This is How the Web Gets Regulated
Issue № 272

This is How the Web Gets Regulated

Basic web accessibility is a known commodity now. Web applications can almost be made accessible; eventually web application accessibility will also be a known commodity, too. Those are clear wins.

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But nearly ten years after specifications first required it, online captioning still pretty much does not exist. That’s probably going to change, and the way it’s going to change is by government regulation.

Does that strike you as unthinkable? Do you view the web as a libertarian place where old-media laws barely apply, if at all? Well, prepare for a shock. Legislation is probably coming.  And not only should you let it happen, you should get behind it—but only if it’s done using open standards.

Captioning is required, but you wouldn’t know it from the real world#section2

If you’re reading A List Apart, then you know that every web-accessibility specification requires captioning of multimedia for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers. WCAG 1 (and the Samurai corrections), WCAG 2, Section 508—they’re all the same. You have to caption your online video.

Some specs also allow transcripts, which are as good as useless for all but the shortest and simplest of videos. Other specs may also allow sign language, which, “Deafness and the User Experience” notwithstanding, makes video accessible to a minority within a minority.

“Closed” captioning is a problem, not a solution#section3

Online captioning—and let’s define that as captioning on anything delivered by internet protocols, including a download to your iPod—barely exists, and one reason for that is an insistence on closed captioning, i.e., captioning you have to turn on. This is a failed holdover from television broadcasting, where a single channel has to work for everyone. That’s why captions are hidden in broadcast signals.

But that method has no relevance whatsoever to the online world, where you can serve up as many versions of a video as you like. Closed captioning exists to hide captioning from sensitive hearing people, not to provide captioning to people who need it and will never turn it off.

“Closecaptioning” is a semi-familiar concept to a lot of people, for whom it is the single indivisible word I just quoted. Everyone with more than five years’ experience doing captioning has done mostly closed captioning or nothing but that. As a result, everybody in the business is going full steam ahead trying to gin up some kind of closed-captioning system for online video. It’s all they know.

The four major online video types (QuickTime, Windows Media, RealPlayer, and the one that ate them all, Flash) technically support closed captioning in one way or another—often several ways. Hence every video format needs its own specific closed captions. Are you, like the BBC, transcoding video into dozens of formats for the iPlayer and other platforms? Well, guess what: You’ll have to transcode your caption formats, too. Does that sound easy, “because it’s just text”? It isn’t easy.

  • You can’t rely on Unicode character encoding. Systems have an annoying tendency to use their own encoding, or rely on the encoding of a text file, or simply not declare one and hope for the best.
  • Caption positioning isn’t always preserved, or even supported the same way across platforms. (There are no right-justified captions in RealPlayer, for example.) There are people who, to this very day, do not understand that captions must be positioned. (Such as captioners in the British Isles, who set nearly every caption bottom-center.) Color isn’t always supported, either.
  • Fonts are a mess everywhere in captioning, but any captioning source that assumes monospaced fonts (e.g., an analogue TV captioning system) is going to break in unpredictable ways when translated to a proportional font—even to a nonfont such as Arial. (Did you center your captions by typing little space characters in front of the line? Those spaces are going to collapse.)

Fundamentally, closed captioning of online video requires two or more files—the video file, the caption file, and probably a third file to mate the two. Do you think those files are a happy nuclear family that will never be split up?

What about players? How do you turn captions on and off? The YouTube technique (see below) could not possibly be worse—an unlabeled menu that only works via mouse. An interface like that one will violate the (universally ignored) User Agent Accessibility Guidelines and common sense, yet this is exactly the sort of half-baked, inaccessible, untested interface design you can expect on all players.

That’s just a partial list of the problems with closed captioning of online video. But everyone who is even pretending to address the issue of captioning is rushing headlong down that path. I’ve been telling people for years that closed captioning, as a general approach, just is not going to work for online video. That will continue to be true even if I’m the only person saying it and everyone is tired of my saying it.

What’s the alternative? Open captioning, i.e., captioning everyone sees. You’d have two files,  a captioned video and an uncaptioned video. Pick one and you’re done. The issue of typography becomes even more important, and you’d need an external file to make videos searchable, but open captioning just works, right then and there, with no hassle.

The voluntary approach#section4

Thus far, online captioning has been strictly voluntary. How well has that been working out? Not very well. Online captioning is effectively nonexistent, and not a single attempt to remedy the problem has worked.

Of course the biggest news is Google YouTube’s alleged support for captioning. We’re all supposed to applaud this, but in fact YouTube’s implementation further entrenches the confusion between captions and subtitles. The explanatory video that YouTube produced mixes captions and subtitles and doesn’t even bother to position them correctly. (It also pretends that the way to make sign language accessible to non-speakers is just to add subtitles. Blind people can’t watch the signing or read the subtitles.)

In effect, YouTube’s presentation format is subtitling—bottom-centered titles, typically two lines max, (though sometimes up to four). And this is one of many cases where typography pretty much hasn’t been considered. I hope you can read white Helvetica or Arial on a black mask.

Three-line centered caption under one-line speaker ID

Noticeably absent from YouTube’s announcement was a link to the now-ancient announcement of Google Video’s support for captioning. (Sort of like how people forgot about a functionally equivalent announcement from AOL in 2006.) A year later, there are still only about 100 videos with captioning on Google Video, and some of those are merely subtitled, not captioned. This is a failure by any standard. While the YouTube captioning page specifically states that captions can be searched, you can’t search YouTube to find all the captioned videos. So who knows how many there really are? In all likelihood, next to none.

That bit about searching captions is important. One reason Google has added captioning is for accessibility, but the primary reason is to make video searchable. Google Video even wants you to upload a timecoded transcript, and Google separately launched a limited speech-recognition service. I want everything searchable, too, but I’d prefer a bit more honesty up front. They’re mostly doing this for business reasons, not to help deaf people. (And now they’ll even machine-translate your “captions” for you. Machine translation will work as badly there as it does anywhere else.)

In the wake of the YouTube announcement, for some reason TechCrunch sponsored 5,000 free “captioned” videos via SubPLY, another of the start ups in that field (cf. DotSUB). The use cases that were listed in TechCrunch’s announcement were actually for subtitling—yet another confusion. And the results aren’t great—you can get two sets of captions, each unreadable for different reasons, right on top of one another.

Two lines of captions on top of two narrower, taller lines

What Google did was to implement yet another technical variation of a voluntary closed-captioning system. Of course it isn’t working. It has never worked before.


Laws and regulations may well need to be passed requiring the captioning of online video.

  • Nothing will change in the U.S. in the foreseeable future. Regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (recently renewed) may be expanded to include captioning at movie theaters and at stadiums, but that’s about it. A draft bill to expand accessibility to the online sphere is just that, a bill.

  • In Canada, an important yet almost unknown set of hearings  takes place in November 2008, held by the CRTC, the broadcasting regulator. Its initial filings have challenged broadcasters to prove why their websites should not be “W3C compliant.” That could mean anything, but it certainly means that online video would be captioned. There’s been other discussion about requiring online captioning. This would be a departure, as the legislation that empowers the CRTC to regulate broadcasting does not apply to the internet—although, after a separate hearing that’s coming up, that may change.

    But the Canadian constitution (the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and the Canadian Human Rights Act arguably supersede that other legislation.  In short, disabled people’s right to be free of discrimination trumps the belief, however fallacious, that the internet cannot or should not be regulated.

    Additionally, regulations in the province of Ontario may unwittingly require national and transnational corporations doing business there to caption everything.

  • In Australia, a much-delayed senate inquiry into captioning may or may not be proceeding, but, as a separate discussion paper explains, it explicitly covers online captioning. The timing is interesting, coming as it does after the expiry of an exemption from prosecution granted to Australian TV broadcasters in return for captioning significantly less than 100% of their programming. One of three things could happen—nothing, new legislation, or another human rights exemption in return for some captioning.

The Canadian and Australian cases are important. Once either or both of these constitutional democracies require online captioning, dominoes begin to topple. The effects will be felt in the U.S. Of course the Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Broadcasters will fight any captioning requirements. But Canada and Australia also speak English, and the effect of requiring captioning there would be to require captioning in America, too. It becomes impossible in practice to serve a video with captions to Canada or Australia and serve the same video without captions to the U.S. You’ve got only one video in the first place; that’s why you went with closed captioning.

Who’s writing the standards?#section6

How are people trying to solve the entire problem of standardization of online video? By commissioning new sets of standards from organizations that have something to gain from the process.

First there’s the technology, which is a matter of technical agreement. In broad terms, the technical standards for online captioning are settled. While there isn’t as much documentation as anyone might like and the standards may be lousy, they are established.

The bigger problem is one of methods. How exactly do you do captioning? For 30 years, this has been a matter of opinion and nothing more. I have a pretty solid set of opinions; some mom-and-pop captioners make it up as they go along; and in between those poles you can find everything from committee-driven nonsense to ironclad ideologies, neither of them based on fact.

It’s curiously difficult—even when, as I do, have three linear feet of reference materials and research papers backing you up—to knock some patently ridiculous ideas out of the water, but ultimately no one “knows” how to do captioning. Instead, everyone merely insists their way is best. Essentially, video accessibility for deaf people rests on opinions—often poorly justified, if at all, and vehemently defended. All of this begins to explain why, in broad terms, captioning sucks. (It does.)

Still: who is writing the standards?

  • In Canada, the CRTC worked out a deal with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) to write yet another so-called standard for Canadian captioning—totally in secret. The authors aren’t captioning experts. (Some are deaf, as if that’s all that mattered, and one of those authors struck out once before with captioning standards.). The “standard” won’t be user-tested. This is the same thing the CAB tried once before, with dismal results. And the whole thing won’t be done in time for the November 2008 hearing.

    Reading between the lines, the CRTC plans to force broadcasters, and presumably netcasters, to use the so-called standard written by the industry it claims to regulate. Industry self-regulation is one of the biggest stories of 2008—news that has apparently failed to reach the CRTC. Self-regulation works about as well in captioning as it does in high finance. The difference is there’s less money involved.

  • In the U.S., Google, Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft announced the formation of the Internet Captioning Forum. You probably read the announcement on various blogs. Did you ever read anything else? Like the fact that, while the announcement claims the four companies “joined” with WGBH, WGBH essentially runs the project?

    WGBH is a public-television station in Boston. WGBH did the earliest open captioning on U.S. television and has been captioning continuously for 30 years. I used to be a big supporter (I was sending them typewritten letters in the 1970s), and I’ve visited their operations several times. But, my confidence in WGBH has been shaken, not least by its foolish decision to close down its main captioning operations. They invented a whole technology for captioning first-run movies, and they’ve done a lot of work in online captioning. Like the CAB, WGBH is working in secret. And all roads lead to WGBH.

    • In a conflict of interest, the accessibility manager at AOL used to work at WGBH. So this is a WGBH operation through and through. Even the official URL,, redirects to WGBH. And where is Mozilla looking for a solution to its captioning problem? WGBH, of course.
    • Nonprofit WGBH is an active competitor in the captioning market. This means there’s money at stake. Watch The Simpsons on TV in the U.S. or Canada and you’re watching WGBH captions, for example. Not coincidentally, WGBH is also first on the list of YouTube’s suggested captioning service providers.
    • WGBH isn’t done there. They’ve also got a U.S. federal grant to research captioning on PDAs (and on planes). A recent e-newsletter recruited subjects for a user test of “preferences” for fonts and other topics. Since this is the same organization that produced subpar research on HDTV fonts, somehow I expect that PDA users will be asked to choose between Arial and Courier.

How well do you think all of this is going to work out? Do you trust secret groups to set standards for a complex communication medium like captioning? I don’t.

