone for good unless you happen to have the right credentials to view them.

*[This acutally stems from the FCC, not the ADA. Nate Hoffelder has more details in the comments. UPDATE: never mind.]

Then there's this part of the university's statement, which hints it may not all be related to accessibility-compliance.

Finally, moving our content behind authentication allows us to better protect instructor intellectual property from ‘pirates’ who have reused content for personal profit without consent.

I'm not sure how much of a problem Berkeley has had with content piracy. This statement could mean it's rampant or could simply mean it's something the university's lawyers have mentioned in passing as a concern. Either way, the move is related to control. What the public can't see, it can't complain about. And that keeps the DOJ at bay, even if it does little for the general public.

However, the piracy part of the statement might become relevant in the near future. It also shows the university's spokesperson isn't aware most of the lectures can't be "pirated." LBRY.io has already mirrored the 20,000 files due for removal, and it notes its move is compliant with the terms governing the sharing and distribution of the recorded lectures.

The vast majority of the lectures are licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows attributed, non-commercial redistribution. The price for this content has been set to free and all LBRY metadata attributes it to UC Berkeley.

The university may have a point about "personal profit," but simply hosting lectures at a site that sells stuff or makes money from ads isn't the same thing as "reusing content for personal profit." And the license the university uses doesn't require permission beforehand.

In the end, what we have is another regulation failure, where best laid plans become self-sabotaging debacles. Attempting to make the web universally-usable is an impossibility. No one's going out of their way to cut the deaf or blind out of the international conversation, but demanding all US sites be compliant with the DOJ's requirements is like demanding all books be made available in Braille and audio format. It's something only a few publishers can afford to do. Even fewer can afford to engage in a legal battle with the federal government over a lack of compliance, which means increased enforcement efforts will only result in less available content. That does nothing to level the playing field for Americans with disabilities.


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 22 Mar 2017 @ 10:26am

    The University of California, Berkeley

    [Insert "Well there's your problem right there" meme here...]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    christenson, 22 Mar 2017 @ 10:49am

    Project Gutenberg!

    Seems to me there would be plenty of people willing to put some time into making these videos more accessible...as a way to study and learn the content.

    That could be organized like Project Gutenberg...breaking up the project into manageable pieces and farming them out to the crowd.

    And Mike hasn't even BEGUN to have his field day as to whether these videos should have copyright at all, or piracy should be possible...seeing as how they are made by our government!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 11:38am

      Re: Project Gutenberg!

      Such efforts are already underway. They're just not very large or organized yet. But I think in a year or two they may well be, and then we'll start to see some large-scale improvements.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 12:42pm

        Re: Re: Project Gutenberg!

        Not only are those efforts underway.
        They are completed.

        https://lbry.io/news/20000-illegal-college-lectures-rescued

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 12:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: Project Gutenberg!

          You misunderstand that point. We ALL know that these videos have been copied by multiple people and so anyone fretting about seeing them remove entirely from the Internet is worried about something that isn't going to happen.

          We're talking about crowdsourced efforts to provide transcriptions of them...and those efforts are already underway as well, although quite some distance from being completed.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 10:54am

    Exclusion

    No one's going out of their way to cut the deaf or blind out of the international conversation

    While site authors may not be going out of their way with malice aforethought to exclude these groups, I have definitely run into sites that went out of their way to present their content in a manner that is hostile to deaf/blind consumers, when the content could have been more readily made available in an accessible format. Many sites use obnoxious page designs that unnecessarily confuse screen readers. I'm also looking at the places that insist on presenting curated interviews (of subject matter experts, interviewed in a nice controlled environment -- not your man-on-the-street interviews or breaking-news reporting) only as a non-close-captioned video file (often requiring Flash), instead of a simple text transcript of the interview. The latter would be screen-reader friendly, making it blind-accessible; it would be deaf-friendly (as well as friendly to people who want to consume it in libraries or places with high background noise). It would be more accessible to people on limited bandwidth connections (text being smaller than video). It would be more accessible to people who get interrupted and need to come back later (browser history/bookmarks cannot remember video position, but they do fine for text pages). Instead, if you cannot view it in a quiet place and listen to it at their rate, you cannot consume it at all. That definitely excludes people, some (but not all) of whom have sensory disabilities. It may not be done with malice, but it is done, and is very frustrating for those needlessly excluded.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 11:16am

      Re: Exclusion

      Who pays for this "simple text transcript" of every video on every site on the internet?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Lipto (profile), 22 Mar 2017 @ 11:58am

        Exclusion

        Transcription and closed captioning can be had commercially for around $3/minute.

        If there is a transcript (or script) synchronizing can be done almost automatically by youtube, 4play, and others.

        Subtitle Edit (free) can be a great help.

