Netflix and deaf-rights group settle suit over video captions

A two-year class action lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ended with the streaming service agreeing to put captions on 100 percent of its video library by 2014.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

Netflix and the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) have come to an agreement about captions for the company's streaming videos: 100 percent must be captioned by 2014.

The agreement comes by way of a class action lawsuit filed by NAD in 2010 that alleged the streaming service was "failing to provide adequate closed captioning on 'Watch Instantly' streaming video programming," and therefore was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

After back-and-forth between the lawyers -- and Netflix working to get the case thrown out -- the two sides finally settled this week.

"We have worked consistently to make the broadest possible selection of titles available to Netflix members who are deaf or hard of hearing and are far and away the industry leader in doing so," Netflix chief product officer Neil Hunt said in a statement. "We are pleased to have reached this agreement and hope it serves as a benchmark for other providers of streaming video entertainment."

Netflix and NAD agreed to a consent decree (PDF) that outlines the terms of the settlement. According to the directing attorney for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, "The Decree is a model for the streaming entertainment industry."

In the decree, Netflix agreed to finish captioning 90 percent of its entire library by 2013 and 100 percent by 2014. As of now, 82 percent is already captioned. The streaming service also agreed to caption incoming new content as quickly as possible -- within 30 days by 2014, 14 days by 2015, and 7 days by 2016. Additionally, Netflix is obliged to pay the $755,000 in legal fees to NAD's lawyers and another $40,000 to put the decree in place over the next four years.

"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," NAD CEO Howard A. Rosenblum said in a statement.

CNET contacted Netflix for comment. We'll update the story when we get more information.