This is a time for legislation#section7

Broadcasters and internet titans prefer an inside job. They prefer outcomes they can predict, if not control. They want minor tweaks to a system that’s a proven failure, all the while making it look like they’re solving the problem.

The only effective method of increasing the quantity of captioning is actually on the horizon. That method is to bring the force of law to bear to actually require it. Nothing else has worked.

Captioning is a giant crater in the online accessibility moonscape. If you support web accessibility and accept that it isn’t just about blind people, you need to support online captioning. Maybe there are other things you also need to support, but we aren’t talking about those today.

If you accept the proposition that, beyond simple fairness and the technical fact that the web can be accessible, a fundamental reason to provide accessible online content is because people with disabilities have a legal right to it, you need to get behind whatever measures are necessary to make those rights real. Broadcasters in many countries are already regulated and have to provide captioning, as do cinema operators in a few places. Fundamentally, what we’re making accessible is the moving image—it’s film, it’s television, it’s video. It may be other things, such as screencasts. But at root, the delivery method should not matter.

If a deaf person has a legal right to watch TV or movies with captions, that person has a legal right to watch online video with captions. The voluntary approach has done practically nothing to make that possible. Laws or human-rights regulations are necessary and inevitable. You should get behind them.

If you think this opens the door to wholesale regulation of the internet, it probably doesn’t—or at least not in the manner I expect you’re worried about. You could still publish anything you wanted within the existing legal limits (the internet already is regulated). It’s just that some or all video would have to be captioned. Again: I want you to support that.

Neither the technical standards nor the methods for captioning should be decided behind closed doors by parties with money to lose or gain in the process. One could make a fair case that legally required captioning based on “standards” presented as a fait accompli by industry does not pass the sniff test. Government regulation of online accessibility should be based on open standards.

If not, what’s the alternative?  Has anything else worked?

Call to action#section8

  • Submit a comment to the CRTC hearing on accessibility. (Good luck figuring out how to do it. Try sending mail to the listed contact, Sylvie Bouffard. Or use the main contact form.) Doing so before December 2008 would be most helpful, but the process won’t conclude until January 12, 2009, at the earliest.

    If you agree with the following, tell the CRTC you support a requirement that at least some kinds of online video must be captioned—such captions being created only on the basis of open standards.

    I’m not even going to pretend I’m not asking you to explicitly support me and my research project, the Open & Closed Project. Tell the CRTC you don’t think a “standard” written by the same broadcasters who have blown it for 30 years amounts to much—if you believe that, of course. And if you believe something else, say that instead. You don’t have to be in Canada to take this step.

  • Show some support for an independent accessibility advocacy group down under, Media Access Australia, which submitted quite a solid response (PDF) to the Australian discussion paper on access services. This step would make sense mostly for Australian residents.

  • Now here’s the biggie: The only way anything is going to happen in the United States is if somebody files a lawsuit. I need one or more deaf people to file a suit (possibly class-action) against one or more “content providers” on the grounds that uncaptioned video amounts to discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    At the very least, the case could be made that online presentation of a moving image that was previously captioned for a different kind of presentation (e.g., television, home video) should also be captioned.

    Don’t think this is doomed to failure just because you’re going up against companies with more money than God. Major studios settled a class-action lawsuit over DVD captioning (not a great settlement, but much better than nothing), and even Apple has been making accessibility improvements—apparently to avoid lawsuits from blind groups and governments.

It’s time to try something that works#section9

Voluntary online captioning has not worked and will not work. The only way to put more captioning online is to require it. And the captioning has to be done according to standards developed in the open, not by the same industry that never gave us much captioning in the first place.

127 Reader Comments

  1. I have several screencasts I’m working on and need a way to caption them. I don’t mind spending the extra time doing them. I also don’t mind if they are captioned outright as the default option.

    I had thought transcripts might be a decent alternative to screencasts as they are similar to articles in length and format.

    Any ideas?

  2. Joe, great piece. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to heavy-handed top-down mandates here in the US but fixing the captioning mess will likely have to start that way. I was disappointed to read about the secretive practices at WGBH. I’d love to see MAGpie spun off as an Open Source project with greater transparency. I think it would do a world of good.

  3. What about those of us who don’t reach a wide enough audience with our video to warrant the expenditure on captioning? A legal requirement for captioning would waste money for those who would never reach a customer who needs them. Anyone who stands to profit from providing captioned video will do so, and forcing someone to provide services without compensation is tantamount to slavery.

  4. (I’m going to show off my ignorance here): The article referred several times to the difference between captioning and subtitling, but never seemed to explain. What’s the difference? And why does it make such a difference?

  5. Is it a good idea to caption your videos? Yes, for both accessibility and to allow search engines to index it properly. It’s also a pretty cool development exercise to at least learn how to do it, I’m sure.

    Should it be a legal requirement? Well, not always I don’t think.

    I think certain sites should be policed to make sure that all their content is as accessible as it can be. I’m talking about companies that the vast majority of the public have no choice but to deal with (Local councils, utility companies, banks and healthcare services).

    Average Joe’s blog and one-man-band design studio, on the other hand, can only stand to suffer by being forced to jump through hoops where only a fraction of a percent of their users will see any benefit at all. It should definately be on their to-do lists as it can benefit them, but they shouldn’t be forced to do it at their cost.

  6. I found the article interesting, but frustrating. I acknowledge my lack of understanding of the issue of the difference between closed / open & captioning /subtitling and would like to do something about it, but there seems to be a complete lack of links to the right way to be doing captioning.

    The one link mentioned explains a bit of the technical, and does have an examples section, but is of little use. The examples links take us to Joe’s flickr sets, and it is difficult to tell if they are showing best practice or what not to do, as many of the comments seem to be negative.

    Any chance of a ‘let’s do it the right way’ example?

  7. > You have to caption your online video

    Call me an ignoramus but I wouldn’t even know what video captions are (not subtitles, that’s apparent) or how to begin adding them to the video I want to put on my website.

    I think, besides deciding on a standard, that a lot also will depend on making adding captions easy in software.

    I sense a lot of frustration in this article, but it’s equally frustrating at the moment for the webdevs who just want to do “the right thing”. I guess I want to say “don’t just legislate, but educate”… maybe in a follow-up article: captioning for dummies?

  8. Captioning of what is dismissively known as UGC (user-generated content) remains a grey area. It is easy to make the case that the general video uploader would find it an undue hardship to caption their videos. Undue hardship is a legitimate exemption in every relevant piece of legislation. So let’s assume that you the video uploader wouldn’t have to do it. Fine.

    But what about your host? Google could afford to do it for you, though they wouldn’t want to. Should they have to? I’m actually not sure. I am, however, _positive_ they should have to caption the videos they produce themselves.

    In PDF/UA, we came up with a distinction between embedding/ownership and linking: If you embed a multimedia file (now possible in PDF) and/or you own the rights to it, you must make it accessible. If you merely link to it (and on the Web, the terms are deceptive — OBJECT and EMBED are both merely linking mechanisms), then you don’t have to make it accessible.

    The analogous arrangement on normal Web sites might be “Is the host rich enough to afford to caption it?”? Then the next question becomes “If so, do they caption only their own materials or everybody’s? Or caption anybody’s materials on request?”?

    I don’t totally know the answer to these questions. But how many of you think that commercial videos you pay for (e.g., on iTunes) or that you watch with advertising support (e.g., on Hulu) or that are produced by public broadcasters (e.g., BBC, CBC, SBS) should always be captioned (and described)? _I_ certainly think that.

  9. I’m supposed to appear before the CRTC tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday, 2008.11.19, Toronto and New York time) for a generously allocated 15-minute presentation. You can seriously expect me to kick ass.

    You can follow along with a Windows Media audio stream, a Java applet that shows a caption feed, or a transcript of those captions you update by refreshing a page. Where do you find those? I don’t trust the URLs, so just start with the “CRTC homepage”: . (Go through the “French homepage”: for all of the same things in French.)

  10. Yeah, we’re gonna have to force people to uphold the legal rights of people with disabilities. It has come to that. Companies have had a long time to get their act together to voluntarily comply with their obligations, and guess what? They haven’t done so.

    Antidiscrimination sometimes requires a stick, not a carrot. The idea that captioning is a good idea as long as it isn’t mandatory is a restatement of the problem, not its solution.

  11. Kim, an article made up of text and graphics was always going to be inadequate in showing any kind of captioning in action, which requires full-motion video and maybe several plugins. And it was kind of not the point of the article.

    If you’re in the U.S., try looking at Hulu, which is a good place to start. Some iTunes movies have captioning. Doing some clever Googling will unearth a few government and commercial videos with captioning. When I get my act together a bit more I might be able to link you to some examples.

    OK for now?

  12. The easiest thing to do if you’re running a commercial site is not to worry about captioning yourselves but to just send the damned videos out for captioning. You’ll get closed captions in one of the innumerable formats, but your problem will be largely solved. I am aware this is not exactly the message I was giving in the article, but I’m trying to address your question.

  13. Joe, I’ve often thought that Portland’s TriMet does a damned good job for accessibility. I’m curious to see if you think they’re doing it a right way.

    See this example video: “Talking Buses”: . They provide captions on by default and a full transcript is also available below the video.

    I have no association with TriMet (other than I ride it) but I have always thought that their web presence with regards to accessibility is miles ahead of any other site I visit.

  14. At the risk of sounding like either a corporate apologist or a heartless monster, I respectfully beg to differ on the basic argument that underlies this article. Handicapped individuals do not have an intrinsic “right” to force others to provide solutions to every problem that their handicap may cause. Yes, it is in the best interest of humanity not to mention civilization and conscious to assist as best we can in aiding those with disabilities, but that does not mean that governments should impose mandates to force such behavior on masses that will have little or no exposure to the people the laws would assist.

    To require every video broadcaster, vlogger, and sound artist publishing on the web to include captions is the digital equivalent of making every home-owner create a ramp so mobility-challenged persons can gain entrance. There is no “right” guaranteeing wheelchair-bound persons a ramp and there is no “right” whereby the blind or deaf can require captions.

    I find it a much better solution to be heavy handed in interaction, not enforcement. The US Government requires that all entities doing business with it follow accessibility guidelines or lose their contracts. This suits me just fine as I have no intent on working with the US government, and use my web presence to interact with family and friends. If the owners of a server farm want to be morally upstanding and require that all of their hosted sites be accessibility compliant then so be it – this is the choice of the individual, not the enforced will of a few.

    I realize that this article is chiding the public for its refusal to act on suggestions and so the casual reader might dismiss my previous argument, but I would counter that perhaps those preaching the merits of compliance have failed in evangelizing and acquiring the level of grass roots support necessary to achieve their agenda without bludgeoning the public with laws.

  15. Actually, Jacob, in most industrialized countries, including the United States, yes, “handicapped individuals”? do have “an intrinsic “˜right’ “? to have society adapt to their needs. I assume you don’t agree that society exists, so let me be more precise: Employers, corporations, organizations, and the like must take active steps to provide an accessible environment. They can’t just wait around till somebody files a complaint.

    Of course there are exceptions and limits (most importantly the undue-hardship defence), but no matter how fervently you wish to argue the contrary, disabled people already _do_ have those rights and they aren’t going to go away. Still President Bush renewed the Americans with Disabilities Act, for example.

    Nobody said anything about captioning every vlog or slapping a wheelchair ramp on every house. Please don’t change the subject, Jacob.

  16. @Joe – you seem to react rather harshly here. You say “Nobody said anything about captioning every vlog” – indeed that is exactly what the article implies, in my opinion.

    I think a big issue here is that the web blurs the line between a public space and a private space. In the real world, if you provide a public space, you must provide a wheelchair ramp.