        Who pays? Usually the production company, who passes the cost along to the end user.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 12:36pm

          Re: Exclusion

          $3 a minute does not sound a lot, unless you are an individual putting up videos for a small audience on YouTube, when it becomes prohibitively expensive, or excessively time consuming.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 22 Mar 2017 @ 4:50pm

          Re: Exclusion

          As of July 2015, Youtube saw an upload of 400 hours of video per minute.

          Assume that that rate hasn't risen since then.

          Assume YT is able to get a 'bulk rate discount', and only pays $2 per minute.

          Assume that only half of videos uploaded have content such that they need closed captioning.

          It would cost $24,000 per minute to provide transcription and closed captioning for YT videos at that rate.

          While I can certainly understand how frustrating it can be for people that can't watch/listen like others can, and need that extra work put forth to be able to enjoy content the same as others, it simply isn't viable to require such at large scale, and if services like YT had to do so they'd be shut down within a day.

          As for the possible response of 'Well just make the users pay then, spread out the costs', if people had to worry about submitting their videos for transcription and closed captioning, and pay rates like that, I think it's safe to say that the majority simply wouldn't bother, which would likewise kill any service like YT.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Toestubber (profile), 22 Mar 2017 @ 5:36pm

            Re: Re: Exclusion

            It also ignores the entire concept of free. If no one pays for human transcriptions, should media be illegal to offer at no cost to the public?

            As it stands now, the ADA is the Harrison Bergeron of federal regulations. There's a good reason why trolls like Prenda have so eagerly glommed on to its "enforcement."

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Wendy Cockcroft, 23 Mar 2017 @ 6:55am

              Re: Re: Re: Exclusion

              If people volunteer to transcribe it'd help, but aren't there programs available to do that already?

              I appreciate that it may not be cost-effective to make books available in Braille if there's not much demand for them (circular, I know: how could a blind person want to read a book unless he or she knew what it was about?) but isn't there software that could read the words aloud, or something? Imagine having a Braille printer that would print out the contents of the book after paying for a legal download.

              It's not fair, IMHO, to burden disabled people further by demanding that they pay over the odds for accessible content; there ought to be a way to meet them halfway by providing materials in formats their accessibility software can work with.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Ruby, 23 Mar 2017 @ 2:25pm

            Re: Re: Exclusion

            It was the literal point of YouTube Heroes to fix this problem, but everyone shit on it because YT botched the roll-out and no one did their homework and, as far as I can tell, the project is DOA now.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 11:33am

      Re: Exclusion

      So should everyone who engages in discussions be required to learn sign language on the off chance a deaf person is nearby and wants to join the conversation? That's what you're saying.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 12:05pm

        Re: Re: Exclusion

        No, that is not all that he is saying. He is saying that if you don't do this, our government will take someone to court and either fine them or put them in jail. A court will take money away from them. All with the full weight of the government and potentially using force up to and including death.

        That is what he is saying.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 1:00pm

          Re: Re: Re: Exclusion

          Really? "Death"?

          Ignorant, selfish, stupid people like you are exactly why we need the ADA.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 1:15pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Exclusion

            Who enforces laws? Police, no? If you don't comply with laws, what happens to you? Who comes to visit you.

            The government enforces its laws by any means possible, up to and including death.

            Disobey a judges order? Be held in contempt and kept in jail indefinitely, which is exactly what is happening to a gent in Philadelphia right now. In fact, there is an article here on that.

            So yeah, really, death. That is the power of our government and the enforcement of its laws.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2017 @ 3:16am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Exclusion

              Produce, for our englightenment, a single case where a defendant in an ADA was put to death.

              You can't.

              It doesn't exist. You made it up.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 11:36am

      Re: Exclusion

      Absolutely correct. A MINIMAL amount of consideration for people with hearing and/or visual impairment, a MINIMAL amount of consideration for people on slow connections, a MINIMAL amount of consideration for people with older computers would go a long way.

      It's just not that hard. Every web site that I run is thoroughly tested with a text-only browser, for example, which is trivial and goes a good bit of the way toward making sure that the screen readers used by the blind can deal with it. The extra effort required is tiny -- AND it helps identify problems that might otherwise escape notice, so there's a payoff for everyone.

      Good faith efforts are BADLY lacking, and one of the sad things is that some of the worst offenders are operations with the deepest pockets, who could easily do much better with what they waste on catered lunches.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 11:01am

    How does the website violate the ADA if the courts already overturned that ruling that tried to extend it to websites as a public place. The DOJ can consider it anything they want under the ADA, but since the courts don't agree, that doesn't matter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nate Hoffelder, 22 Mar 2017 @ 11:05am

    Correction

    This wasn't an issue of ADA compliance because the ADA dos not cover websites.

    That Netflix suit was filed to force compliance with an FCC regulation which is an entirely different creature from the ADA law passed by Congress in 1990.

    Here's more info on it:
    https://www.fcc.gov/document/accessibility-rules-advanced-communications-services

    That is a pretty broad regulation which covers everything from websites to online services to connected devices. it is in fact so broad that it even covers tablets and smartphones (hence why Android got accessibility as a standard feature).