    No doubt that Google, YouTube, Apple, and a whole host of others are public spaces. But is a single YouTube video, for example, a public space? Is a political blog a public space or a private one? Is my little blog a private space, unless it gets slashdotted, then its suddenly a public place?

    What if I have a personal website with screencasts of how to use different software, will I be required by law to caption it? Does it matter if I make money or not? Does it matter if I’m a corporation or a an individual?

  17. On the heels of Google releasing their voice-based search for the iPhone, I wonder how technically feasible it is to out-source your video for automatic captioning (or at least computer-assisted captioning). That would make the “undue burden” bar be much, much lower.

    I wonder if, in fact, the burden could be shifted to the video playing software to convert audio content to text content.

    If speech reaches the point where it is easily converted to text, then providing one is essentially providing the other, so you would really have no further obligation.

  18. _’Handicapped individuals do not have an intrinsic “right” to force others to provide solutions to every problem that their handicap may cause.’_

    I agree. The implicit assumption of the article is that full access to the content of the internet is a right, not a privilege. Were this the case, the government should prioritize web display standards over all others; introducing widespread access to HTML5, CSS3, and ECMA 3.1 would affect a far greater population (hearing impaired included) than captioning of audio content.

    Further, the content generation model is wildly different than the nearest analogue, television. Television content creators operate on multi-million dollar budgets and have little control over who will access their content. On the web, by contrast, the Long Tail is king; web content creators tend to operate on much smaller budgets and cater to much smaller audiences. With this in mind, the litmus test for burdensome becomes “just about everyone”, which makes enforcement difficult, expensive, and ultimately pointless.

    Mr. Clark speaks of “Companies [that] have had a long time to get their act together,” which companies? Specifically, which ones? How long is a long time? Web video is barely older than YouTube, which is almost four years old.

  19. Joe, you misunderstand the meaning of the word right, and what the government’s job really is; but, because the government also lost track of what it is supposed to be doing, I’m not surprised. Rights are not “granted” by the government, they are “intrinsic” by their very nature. The Declaration of Independence set forth, based on the writings of John Locke and other philosophers, that we “are endowed by our creators with certain unalienable rights…” and that “to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. When governments becomes destructive to these end it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.”

    I agree that captioning is a good idea, but so keeping sites we work on as non-offensive as possible (whatever that happens to mean). Should we legislate one, we will open the door to legislate the other. Are you ready for the government to begin deciding what is “government approved” website content for your personal blog? Are you prepared for it to tell you that you can’t use technology X on your site, because there are people who may not have that plug-in? Are you prepared to be forced hold your log files for seven years in case your called to present them as evidence?

    The governments job is not to force everyone online to caption their media, or to make every home accessible. This is the slippery slope that all laws tend toward by setting precedent. If they are allowed to restrict the content of the internet by forcing accessibility, then later they will assume the power to restrict content by manner of censorship. Do not allow yourself to be deceived with smile, trust it not sir. Men will listen to the song siren until she transforms them into beasts. I beseech you, trust it not. It will prove a snare at all our feet. The question before the house is no more the question of freedom or slavery. I know not what other men will do; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.

  20. Steven, I specifically left out the discussion of amateur/UGC vs. professional or nonprofit vs. for-profit videos. But you’ll notice that all the examples I gave of companies trying to make us feel good about their captioning work are giant multinationals.

  21. Jeremy, I am aware of the fundamental philosophical distinction, which only ever seems to be brought up by Objectivists and Libertarians, between intrinsic and government-granted rights. Even if you argue that disabled people don’t have an intrinsic right to accessibility, you can’t argue that they don’t have government-granted rights in many places, including the United States”¦Â because they do have those rights.

    Now, what are we going to do to make them real?

  22. I am an accessibility champion at work and know from experience that you get more accomplished from trying to help rather than to browbeat. Please stop attacking people who, 1) have a different opinion to you 2) disagree with you altogether. Constructively talking about what we can do rather than making snide remarks to posters asking questions will see much better results in the community.

    that’s my 2 cents

  23. The ability to caption online video is solely dependent on a simple to use technology that has yet to be developed. And if search firms haven’t developed it yet, then it’s probably because the technology to do so isn’t up to snuff. Just as large media have an invested interest in creating captioned content (for referencing, advertising, cataloging, etc. as you pointed out WGBH makes a nice return based on this service), so do the modern search engine companies for the exact same reasons.

    The fact is that the web as we know it is still a nascent venture and although I do agree that strong leadership on the issue is needed, legislation requiring such would miss the mark. Let technology innovate. This entire argument may be completely moot by this time next year if technologies evolve down a rather predictable path.

    The whole idea of an accessible web is based on resources for the disabled unimaginable 10 years ago. Even if it takes 10 more (it wont) to land on ubiquitous captioning (standards or not), really is that too long? To suggest that Google/YouTube, Hulu and others aren’t doing enough for captioning when online video has barely been around for 4 years in any meaningful way, is to say the least misguided.

  24. Billy, technology isn’t standing in the way of Web captioning. It’s a question of willingness, cost, and ability. Competent Web developers can make accessible HTML/CSS/JS sites without serious trouble, but it takes a whole other set of skills to do captioning.

    Four years is a long time in Internet terms, and “online video”? is really just video. There was captioning before “Google/YouTube, Hulu and others”? and there needs to be captioning now.

  25. If you anticipate an accessible web where videos are published and captioned with ease by an empowered public, a simple to use “outsourced” solution is absolutely required, even if it is in conjunction with a standards based solution for professional video producers.

    To me it’s a no-brainer that Google or somebody will develop a tool where you simply run the video through some online process that ads captioning, as you pointed out is already being done. Should the output be standardized? Yes. Should the innovation for that standard be mandated? No.

    Regardless, it’s a fantastic dialog and article and ALP is the perfect format to push for such standards. However, inciting the specter of legislation to reach those means is dangerous at best and disastrous at worst.

  26. I can understand that legislation is often necessary to enforse a decision, but the problem with legislation is in most cases a preferred solution (captioning technology) is not prescribed. And if a preferred solution is prescribed it either is an unworkable compromise or the government is advised by the large technology partners because civil servants are not engineers. Argueing open standard should be enforced is mere political correctness speak, because so far any standard has been set by industry and from what I understood in the article there is no current open standard defined (unless I really do not understand what is written).

    How to avoid this trap?

    Also, in how many languages is captioning required? Google operates in almost any country. Are you only required to provide captions in languages where laws require you to do so and let handicaped people in less fortunate countries be left in the cold? English alone is not enough as most European citizens will tell you (or Brasilian, Chinese, Argentinan or Egyptian).

    Joe has argued that any rule will apply to ‘professional’ organisations (NBC for instance), but Citibank publising a help video on how to use an ATM on their customer support pages, are they obliged to caption? Where to draw the line? By class action law suits?

    I mean, I’m not opposed captioning, I’m opposed to half-baked unworkable solutions and I see some challenges on the horizon.

  27. This is about captioning, not subtitling, so the language of audio will match the language of captioning (QED).

  28. I don’t mean to play the mean guy, nay sayer, but…

    What if you consider video as a medium, as something where the sense of sight is required to experience it. I’m thinking from an artists perspective, consider if you will, an oil painting, that is an abstraction, how do I caption that, maybe it doesn’t even have words.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am for accessibility, however none of my customers are disabled so why waste my money?

    That is the situation I’m in.

  29. J. Silvashy, captioning transcribes spoken words and explains sound effects. In principle, you can caption a blank screen if there are spoken words and so on.

    So it isn’t actually about visual art or visuals. To make that accessible, you describe it in one way or another (as by writing an alt text).

  30. Why the hell not? And why does the idea of regulating the virtual world seem so abhorrent to some?
    Joe – you seem to love tilting at windmills – but go at it, I say.

  31. You may be right, Richard. But the Web is already regulated — copyright, defamation, sales taxes. The regulation I envision does not dictate what content one could post, merely that some or all of it would have to be captioned. And there would, as ever, be undue-hardship and other exemptions.

  32. I would love to hear the opinion of someone who is actually handicapped. I believe that the way forward is to consult the people who use accesibility features. Do they have a need for such captioning? and do they know how to use it?

    Having never met anyone who actually uses captioning or complained at the lack of it, are we making a mountain out of a mole hill?

    I commend Joe for writing this article, but I would have liked to see how captioning *should* be done not how it *shouldn’t*.

  33. @Richard — Generally speaking there are two broad reasons why government intervention meets resistance:
    1) Cost. Laws need to be written and reviewed. People need to be trained to identify violations. Lawyers need to be trained in the new rules. Violators need to be identified, found, and given due process (which involves lawyers, judges, and court time at a minimum).

    2) Mental overhead. The more laws apply to a given activity, the more difficult it is to gain access to it (shutting out people/companies with fewer legal resources). This is only multiplied when viewed at an international scope — One country may simply require subtitles. Another may require captions, with subtitles being insufficient. Another may require a specific format, to accommodate users who are both seeing AND hearing impaired.

    3) Chills innovation. Generally speaking, laws take time to change as the situation changes. New technology may not live up to what is required by the letter of the law while filling its intent.

    @Joe —
    Your article calls for legislation, but doesn’t make it clear as to exactly what legislation you’re looking for. From what you’ve written, legislation which requires users to make use of existing tools would be extremely unwieldy, as the tools and technologies are apparently in such bad shape that when asked “how do I learn about captioning my videos” your own answer was “don’t.”

    Likewise, legislation that calls for the implementation of the findings of a working group would seem to be out too, because you dislike all of the current working groups out there.

    Legislation that would FORM a working group to codify existing research and best practices also seems to be impractical, because you seem to feel that existing research and discussion on the topic is contradictory.

    So… What would you have the legislation do?

  34. Aaron, are you aware that you are making a Microsoft-style argument when you use the talking point that accessibility legislation “chills innovation”??

    Let me ask you something: If you invent a new technology and it débuts on day one in accessible form, have you achieved greater or lesser innovation?

    I go back and forth on user-generated captioning. These days I’m against it. So yes, my answer to the question “How do I do it?”? is “Don’t. Send it out of house.”?

  35. @Jon — You didn’t really answer my main question, which is: “What would you have the legislation do?”

    “Let me ask you something: If you invent a new technology and it débuts on day one in accessible form, have you achieved greater or lesser innovation?”

    This doesn’t really have anything to do with legislation potentially chilling innovation. Legislation can’t fall back on a phrase like “content must be accessible…” It has to define what accessible means. A new means of technology may be “accessible” (common sense definition), without satisfying the requirements of accessibility legislation.

    Yes, this isn’t always a problem. The only way to determine whether or not it’s an issue is to have an actual law to look at. But it is a risk any time that legislation is involved.

  36. @Milburn: at least when it comes to TV captions, I know my mother who can be hard of hearing sometimes (but by no means deaf) uses them a lot. I also have been known to use them when I have a headache or want to watch the news in silence. Subtitles I’ve turned on when actors have especially thick accents.

    And I know I would use subtitles/captions for online video myself quite often, when I have no headphones and am in a public place.

    What would be nice is if this could be incorporated into the new HTML5

    On YouTube, if there was a little [cc] button next to the volume button, I’m sure A LOT of people would use it.

  37. There is no right to accessible content and, aside from a predictable (and wrong) throw-away line about lack of regulation being the cause of the financial crisis, this article makes no attempt to prove that there is. Have we really reached the stage where statism is the assumed mindset?

    The Americans with Disabilities Act is a bad law because it infringes on the right of business owners to offer the products and services they choose to offer, in the manner they choose to offer them. What is the moral justification for forcing people to spend their money and time on something they have decided is not worthwhile for them? Some people have disabilities. This unfortunate fact ought not impose obligations on anyone — and certainly not _legal_ obligations — to attempt to erase or mitigate their effects.

    Before we all cave in and acquiesce to even more government control over our property and lives, let’s at least demand that the advocates of that expanded control make a case for it. And if none has been made, let’s have the self-respect and courage to fight it.

  38. I don’t deny that captions for online video are desirable, but they must remain optional.

    @Steven I agree, we would all probably use captions on Youtube for those videos with terrible sound quality, but to force them in legislation is a gross infringement on my right to publish media.

    Do we make captioning mandatory for all online video content? Including government videos, news footage, movie trailers, the video of my friends I shot on my phone at a party on the weekend, the sneezing panda, etc?

    It is unfortunate, but videos by their very nature are a combination of vision and audio. Even if full captioning is provided, the user is not getting the video that the producer created and intended to be seen and heard. They are getting half of it, plus captions. How then do we provide this content for people with no vision? Sure we can describe the visuals in the captions, but this is not a substitute for the original creation.

    Listening to music is undoubtedly a bit difficult for hearing-impaired people as well, but do we force musicians to provide some form of captions that describe the lyrics and music for each and every song they publish? Of course not.

    When I create short films, I don’t consider the audio to be some secondary, replaceable part of the video. It is as important as the visuals. I know that deaf people won’t experience this in the same way as people with full hearing, but unfortunately that is something that happens when you lose your hearing… you stop hearing things.

    If you are creating videos that you want to reach the widest possible audience, or that everybody must be able to access (for example on government websites), then video captions are a fantastic idea. In fact, they are a fantastic and desirable option for all online video. But they must remain exactly that… an option.

  39. In the past couple of years almost every site that I have worked on has used video – many of them feature dozens of videos – and not a single one has provided even a transcript. And a transcript might be _accessible_ but it is hardly providing an equivalent experience for users.

    But I’m not convinced that legislation is the right path.

    I recently saw a demonstration of Soundbooth in CS4 (it is able to transcribe audio when provided the language and accent) and after that a Flash video player created by some Adobe developers using the new accessibility features. Things seem to be getting easier.

    It is the role of the people building websites to impress upon clients/employers the importance of accessibility. That said, obviously my own efforts haven’t been very effective. But it seems a bit sad that many of the people leaving comments here who no doubt wax rhapsodic about “web standards” aren’t similarly vocal about the need for accessible development.

  40. You’re the first to use the word “statism”? in a comment here. The A List Apart Godwin Memorial Award goes to _you_.

    Do you still live in Canada, or have you finally gotten the nerve to decamp to somewhere more Rand-compliant?

    People with disabilities do, in fact, have the right to accessible “content.”? Easy place to start? Henry Vlug. There, Mark — go Google. It’s in force whether you think it should be or not.

  41. As a Deaf/hearing-impaired individual, it is surprising to read statements that people with disabilities do not have the “right” to accessible content. It is even more surprising to read protests that captioning be “optional” and the flat-out dismissals of blind, deaf, mobility and cognitively impaired customers.

    Stunning, really.

    Here in the US, folks with disabilities do have the right to accessible content. It’s already been decided. We do. It’s a done deal. However, as Joe Clark pointed out, it is a landmark piece of legislation (passed in 1990) that must provide the muscle for making accessible content actually happen.

    The intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is to provide equal access and to prevent discrimination. In other words, to infringe “on the right of business owners to offer the products and services they choose to offer, in the manner they choose to offer them.”

    There is plenty of moral justification for forcing people to spend their money and time “on something they have decided is not worthwhile for them.”

    If you read the ADA of 1990 you will find there are clauses to mitigate the financial implications of accessibility on small business owners. It is fairly safe to say that an individuals vlog is not likely to be the target of an ADA lawsuit. There are bigger fish to fry.

    This is my takeaway from Joe’s article:

    bq. If you accept the proposition that, beyond simple fairness and the technical fact that the web can be accessible, a fundamental reason to provide accessible online content is because people with disabilities have a legal right to it, you need to get behind whatever measures are necessary to make those rights real.

    Joe is dead-on in his assertion that those who have been the leaders in Captioning for the past 30-years have not provided adequate leadership on that front. Thirty-years and no standards?

    I use captions when I watch TV. I need them. I am a witness to the fact that captioning is inconsistent from program to program. On the web, I can easily say that I’ve been to YouTube a handful of times for all about two minutes. Without captions, it is useless to me.

    We are in the dawn of a new communications medium that will shape the future of the world. As web developers, we’re excited by that. We should be excited about using the technology to bring everyone for the ride. Because, we can.

    Lots of food for thought in this one. Thank you Joe & ALA.

  42. I have to admit that at first I thought this was just an added layer of complexity. One that’s not even required in my country. So, I decided to give it a day until posting a comment, just to be sure I didn’t make an ass of myself.

    While revisiting the article this morning it occurred to me that captioning also provides a service for us who have disabled sound by choice, be it on a train or anywhere else it might be considered rude to force it upon others.

    There is also an added value for those who don’t understand English without a little bit of help from subtitles — provided of course that the subtitles are correct in the first place.

  43. its necessary to pay _some_ attention to the simple fact that if legislation were enforced to the extent taht google had to caption every video uploaded to youtube, youtube would shut up shop within 24 hours.

    Its also specious to say that technology is not the problem when the parallel issue of making written text on the web accessible can be solved by following relatively simple rules for production and technology is available to help that doesn’t increase the cost of publishing, yet the same is FAR from true of making video accessible. (i.e. I don’t have to pay someone to read my text to make it accessible, but I do have to pay someone to transcribe audio)

    I’m afraid I think that requiring EVERY video uploaded to the web be captioned is about as sensible as attempting to legislate that EVERY book published also be available as braile. (less sensible, given that the technology exists to automate the text->braile process)

  44. That was a great article and I can see that perhaps this is an area that requires legislation.

    I run a number of different websites, some of which have video content on them, this content has no captioning. to my shame I’d never even given that a thought.

    Having read your article it has become my desire to ensure that all future video content is captioned. As such it will be one of the requirements when contracting a video editor – captioning must be added.

    As for the on by default idea that makes a lot of sense. It’s easy enough to have a separate file, as you suggest, that is without captions for those who don’t want them.

    This article is bookmarked, and forwarded to a number of colleagues in this field.

    Many thanks

  45. Joe,

    First you use “Libertarian” as if it is a flawed position, or a dirty word; but provide no reason for anyone to take it as such. Second, you missed the larger point I made, every law sets precedent that can create more laws.

    Currently, there are few “internet only” laws, and only one comes to mind as having a large effect on the current state of web content in the United States, the DMCA. Most laws that have effect on the internet are laws that were written for other media and/or apply to people everywhere.

    Anyone can create video content these days, but not everyone has easy access to inexpensive tools that make captions in a sensible way. The extra expense of forcing every small company and private individual to caption their videos would urge many people not to put up video content. In the interest of Progressive Enhancement, if the video doesn’t provide essential content should it be legally required to have captioning? Is this what our law makers should be concerning themselves with, while the economy is doing poorly, the nation is at war, we have a huge deficit, we’re dependent on foreign oil, the education system is not performing, etc.? I know the federal government has taken on the charge to do many things outside of it’s original design, including a number of accessibility issues, but should it really force every bit of content to accessible to everyone?

    Does this mean that they should also pass laws requiring every site to have multilingual support in every “major language”, every video to have subtitles in every “major language” and why not enforce w3c validation also?

  46. Well, Jeremy, philosophically I cannot agree with your implication that an increase in the number of “Internet-only laws”? is undesirable. This seems like a restatement of the small-L libertarian position that the Internet is ungovernable and should stay that way. Well, not necessarily. The Internet already is governed by laws.

    In any event, any legislation that required online captioning would probably not be “Internet-only”?; it could be an extension of other legislation that requires captioning on TV and in movie theatres, for example. But I am not opposed to “Internet-only laws”? on the basis that the Internet should not have laws that single it out. Sometimes maybe it should.

  47. I was frustrated with the article, then was foolish enough to click on the comments. This article is out of line with A List Apart’s normal style. It has moved from advocacy to politicism, and that has spawned the vitriolic conversation, culminating in post #44 by the author. Unbelievable!

    In his response to post 41 (which was a well-reasoned response to the article, and not out of line with its content), the author of the article ridicules him rather than addressing his point, ridicules his politics based on his profile website, and then talks down to him rather than argue the point. Hatred for another’s political views is not a sufficient response to an argument.

    For what it’s worth, Godwin’s law does not apply in all conversations. If the article is ABOUT state regulation (which the AUTHOR brought up!), and someone then mentions “statism”, it’s appropriate. Read up yourself – Wikipedia, on Godwin’s law, where it says that it can be misused if it incorrectly miscasts an opponent’s argument as hyperbole. It’s a straw man argument, and it’s a logical fallacy.

    Moreover, shame! Is your argument so weak that it cannot refute a rebuttal with a reasoned response? Are you so sure of yourself that there cannot be a reasonable argument to the contrary worthy of discussion?

    Any reasonable person shares sympathy for a disabled person. It is an unfortunate state. But it is not unreasonable for an able-bodied person to argue against forced mitigation of those disabilities. It may be virtuous to consider the disabled when creating content, but I would argue that it is not virtuous to force other people to be so “considerate.”

    Legal victories aside, the “right” to accessible content is a misnomer.

    You’re a champion for a virtuous cause, but it does not follow that you are virtuous when you attempt to force your way on others, against their own will. Who is their advocate? Do they not deserve any sympathy for their cause? Does their profit negate their value as individuals, so that they are less than the disabled? Are all equal, but the disabled “more equal” than the abled? (Cry Godwin, if you feel so inclined. Pretend that it lets you win.)

    I love A List Apart. I did not like this article one bit.

  48. @Joe:

    “…I specifically left out the discussion of amateur/UGC vs. professional or nonprofit vs. for-profit videos. But you’ll notice that all the examples I gave of companies trying to make us feel good about their captioning work are giant multinationals.”

    Youtube is indeed a large company, but the content is user-generated. This means, from what I can tell, that you’re including UGC in your proposed legislature idea.

    I think we have to answer the question of amateur/UGC vs. public service providers before any further talk of legislation can even be allowed in the building.

    And regarding post 11″¦ I can tell from the tone of the article and your comments that you really do feel it is your “right”? to go out and kick everyone’s ass.

  49. I can see a parallel between the internet and the American frontier in the 18th and 19th century. Claim jumping and otherwise barely-regulated use of land gradually gave way to the current state of affairs. There is basically no such thing as unclaimed land; it must be rightfully purchased. Construction must comply with applicable code (standards). Usage is regulated (commercial/industrial/residential). I am not trying to say that these regulations are bad or unnecessary, just that they can have unintended consequences or be applied without thought to whether or not they make sense for a given situation.
    The internet is moving from the wild west to the modern times with great speed. Accessibility may be part of this evolution. I worry, however, that too much regulation may put undue burden on content not specifically intended for public consumption.
    Example: If I build a set of stairs to my front porch they must be inspected by my town and comply with code. If I build a set of stairs as part of an art project they obviously wouldn’t have to comply with anything. So, how do we, through legislation, separate video content uploaded as art and video uploaded as public service? As one commenter pointed out, should every page on the internet be forced to comply with accessibility standards? Such standards are applicable in the real world because, for example, an inaccessible-by-wheelchair fire exit poses a risk of physical harm. A marked exit in a public building with no braille fails to communicate with a blind person. On the other hand, my personal blog may contain video, audio, text, images, but it is for me. I have not provided content for public consumption; rather, I have placed my personal content in a public place. I can choose to caption my video; you can choose not to look at it because I don’t caption it. In what way does anyone have an inalienable right to view my video, read my blog, or look at my photos? OK, accessibility may improve indexing, if I happen to care about that.
    I think most people who see your idea as a personal affront fear that this wonderful medium will lose its power through improper application of regulations, despite any good intentions. Of course, we can’t expect the internet to be the wild west forever.