    This regulation even covers ereaders. Amazon actually had to get a waiver for the Kindle so they wouldn't have to add accessibility features. (And then Amazon added those same features last year - go figure.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sanjay Nasta, 22 Mar 2017 @ 11:16am

    Other institutions not planning to delete publicly available content.

    Here's an article that might add another dimension to the debate - Enabling ADA Compliance at Institutions of Higher Learning (http://www.microassist.com/digital-accessibility/higher-education-ada-compliance/) The article was originally published on Mealey's (Lexis-Nexis).

    Please note that other institutions aren't going to follow Berkeley's lead in deleting content.

    https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/03/14/after-uc-berkeley-announcement-universities-s ay-they-will-continue-offer-free

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 11:20am

    Doesn't YouTube have closed captioning built in? Guess that wasn't good enough?

    Our courts seem to fuck quite a few things up by not utilizing common sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 11:31am

    When state attorneys step up to attack the Likes of YouTube under ADA, we will know that the RIAA and MPAA lawyers have taken note of this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 22 Mar 2017 @ 11:46am

    So Professor of Law John Yoo's lectures will disappear.

    But don't worry; we'll always have the Torture Memos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 12:18pm

    Youtube is not good enough. The CC there is around 80% accuracy. That does not comply with the laws in place. We are required to have 99% I believe.

    The cost of doing that is not cheap. It takes someone trained at it 4 hours for every 1 hour of content. We have been looking into it and it would cost us millions to do all of our current content. In the past we have done it on request of a student who needed it. If that is no longer good enough and we have to do it on all videos we will no longer record things. We are not trying to make things more difficult for people who need the CC. We just cant' afford it.

    Comes down to money. If you want it someone has to pay for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Geno0wl (profile), 22 Mar 2017 @ 12:30pm

      Re:

      Youtube is not good enough. The CC there is around 80% accuracy. That does not comply with the laws in place. We are required to have 99% I believe.

      What "laws"?

      As stated the "law" was overturned and public websites do not have to comply with ADA.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 12:33pm

      Re:

      That is messed up.

      Wouldn't even be useful to protest it, because the plaintiffs couldn't even hear you yell at them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 12:43pm

    I see - some disabled person cant follow the lecture because of no CC? Just disable us all from learning. Good job

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 1:20pm

    the DoJ, like all other US security forces and the government, isn't in the least bit interested in citizens regardless of whether they have disabilities or not!! if there were some money being thrown about at heads of forces etc, now that would be a different story!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2017 @ 3:46pm

    Hypocrisy

    What's interesting is that two complainants that caused this are from Gallaudet University.

    Gallaudet has their own video archive.

    An archive that even they acknowledge is not fully captioned either:
    http://videocatalog.gallaudet.edu/?faq

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 23 Mar 2017 @ 4:23am

    Could government portal automate accessibilty conversion?

    I am not a technical expert, but, for what it is worth--

    As a compromise, instead of requiring tens of millions of content providers each to reinvent the wheel on accessibility (or to degrade or suppress their offerings entirely)--

    How about setting up (perhaps under the Library of Congress) an on-line portal for disabled users to access the best-practice accessible-ized version of any address on the internet, eg a video with captions automatically applied? Instead of spending money on lawfare and painfully expensive individual conversions, spend it to bring the World's best technical talent to one project-- automation of conversion to meet the needs of different disabilities.

    As an example, automated subtitling is not yet ready, but putting highest priority on it is more likely to make more videos accessible to the deaf in a shorter amount of time, without antagonizing the general community.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 23 Mar 2017 @ 6:59am

      Re: Could government portal automate accessibilty conversion?

      Would it not be better to issue disabled people with accessibility software so they can experience content as it is without burdening providers with anything more than a requirement to provide a text-only version thereof?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 23 Mar 2017 @ 8:33am

    The point I was trying to make is that if a centralized agency like the Library of Congress were given the tools to provide access to acceptable standards, then that should eliminate any accessibility hassles for individual content providers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sorrykb (profile), 23 Mar 2017 @ 11:46am

    No one's going out of their way to cut the deaf or blind out of the international conversation, but demanding all US sites be compliant with the DOJ's requirements is like demanding all books be made available in Braille and audio format. It's something only a few publishers can afford to do.

    You (the general you) don't have to go out of your way to cut deaf or blind people out of the conversation. You just have to keep on doing what you always have, and the conversation will forever be exclusionary.

    It's worth noting that just about every gain in access for people with disabilities in education, public businesses, accommodation, etc (including those we all now take for granted) came about not because the free market saw a need and met it, but because lawsuits or other concerted (and usually adversarial) action made it happen.

    Applying accessibility requirements to all sites may be overkill, but a state university -- a public institution -- should be held to the highest standard. I'd argue that this is an endeavor that merits additional (and specifically designated) federal funding. Make it a "space race", but to incentivize development of non-proprietary technology to make video -- and the Web in general -- more accessible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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