  50. I often direct people to ALA for help with CSS and web standards. Many more political rant articles like THIS and I won’t even bother to read it myself anymore. Different blog please.

  51. Brian, Mark Wickens is a known commodity in these parts and I didn’t even have to bother checking his Web site before refuting his ideology. I acknowledge it wasn’t to your taste. Nonetheless, Wickens’s claim that there is no right to accessibility is factually false. He may wish there weren’t, but the law is on the books (in Canada, where we reside).

    Accessibility is backed up by law in many parts of the world. Calling for those laws to be enforced in the first place or expanded to an analogous sector does not strike me as “politicism.”? It is, rather, exactly what I said it was — something that will probably have to happen because nothing else has worked.

    Accessibility is not about improving the lives of “unfortunate”? people. It is about providing equality. I have direct knowledge that most people with disabilities do not consider themselves unfortunate. And arguing against “forced mitigation”? is built into human-rights law in the form of exemptions, most notably the undue-hardship exemption. Brian, this has all _been covered_.

    Now, if you’re keen to make the point that I did not address arguments on their facts, then address mine: Since voluntary captioning has been a near-total bust, what’s your solution?

  52. I have avoided answering the same question several times over, but since Elijah brings up YouTube again, try drawing a distinction between true amateur UGC and official YouTube channels from organizations (and videos from Google and YouTube themselves). This all goes back to undue hardship. I don’t think the Monty Python channel on YouTube would suffer undue hardship in captioning, particularly since all their TV episodes have already been captioned. That’s just an example.

  53. Stripping away all the insults, I guess Joe Clark’s position boils down to: “We have a law. I want more laws just like it. Anyone who disagrees that with me that this would be a good thing is wrong or irrelevant because we have the law already.”? Sounds like Joe’s never met a law he didn’t like, else where would that leave him? Laws are apparently like facts of nature to him, beyond question and conferring undeniable rights.

    As for his refutation of my ideology, I must have missed that, unless he meant the less common definition of “denial.”? There _has_ been a lot of denial. Assertion and denial, plus some bickering and placating over the details of his grand plan to impose his will on us, but not much one could classify as argument.

  54. If equality or antidiscrimination laws are “wrong,”? they can be overturned. The fact that they haven’t been overturned yet (in, for example, Canada) testifies to their solidity. (It’s been 30 years already.)

    Is Section 15 of the Canadian constitution — which guarantees equality rights — also “wrong”?? It’s the same section that, for example, provided gays with equal rights in Canada. Is that also “wrong,”? Mark?

    Sometimes the law is an ass, Mark. Sometimes it isn’t. We differ in that you consider most laws asses. (Was that an “insult”??)

  55. A List Apart isn’t just about Web standards. “J the Z”:

    “The slow, deliberate, gradual introduction of articles on business and theory has not pleased all of ALA’s readers, some of whom may unrealistically wish that every issue would present them with the equivalent of a new “˜Sliding Doors.’ “?

    Video captioning is part of Web accessibility, and the latter is well within ALA’s remit. Even if it weren’t, Zeldman and the editors have gone out of their way to enlarge that remit.

  56. Stating that user generated content should be excluded at this point, goes somewhat against your article. Within your article, Google is mentioned eight times, YouTube is mentioned ten times, all related to content in general, rather than singling out content generated directly by Google. YouTube is definitely known primarily for its user generated content. In my opinion, Google Video is as well.

    Conversely, iTunes is never mentioned (although there are a few oblique references to purchased media and Apple), nor are CBS or Hulu.

    When talking about how poorly captioning is implemented within Google Video and YouTube, no mention is made that the comparison is being done exclusively on commercial content.

    While it is true that you never explicitly include user generated content in your article, the emphasis of it is definitely on sites which provide it.

  57. bq. Since voluntary captioning has been a near-total bust, what’s your solution?

    Work harder to show those of us who would potentially care the benefits of wide-spread captioning? Or is “work harder” too American of a solution?

    You say nothing else has worked. As far as I know this is the first article on ALA stumping for captioning. Did I miss the one that appealed to our better instincts? What about the article that detailed how captioning SHOULD be done or the one that chronicled a cleaver and innovative new flash video player that makes captioning dead simple?

    Just because what has been tried so far hasn’t worked for you doesn’t mean that the buck should be passed to a bunch of faceless legislators. I can’t see how a nearly unenforceable law is any better than an ignored standard.

  58. I read sites like A List Apart and consider myself to be very, very supportive of accessible content.

    I agree with post #61. The article states we must resort to legislation because nothing else has worked – but in my years of website design and research, this article is the first I’ve ever seen that even mentions accessible video content.

    The web is different than TV or DVD mediums controlled by a few companies – a workable, standard solution or set of solutions can be found and implemented for video content. A List Apart should be advocating for solutions, not advocating for the government to force people to find a solution.

  59. I cut out the iTunes/Hulu bit. I also had trouble actually looking at such captions here in Canada. I did quite a bit of legwork on that, though.

    Google and YouTube were discussed in the corporate sense. I mentioned in a previous comment here that I don’t have an immediate answer to the true-UGC problem (again: undue hardship).

    I know this article was unpopular for most of you, but I don’t want to answer the same question _n_ times, if you don’t mind.

  60. I should mention that iTunes and Hulu have not a lot of captioning, especially on what could be called commercial or broadcast programming, all of which was originally captioned.

    This “supply-chain”? problem of moving captions from one medium to another has bedevil(l)ed us for years. A perfectly realistic scenario is as follows:

    Movie comes out with Rear Window closed captions, projected DTS open captions, and in rare cases projected Dolby open captions (and, formerly, burned-in InSight Cinema open captions). There are Line 21 and Region 1 DVD captions, the latter of which are probably just subtitles. R2 and other-region subtitles. Then (possibly different) Line 21 captions for TV and newly-created teletext and DVB captions for European/Australian/UK etc. TV. Then online captions.

    But it’s all the same movie.

    What’s the solution?

  61. Andrew, my attitude is: Don’t keep doing what we already know doesn’t work. Two years ago WCAG WG, an ostensibly open group, wasn’t working, so my friends and I tried the exact opposite, and it worked. (WCAG Samurai Errata might attract a quibble or two, but they’re quite solid.)

    Secret captioning “standardization”? bodies like CAB and WGBH haven’t worked before, so I advocate open standardization bodies. Or, rather, just one.

    In between you find things like the Ontario government’s information/communications accessibility panel, which could barely manage to publish its meeting minutes and never published its draft specs. Secret? Open? Or just not quite competent enough to choose between the two?

    Now, if there were another field where _every_ attempt was secret and it _always_ worked, I wouldn’t complain. Ditto if every attempt were open. I do not actually always favour open standards. _Published_ standards, yes, but not necessarily open. Most of the time they’re better, of course, but one does not wish to fall prey to ideology.

    I assume it is axiomatic that “working”? in this context means we have something approaching 100% accessibility, with good fonts and readability, and adequate results from user testing. Nu?

  62. I’m all for accessibility, but forcing it is not the solution.

    Gee, I can’t wait for the government to regulate web development, look what it has done in every other sector!

    No thanks, I’ll continue to code with standards and make content available for all, even videos if needed, but you can keep your government regulation in Europe and Canada, this is the land of the FREE, at least it was.

  63. The Randroids are out on force on this one, huh?

    The thing is, tighter regulation often actually _fosters and promotes_ innovation and new market solutions to problems. When faced with complete freedom, humans tend to freely do nothing whatsoever.

    (I think I made my case about as well as Nate Bell did, which seems to be the bare minimum standard for this thread!)

  64. I have an idea. Could captions and subtitles be better shown in a box that sat directly under the video itself? That way only one video would be required on the server. (Imagine hosting one video for every language you supported!) Also text could be set in standard readable web fonts with all the accessibility benefits that produces. (A link to the whole text for instance to print or read out.) Sorry if this has already been considered!

  65. Things that are easy and profitable gain in popularity. Things that are difficult and expensive diminish in popularity. If it was easy to be caption-compliant, it might be more popular, but it’s not. Being compliant is difficult and expensive. Propose a good solution, not a restrictive and costly legal brute force method. Such legislation is probably less effective than we would like, anyhow.

    #69 gets applause as an idea worth exploring.

  66. @those whose knee-jerk reaction is the Reaganesque “keep THE government off our backs”:

    The Internet we have today is directly descended from the first packet-switching network – Arpanet – invented and deployed by the United States Department of Defense.
    It’s a bit too late to keep THE government out of it – here in the states, it was OUR government that produced it in the first place! With OUR tax dollars.
    The decisions we make today, as voters, as citizens, as simply people speaking out, will determine the nature and quality of the online world we have in ten years.
    What would you like it to be? And if ALA articles like this one aren’t on target, what the hell is?
    If the current financial crisis has taught us anything, it’s that the world is far more interconnected than even the most forward-thinking of us had imagined. Mouse clicks in downtown Manhattan can bring an entire country to its knees.
    Being a nation-state isn’t what it used to be. And the legal decisions being made in Canada, the UK, Australia, or even at the state level (California, for instance) are going to affect us all whether we like or not.
    These are exciting, unprecedented times – time to think anew and act anew.
    Keep an open mind. Not so open that your brains fall out, but open, please.

  67. Sorry, but I have to agree with the dissenters. Forcing small studios and normal users to caption their online videos is completely unrealistic, and unfair.

    Personally I think you’re blowing it completely out of proportion, and you’re in danger of coming across as a bit of a martyr, for a cause that I can see very few people supporting.
    I won’t be captioning my videos any time soon, because quite frankly, it’s a complete and utter waste of my time and money.

  68. bq. And this is one of many cases where typography pretty much hasn’t been considered. I hope you can read white Helvetica or Arial on a black mask.

    Well, you’re in luck… because I can. Quite easily, actually.

  69. I would remind commenters that the Web (and the Internet in general) is not exempt from regulation, and neither are American citizens. The U.S. actually has quite a lot of regulation that requires captioning (on TV, in movie theatres). If you’re trying to rely on principle as an argument against regulation of _this specific issue_, you would need to back up many years and get the existing regulations overturned.

    If you’re trying to suggest this is a slippery slope to an East Germany—style régime of government-controlled content, it isn’t.

  70. Have you been reading the numerous functionally identical responses I wrote to the seriously more numerous functionally identical comments about the cost implications for UGC and others? I did not say that _small studios_ would be _forced_ to caption. Under government regulation, _somebody_ would be forced to do so. Now, exactly who would be so forced, and what the exemptions might be, remain active topics of discussion.

    For reference, the FCC regulations in the United States that require huge swaths of programming to be captioned have built-in exemptions and limits. While these have been somewhat abused, they are at least a model to follow.

    You and fellow commenters have not responded to my point that well-funded commercial online video (e.g., Hulu, iTunes, whatever Google itself produces) couldn’t be captioned. That sidesteps the objection you stated for small studios and UGC, though most of you seem to be acting like that objection is perfectly valid on its face and completely invalidates the idea of requiring _anyone_ to provide captioned video. In other words, the message here is “If one person can’t afford it, nobody should be forced to do it.”? That isn’t how human-rights law works.

  71. I slept on it and have the following to say:

    * Full-screen video is a minority use case. I would need to look at actual examples of “grainy”? burned-in type in that scenario. I’m not dismissing it entirely, but there are other contexts in which people put up with grainy big type (e.g., screen magnification). I _did_ say type becomes an issue.
    * The Braille business is simply a red herring. People keep bringing it up as though it were actually used in the real world (it isn’t) and there were user testing proving it works (there isn’t). The only known example was a one-off that was produced by”¦ WGBH.
    * Who exactly is going to carry out “edits”? on prerecorded captioning?
    * My view is that closed captioning is for hearing people. Of course there are use cases where one hearing and one deaf person want to watch the same video on different occasions with different needs. Closed captioning or two different video files are options that meet those needs (admittedly at double the bandwidth in the latter case). I am not overly concerned with pandering to hearing people when captioning is about the deaf. Sorry.

    The difference between a Web page with multiple files and online video with multiple files is that a Web page _calls_ the other files, which can reside anywhere. The video files are meant to be an _indivisible unit_. Of course one could devise a technology that matches up a third party’s video file with another third party’s captions, which is a restatement of the Web use case, not the video use case.

    Anyway, I was not offering that issue as a claimed dealbreaker, merely as an example of unneeded technical difficulty (comparable to HDTV captioning and description, where not only does the information have to be there, every single setting has to be perfect to make anything work at all).

    What WGBH is doing for Web captioning is a secret process. I’ve waltzed through WGBH myself (two offices, in fact); big deal. I don’t think this process is going to work, but I concede I would have more faith in the process had I not in fact lost faith in WGBH — faith I held for a brief period in my life (roughly 1978 to 2003).

  72. I would prefer it if people offered _completely new topics_ at this point. I already know that most commenters think it’s unfair to force (a) the Little Guy (b) anyone (c) Americans to offer captioning, and that some commenters think closed captioning is OK. And that I need permission before stating an intent to kick ass. And that I have a bad attitude and am, de facto, a supporter of statism. I know all that already, even if the accusations are nonsense.

    I would prefer to entertain _entirely new points_. Are there any?

  73. I liked your article.

    Sorry Joe, no new ideas. Just pointing out the bad ideas again.

    Closed captioning
    Closed captioning is a bad idea because of the bandwidth and storage space involved. Also, people following A list Apart know that over the last 10 years there’s been a push to separate content from form. There were reasons to do so. These apply to video as well (Reusability, maintainability, standardization, exchangability). I am a very fond user of srt-interpreters like vlc off-line, why not implement such a system in online players? Also, content developers should not be forced to think about the look of the captions, it’s not their area of expertise.

    Forcing captioning
    Captioning is a bad idea because of the work involved. To force captioning on content developers would work against the development of content.

    Legislation is a bad idea because in this instance it is on the level of content and information. Legislation on that level opens another door for censorship on the Internet. Governments and institutes have proven themselves willing to apply and misuse censorship. Governments should therefore rather spend on promotion and support, not legislation and enforcement.

    Good ideas
    There seems to be some consensus in this thread on standardization and putting the responsibility for the implementation with the developers of the players.

    The difficult part has to do with the captioning:
    The BBC can implement capitioning because of government sponsorship.
    We should spend on the development of tools for communities that like to caption to allow them to caption.
    We should protect anyone who wants to caption online content and from authoring rights advocates, thus allowing them to caption. A wiki-like system would have to be implemented to guard the quality of the captions.
    Much captioned content is not available on the internet because the captioning rights have not been sufficiently bought off. Going back to the online BBC programs: these are not broadcasted outside of the UK because of this. You need to hop servers not to be blocked. Agreements shoud be made on the Shengen/EU or even UN level to properly buy off people who do captioning for a living, thus allowing for (domain) borderless distribution.

    Cheers, Willem

  74. Wherever I wrote “closed captioning”, I actually meant “open captioning”, where captions are integrated into the file. Pointers on editing your own comments would be much appreciated. I’m a newbie.

  75. If there’s truly a consensus here “on standardization and putting the responsibility for the implementation with the developers of the players,”? I haven’t seen it, and it’s nonsensical anyway — all file formats support closed captioning, every conceivable video format can be open-captioned, and “developers”? aren’t going to give us more captioned video.

  76. The title made me think that it was going to be an article about how we need to watch out and stop the gov. from stepping in and taxing the crap out of us.

    Of course I lean more libertarian 😉

  77. As a web producer in a California community college, the state already requires that we comply with Section 508. We already struggle with adding transcripted audio and podcasts, captioned video and vodcasts, and all the preferred formats. I wish that there was a set of standards and good examples, especially since my shop relies on inexperienced student interns. I’m constantly tracking down solutions and proper process and trying to get it written into procedures for our use. Video podcasts are our latest challenge. Flash is the other. I am actually heartened by the commercial need to index video content. I’m hoping that there will be rapid improvements in the technology that will make it more realistic for colleges to provide accessible interactive media easily and within our costs. Today, unfortunately we have to decide what Web content is really worthy of our efforts, because we just can’t afford to do it all in an accessible manner. If the commercial desire to index video content results in better and cheaper speech to text and time code, it will be a bit like web standards getting more support because of SEO. I’m OK with that.

  78. I have really enjoyed reading ALA, but I have to agree that this article struck a different cord in me. I think it wasn’t so much that I disagreed with topic the article as much as I disagreed with the tone and approach of the article. I think that though the online video industry has been around for the eternity (in internet time) of 4 years, that is still extremely short in “business years” to self-implement a captioning method. So somehow I fail to see how some heavy-handed legislation to force “those who can afford it” to caption their videos will help when we might not even know how to tell who needs to caption and who does not.

    Joe often drew on current legislation to demonstrate that there is in fact a lot of government protection of the “rights” of those with limited accessibility to access the same public places as everyone else. There is a problem brought up in other comments that is not solved or does not fall into this “what is a public and what is a private structure” issue. I know Joe has said that he has said that he does not expect UGC to be captioned, but my question is at what point does something go from being UGC to “profit-making content” worthy of or newly requiring the content to be captioned? What metric is used and who is measuring/enforcing this metric? Does YouTube need to caption videos that are viewed over X number of times? Who determines that “X” is? What if this isn’t YouTube but a slashdotted vblog that suddenly gets “X” hits? How does that work?

    My contention isn’t that accessibility is a bad or undue burden. In fact for video to have a “text” version would be a good thing in another, much more profit-tied ways (SEO anyone?). I would say that rather than having embeded “closed captioning” on an alternate video file, we’d be much better off doing something like post 69 with a browser-integrated, but separate “div” displaying captions. Or at least, better than the millions dedicated to convince and then implement this legislation to enforce captioning, I’m sure some bit of software could be developed to sit on top of the browser and dynamically create captions, etc that needed to be created. It was suggested before that Google, etc might eventually do this for their videos and to me that does not seem to be unfeasible on the browser level (via plugin) for those who needed it.

  79. I agree that the situation with captioning and subtitling needs to improve and I agree that we need better open industry standards. But I disagree with your recommendation for open captions, although as a short term solution they might be reasonable.

    But instead of open captions, there should be improved technical solutions for closed captions, and a decent, widely supported subtitle/captioning format which can be used in any video format or device. Such a format would need features such as declaring the font family, position, size and colours of the text, and the ability to embed a font itself within the video container format so that publishers aren’t stuck with the limited selection of system fonts. Although, it wouldn’t hurt to also have a decent set of free fonts suitable for captioning that are installed by default on systems and devices in the future.

    As for getting people to add captions

  80. As for getting people to add captions, I don’t agree with the general approach of legal threats and government regulation to force compliance. I think a better approach would be to understand the reasons why people don’t add captions, which could include, among others, reasons like cost, technical issues or education; and then finding ways to address those issues and create better incentives for providing captions.

    Regarding your suggestion in comment 10 that Google and YouTube could possibly to caption user generated content, that’s ridiculous. Users upload about 13 hours of video to YouTube every minute, and no organisation in the world would have the time, let alone resources, to caption that much content. They don’t even have time to moderate videos before they are published, despite what some lobby groups would like.

  81. Why must the answer to everything be “regulation?” Setting aside that you’ve decided for us that the economy should be highly regulated, the mere idea that someone should be able to forcibly tell me what I build is incredibly offensive.

    Of course, all content should be accessible to deaf users. However, it is not a problem if it is not – hear me out (pun intended).

    If I have a huge site, and do not caption my videos, deaf users will not participate in my site, and will not generate revenue for me. My competitor announces that all their content will be accessible regardless of level of hearing ability – I lose customers. I lose the few deaf users I had, my competitor taps a previous neglected market, and all the users on my site with deaf friends move over there so they can share more openly.

    Competition is the only thing required. If competition amongst companies is not bringing this issue to the forefront, perhaps it is not as big of an issue as you thought? After all, deaf users don’t have a “right” to access my page any more than a person who doesn’t have a PC has a “right” to access it.

  82. Wow. Just wow. There is most certainly a difference between an intrinsic right and a government-granted “right”. Note the quotes. If the government “grants” a “right”, it may be legally binding, but it is nothing more than an opinion of one group enforced on another at the point of a gun.

    And yes, I consider myself an Objectivist.

    I am 100% fully in support of web standards, and I’m more than a bit of a zealot when it comes to both usability and accessibility. In fact, I am personally leading the charge a a “multi-national conglomerate” where I work to actively support disabled users. I care deeply about equal access to information, and I also care deeply about my employer’s litigation exposure.

    There is plenty of support out there to increase the accessibility of the web. As other posters have said, the answer is to make it easier to do, and to make it clear the economic benefits of doing so.

    I’m actually quite surprised that such an strictly ideological article made it on ALA. Historically, at least in my perception, articles here have been very heavy on the technologies, best practices, and people behind the web. This article is nothing more than a political statement, and as such contributes nothing to the field.

  83. It is interesting trying to reason about what would be the correct path to take when it comes to this issue. Since it is always hard to talk/reason about things that can be so easily cast as discrimination against a minority.

    I do believe that regulation would be the wrong path to take, because I don’t think that it will amount to a workable solution for the long term. Government regulation will only reach so far and is likely to do more harm than good.

    My reason for this belief is not so much that it will be used as a stepping stone for further regulation of internet, though I think it is a gamble I would not take.
    But more for the fact that it will more than likely halt/slow the generation of important educational content by institutions such as universities and initiatives like google tech talks.
    These would most likely fall within the reach of any regulation and I would say most likely that they would not be produced if the additional cost of captioning is burdensome. I am not sure what the cost of captioning is but I would say that for things such google tech talks that get very few viewers, (the really popular ones seem to slowly creep into the thousands) that this additional cost would not be worth it to google if it opens them to possible penalty.

    We are just starting the break though the barriers of getting educational material such as this onto the web, which in my mind makes things much better for the deaf in the long term, as we get more workable solutions for captioning. While it might not have captions when it is created, it is a lot easier to add captions after the fact than it is to create a video of a lecture that has been and gone!

    I think that a wiki/community driven approach is the only way that it is really going to create a big difference in the medium term, as this is the only thing bar machine translation that is going to be able to react on the time scale of the internet. Especially when it comes to user generated content, (If you aren’t getting captioned user generated content I think you have given up the content that will most valuable to have captioned going forward).

    I would much rather the government taking the money that it would take to create the legislation, and put that into a hub that works towards captioning videos that are in demand by the deaf community. While not as nice as everything coming off the production line wrapped with a bow, I believe it would be a lot more sustainable. For this purpose it would seem the licensing and copyright are of even greater importance to the accessibility crowd!

    We shouldn’t be regulating, we should be creating tools to *empower* the deaf community, not putting their fate at the mercy of others.

    As for getting tv/movie captions onto the internet I am not sure how you would go, that may take regulation because of the closed nature of those markets. It would be awesome to have the content available.

    As for open captioning, I think that it is the wrong solution going forward, as closed captions can always be turned into open, but the reverse transform is nowhere as easy. Though it does seem like someone has to create a workable format for capturing the required information. It seems like a crime to limit the way in which captions can be used. Open captions seem like trying to be pixel perfect, without respect to the differing needs of the end user. (Why does that sound familiar…)

    —- Random thought, take at face value
    Just thinking that although machine translation is not very good, if you can give something that is in the ballpark, a person could most likely sort something out based on context. So deaf people could caption content for other deaf people. If you this is collaborative with the ability to flag sections so hard of hearing and hearing people could help with the tricky bits. I am not sure I would have the skills to create good captions. However I could check captions with some ease, and give feedback/corrections. While this would not be perfect out of the gates it would be a solution that empowers a community to progressively enhance their own experience.

  84. Lately articles here on ALA have been negative in the tone: “this is crap, this is bad because of this and that”.

    Sure, it can be soemtimes hard to figure out that somethings crappy but I believe that we readers want to better ourselves and therefore read about how to do things right. Not how to do things badly.

    Please do point out what is wrong but do not write just about how terrible stuff is, be positive.

  85. Miika:

    Thanks reading A List Apart, and thanks for your feedback!

    We agree that the thrust of the magazine should be to help web designers and developers do better work.

    So that I understand, can you name and link to other recent articles that you feel demonstrate the trend of mere negativity? Thanks!

  86. I have read and enjoyed A List Apart for quite some time now and I have to say this is easily the least useful article I’ve read.

    In the article and the comments it seems that the author lives in Canada, that has some legislation pertaining to the subject of the article. I am happy that Canada is such a progressive country but I and a majority of the world do not reside in Canada and are not subject to its laws. This is a similar issue with most of the world’s politicians in that they do not understand they cannot impose their will on everyone in the world. The author should keep that in mind. He is correct in the domino effect such things have but they are often slow in nature.

    The author attempts to make his case for legislation forcing the general public to offer a benefit at some cost to a small minority. But he fails to do so convincingly and comes across as more of a bully who wants his way despite the costs. The article does nothing to start a decent discussion as to what needs to be done nor suggests ways to address the issue.

    There is no thought as to the problems that will be created as different people in different countries create different standards. English speaking countries will require English captions, Spanish speaking countries will require Spanish captions, etc. How do we address this? Do we force all businesses and websites that fall under the required category to offer captions in all possible languages and situations? And what is going to be the cost of doing so? The author doesn’t even bother to give it a thought, it MUST be done.

    There is no thought as to the problems that will be created by slippery slope laws that will inevitably come. It is a risky and expensive endeavor to start a business in the U.S. because of such laws and applying a similar mentality to the Internet is more than likely asking for trouble. In the U.S. there is already the ADA that requires such things, why is more legislation the answer? And how is such legislation enforced in international situations? Can the ADA force a web site based out of Nigeria to caption their videos for their scams? Yes, silly example but the point is valid.

    The author’s defense of his article in the comments have, for the most part, been rather inappropriate for a venue that is supposed to be open for discussion. The author does not defend his article but openly attacks people who disagree with him, further reinforcing the appearance of being a bully. The “deregulation is the source of our economic woes” comment in the article was irrelevant to the subject matter and portrays the author as a wannabe pundit. This and some of his replies to comments make the article seem more of a political statement, which some people pointed out to the ire of the author, and does not in any way help the readers become better at their chosen profession.

    The author does successively give an example that Godwin’s law needs another law about people who use it inappropriately in an attempt to discredit someone’s opposing argument. See how that slippery slope works? The comment about the statism was relevant and on target, the author was simply unable to counter it.

    To help keep A List Apart the website that I have always seen it as over the past year, I have some suggestions for the author to rewrite or append the article based on what I’ve gotten from other articles:

    Actually explain the differences between captioning and subtitles as most people won’t know the difference. Explain pros and cons to both.

    Explain the benefits of providing captioning and/or subtitling to a website and/or web video.

    Provide examples of tools so that the readers may research for themselves. Maybe even give a quick description of your favorites.

    Keep in mind that if you write the article as a rant people will react to it as such, regardless of how correct and relevant the article is to the subject.

    And understand that there will be people who disagree with you and that does not make them wrong despite your passion for the subject.

  87. I’d be more worried if this seemed likely to go anywhere.

    However, treating it as a possibility, the problem with the idea lies in confusion by the proponents here between the ADA and whatever *new* legislation would have to be passed to force mandatory online captioning, coupled with the hand-waving to say “Well no, no bad effects could possibly result from this requirement!”

    To be blunt, a mandatory online video captioning law would more than likely join the DMCA (one of those ever-so-sacred laws on the US books, along with the PATRIOT Act and whatnot) as a tool for big companies trying to force out smaller content providers and choke out individual content.

    As pointed out by the pro-regulators here, the big media companies *easily* have the resources to caption their videos. They may not not want to spend the money, but if such a regulation seemed inevitable or not worth the costs to fight, they’d quickly line up behind it. Why? To do their best to make sure that all those companies and people that you airily dismiss as not-to-be-affected by such rules *would* in fact be subject to those rules.

  88. I read this article and the comments last night and slept on it.

    I do not have the answer to the captioning problem, but I do know that for captioning to become widespread, there has to be:
    * some tangible incentive for doing it (like the government gives tax credits to push people to be more green, for example), OR;
    * some reprimand for not doing it (government regulation)

    A commenter earlier said something to the effect that if people/companies were better educated and more informed to the problem, they would jump on the bandwagon and the problem would fix itself. I think this sounds great on paper, but when has it ever worked out that way? Waiting on people to do the “right” thing out of the goodness of their hearts is something you see in light-hearted movies. While I’m not saying that no one would take up this practice, it would never get to the point where it needs to be.

    There were also comments slamming the author because this is the first time they’ve read anything about the lack of online video captioning being a problem. Well I’d say consider this article as the notice. And since the time was taken to write comments about it, either positive or negative, I’d say Joe struck a chord. Hopefully it will now be somewhere in the back of your mind next time you produce a video. That’s a step in the right direction.

    Again, I do not have the answer, and I’m hesitant to endorse regulation, but I applaud Joe Clark for sparking the discussion. And if someone disagrees with this article and finds another working solution to this problem, mission accomplished.

  89. bq. Waiting on people to do the “right”? thing out of the goodness of their hearts is something you see in light-hearted movies.

    And crying out that since something hasn’t spontaneously happened (in the lack of much stated interest at all), we must _force_ people to toe the line, is at least as vapid.

    Actually, no, it’s definitely *more* so.

    For the people naively asking why some are so against bringing new regulation to the internet, it’s important to keep to keep the modern history of the internet in mind. On one hand, voluntary development brought about _the web itself_, as well as every single advance, refinement, and standardization we’ve seen in the medium. On the other hand, government regulation of the web has brought us nothing better than DMCA take-down notices.

    bq. There were also comments slamming the author because this is the first time they’ve read anything about the lack of online video captioning being a problem. Well I’d say consider this article as the notice. And since the time was taken to write comments about it, either positive or negative, I’d say Joe struck a chord. Hopefully it will now be somewhere in the back of your mind next time you produce a video. That’s a step in the right direction.

    Er, no. When someone advocates for or against policies, it _means something_. Let’s not play reverse-Emily Littela.

    bq. While I’m not saying that no one would take up this practice, it would never get to the point where it needs to be.

    Of course not – “where it needs to be” is the ultimate elastic goal, especially when it comes to political advocacy.

  90. Perhaps web designers, etc. who are concerned about online video captioning might consider holding off on demanding laws before they’ve spent more than an infinitesimal fraction of the effort spent encouraging developers to make plain old graphics-and-test web pages accessible.

  91. I’d like to see:

    1/ Some professional captioning/subtitling software that is affordable for those of us that are not affluent production houses that just perform subtitling services (Good software costs big).

    2/ Closed captioning (read from external file) so my blind mate can read the transcript with his screen reader and understand what’s happing in the stories silent scenes (Unless of course providing audio descriptions will ever be taken seriously).

    3/ Making elitist subtitlers throw up by being told that they should also include text descriptions in their work to avoid unnecessary duplication.

    Where we live:

    Of the 50 deaf members in our small part of the planet, 3 have access to the Internet. Paying for a phone line just to get broadband enabled to access information is a bitter pill to swallow. Given that the Internet is probably the best shot at self help literacy this is unfortunate and our Telco’s are not interested in cutting any slack.

    For most of our deaf community, English is a second language (in an English speaking country) with sign language/s being the primary and preferred form of communication (obviously), so captions in reality, may only reach a few of the deaf audience.

    There are of course many other good reasons to caption but deaf is the most common reason understood publicly, this perception needs to change as it’s just too minority.

    Hurry up and do your project Joe, I support and salute your efforts. We need answers and best practice guidelines and while your at it, please devise a solid business case response that will make people not only want to add captions, but receive return on investment from their efforts. Social responsibility (even if it’s enforced) is all very well in meaning but has limited traction.

  92. @Travis and all the other commenters who blasted this article as being useless:

    Joe Clark got your attention, didn’t he?

    The arguments about the Internet blossoming out of unregulated roots don’t apply here. The Internet blossomed because the majority proclaimed it good and jumped onboard. As a minority (I’m deaf), we have a very hard time attracting the attention of the majority, much less getting the majority to care about issues profoundly affecting our quality of life. Is it fair? No. But that’s how the world works.

    So you’ll have to pardon us for being long past the point of politeness. If you still don’t care after reading Joe Clark’s excellent article, you’ll have the opportunity to care when your employer gets slapped with a lawsuit.

    And if you do care, and do something about it, I sincerely thank you.

  93. bq. Joe Clark got your attention, didn’t he?

    So does a flasher. Your point?

    bq. So you’ll have to pardon us for being long past the point of politeness.

    I didn’t see you politely asking in the first place. Or, you know, _asking_. That goes for the original writer, to. I wonder how quickly web accessibility would have died a crib death if the reaction to blank alt text had been “OMG, we need a law!”

    bq. If you still don’t care after reading Joe Clark’s excellent article, you’ll have the opportunity to care when your employer gets slapped with a lawsuit.

    You and a lot of people here need to get over the posturing. There are people who want nothing more than to help make the web accessible to everyone, but who realize this would be a terrible idea. “You’re either for us or against us” is more than a little dated.

    I don’t personally use video in my projects, but I can see a lot of companies smaller than Sony or Viacom opting to _avoid_ video entirely if the danger of such a lawsuit existed. Now that may be perfectly fine to you, but forcing everyone without the resources to caption all their videos to avoid the medium isn’t advancing anything, just crippling the experience for everyone else.

  94. Joe Clark wrote: “People with disabilities do, in fact, have the right to accessible ‘content.'”?

    If a person has a “right” to content, as you claim, then that means that they have the right to require that someone supply that content that they have a right to — right?

    Is that then your argument?

    For a proper conception of rights, see the Rand Lexicon:

  95. @Alicia

    “Joe Clark got your attention, didn’t he?”

    My four-year-old demanding a lollipop gets my attention as well. Doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But I guess one day she’ll be able to threaten me with a lawsuit if I don’t give it to her.

    “The arguments about the Internet blossoming out of unregulated roots don’t apply here…”

    In this you are quite correct. A MAJORITY decided the Internet was good and jumped on board THEMSELVES with little to no prompting from an outside group DEMANDING something. There has been very little regulation concerning the Internet and that has been a good thing. Most regulations punish, “don’t do this or you’re in trouble!” If regulations appear to punish people for not doing Internet video in the correct way as you perceive it then the path of least resistance is to not do video at all. There may be tools to make captioning easier and I would like to see an article about such tools.

    “So you’ll have to pardon us for being long past the point of politeness.”

    As someone pointed out in another comment, I haven’t seen politeness in the first place. My previous comment suggested polite ways to make the point and the article failed to do so. This is probably the first time many people even heard of this as an issue and what they see is a rather negative article that provides nothing to help alleviate the problems to begin with.

    “If you still don’t care after reading Joe Clark’s excellent article, you’ll have the opportunity to care when your employer gets slapped with a lawsuit.”

    Again with the heavy-handed threats. I disagree that it is an excellent article, are you going to take the same tactic that Joe did with others by personally attacking me instead of responding to my points? Do you think my suggestions for what I feel would have been a proper article are unreasonable? How do you feel about my points about the article, because you are not discussing this so that we could work out a solution. You are simply making demands with no suggestions to solving the problem.

    If you are unable to support your argument without resorting to legal threats then maybe your argument is indefensible? In some cases lawsuits are needed to punish someone who blatantly goes against regulation, such as the Target lawsuit, but there are abuses, such as the man in California who was recently told by a judge he could no longer file lawsuits under the ADA. And in fact, I do care, but Joe Clark has in no way made it so. I cared before the article and I care now, I just don’t react well to unrealistic demands, threats and attempts at intimidation.

    Personally I was eagerly awaiting Adobe CS4 because it was supposed to include tools for doing the very thing that Joe Clark would like people to do. Maybe Joe should have covered those features explaining the benefits of using them. But no, we get complaints and demands instead.

    “And if you do care, and do something about it, I sincerely thank you.”

    That’s how you get people to agree with you and try things out. Maybe you should try more of this type of positive thinking concerning this issue?

  96. Haven’t seen me ask politely yet? That’s my point exactly. I’m only one person among millions of people. You don’t know who I am and haven’t seen my countless polite requests over the years for captioning and other accommodations in other places. Ask anyone who knows me personally, and they’ll tell you that my requests tend to be very polite.

    You see, I’m in the minority. I simply don’t have the numbers or resources to get my polite requests heard by even a significant portion of the majority, much less get them motivated enough to care.

    If I were to politely ask each and every one of you here on ALA to caption your videos, you might say, oh, what a sweet little deaf girl (I’m a bit older than 4 years old, by the way), and then go merrily about your daily life as a member of the comfortable majority. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a member of the comfortable majority (I myself am white), it’s just how it is.

    Maybe one or two of you would actually caption your videos if I asked politely, and thank you for that, truly. But that’s a mere drop in the ocean. Then, next time this issue comes up, in another forum, I’m faced with a whole new group of people who have never seen me or my previous polite requests, and I’m back at square one. It’s a Sisyphysian task.

    This is where the law comes in.

    History shows the majority does not pay attention to needs of the minority until those needs begin to affect the comfort level of the majority. Case in point: the complaints that this article doesn’t provide tools to make captioning easier. I counted over 70 links in the articles to resources, including many tools to make captioning easier, even to free (!!) services that will do it for you.

    Hence the need for regulations, as distasteful as that may be.

    I would rather it not be this way. I would rather that billions of dollars in litigation and untold angst be saved by people simply being aware of others’ needs and making efforts to treat them equally. But that is not what I have seen of human nature.

    Let me emphasize: this is not a personal attack on anyone. This is simply an account of my experience with majority vs. minority issues and human nature.

    This article has generated 11 pages of comments in a single week. Wouldn’t it be great if some change actually comes out of this discussion, _before_ lawsuits are needed?

  97. I’ve read the article twice now, and I can’t see a single link in there that doesn’t have a comment preceding it or followiing it that points out how crap _that_ particular concept or effort was.

    After two reads I still don’t have a really clear idea of the differences between open or closed captions, and between captions and subtitles. And I can still read arial on black, and don’t _actually_ understand what the problem with that is, because Joe was just far too angry at the world to bother to explain _any_ of his points properly.

    I don’t know what technique Joe thinks is the best way forward to serve the needs of those who need video to be augmented to be accessible, I just know that he’s angry and wants legislation to enforce that _someone_ does _something_. Oh, and that he wants the _something_ to be done in the open, woop.

    So, even as someone who would love see things move forward – that article didn’t educate me at all. It was just a very long complaint – no; in tone it was more a long _rant_.

    You see, the thing is, Joe and Alicia – of all the web design fora on the web, this is probably the one most likely to give some positive consideration to a call of “the status quo isn’t good enough, here’s why; what can be done to make it better?”. Especially if it were accompanied with some actual constructive insight into a sensible way forward.

    But that’s not what Joe wrote. He wrote a polemic, and it turns out the audience were turned off by it.

    Opportunity wasted.

  98. bq. Maybe one or two of you would actually caption your videos if I asked politely, and thank you for that, truly. But that’s a mere drop in the ocean.

    Exactly. It requires more than just individual people asking here and there, then yelling that they’re past the point of asking to people they’ve never talked to before. It requires organization and advocacy, the sort of thing that has made the post-Lynx web far friendlier than it used to be for the blind.

    bq. I counted over 70 links in the articles to resources, including many tools to make captioning easier, even to free (!!) services that will do it for you.

    Which he linked while saying they’re utterly inadequate.

    I came away from his post heavily _discouraged_ at the prospect of properly captioning a video.

    bq. This is where the law comes in.

    No, here’s where the law is _not_ going to come in any time soon, at least in the US.

    If you want more captioning, you’re going to have to actually communicate with and convince people who don’t understand the full details of your needs, and at a level above rants and “He got your attention, didn’t he?”

  99. bq. And I can still read arial on black, and don’t actually understand what the problem with that is

    I assume the usual (serious) difficulties many people with weak vision have with light text on dark backgrounds. It’s more strain than dark-on-light. Even many with 20/20 vision notice the strain.

  100. I’d simply like to echo what Richard said (comment 104), and add my voice to the chorus of criticism, not so much for the topic or arguments of this article (which I’m generally sympathetic with), but for its unconstructive tone.

    Despite itself, the article did teach me about a few methods and tools (and certainly debates) I hadn’t been aware of, and it addresses a very important topic. But it left me, a small-time designer, without a clear sense of how (or whether) I should make my videos more accessible in the meantime. That’s why I read it in the first place.

    It doesn’t offend me to see A List Apart featuring more broad, state-of-the-web articles than before. But this wasn’t a very helpful specimen. And its tone (continued in the author’s comments) doesn’t meet the standards of constructive discussion and pragmatic advice I’ve become accustomed to seeing here.

    As regards the premise of the article, I think the first place for more regulation should be at the desk of Zeldman or whoever it is who ultimately edits these articles. I believe with a little more attention the same basic article could have been crafted into something worthier of the venue.

  101. Several points brought up by recent commenters have already been addressed by the article and earlier commenters. Here’s a recap:

    From a commenter:

    bq. Actually explain the differences between captioning and subtitles as most people won’t know the difference. Explain pros and cons to both.

    The answer, in an excerpt from the article:

    bq. “¦the confusion between “captions and subtitles”:

    That link leads to a very handy list of the differences. This was also pointed out in “comment #5”: .

    Another comment:

    bq. Explain the benefits of providing captioning and/or subtitling to a website and/or web video.

    Early in the article, Joe states:

    bq. If you’re reading A List Apart, then you know that every web-accessibility specification requires captioning of multimedia for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers. “WCAG 1”: (and the “Samurai corrections”: ), “WCAG 2”: , “Section 508”: —they’re all the same. You have to caption your online video.

    Simply follow the above links for more information.

    Yet another comment:

    bq. Provide examples of tools so that the readers may research for themselves. Maybe even give a quick description of your favorites.

    This article isn’t a captioning how-to article – “plenty of those”: already online, the product of many years of tremendous effort by advocacy groups trying to take the ‘positive approach’ espoused by some commenters. As Joe points out, those voluntary, if laudable efforts, have resulted in a confusing mess of tools with no one clear solution. His recommendation at this time is to “outsource the captioning”: (the article contains links to free captioning services).

    Rather than a how-to, this article is intended as an exposition on why voluntary captioning has failed and why Joe now believes regulation is the next step.

    If this article is taken as it’s intended, it’s actually very beneficial to ALA readers. After all, you’re being given a chance to beat your competitors by getting your house in order – so that your competitors, not you, are the ones blindsided by the coming regulations. Joe is also calling for a simplification/standardization of captioning techniques and asking for your help in developing those open standards, in a way that will work for you and your business.

    I’m very appreciative of all the commenters who have posted good points to consider, such as the need to protect captioners from copyright penalties and weighing the flexibility of closed captions vs. the stability of open captions. I hope to see more of those comments.

  102. bq. If this article is taken as it’s intended, it’s actually very beneficial to ALA readers. After all, you’re being given a chance to beat your competitors by getting your house in order — so that your competitors, not you, are the ones blindsided by the coming regulations.

    Translation: “You may disagree that forced captioning is inevitable and desirable, but because the author intended to convince you of these facts, quit arguing, knuckle under, and make the best of it!”

    This comment manages somehow to be both nonsensical _and_ offensive.

  103. Oy.

    Yes, let’s dwell on the people who didn’t follow every link and were thrown on captions vs. subtitles and use that to spackle over the non-answers.

    Saying “You have to caption your online video.” is *not* an answer to “What is the benefit of this?”, nor is it even *true*, except perhaps in Canada, depending on a theoretical court case.

    Also, do you not see the huge disconnect between saying:

    bq. those voluntary, if laudable efforts, have resulted in a confusing mess of tools with no one clear solution

    and then

    bq. calling for a simplification/standardization of captioning techniques and asking for your help in developing those open standards, in a way that will work for you and your business

    while keeping in mind that Joe says _voluntary action will never be sufficient_ on this matter?

    Now, we can wish that a great law would be passed that would call for the creation of a wonderful, open captioning standard to be completed in just a couple of years, to be followed by its use everywhere, but that’s fantasy. The best-case hope in the US would be WGBH getting to define the legal standards.

    Further, unless you’re Joe’s sock-puppet, maybe you should stop going on about his supposed _intentions_ and look at what he *said*. He’s not saying “regulation is coming” – he’s specifically *denied* that, beyond his hopes for Canada. He said _this will not get fixed without regulation_ and went down the list of how the current tools and technologies are not up to the task – and how even some accessibility standards and the standards organizations struck him as inadequate – with some complaints about how some things done in this area seem designed to actually do more than just help deaf people.

    Saying _this will not be fixed by voluntary action_ is not a call to voluntary action. It’s an abandonment of voluntary action. Abandoning voluntary action when the government calvary won’t come is _abandoning the problem_.

  104. bq. Translation: “You may disagree that forced captioning is inevitable and desirable, but because the author intended to convince you of these facts, quit arguing, knuckle under, and make the best of it!”?

    Well yes, with a side of, “Nobody needs to be informed of this – you should know this already! That you haven’t jumped to take care of this unbidden means you will never do it without being forced to, so please choose to help us force other people to do this.”

  105. @Alicia

    Since you responded on my comments of the article I suppose I’ll respond to yours.

    I requested an explanation of the differences between captioning and subtitles. You point out the link in the article. It was nice that the article provided the link but that sort of thing should be a footnote for more information. A short description in the article would have sufficed. For instance:

    Subtitles display text of what is spoken, often for translation purposes.

    Captioning displays descriptions of sounds that can be heard including speech, often for a deaf audience.

    I believe I got that right.

    I then ask for an explanation of the benefits of providing captioning and your response is to point out more links to the standards. I didn’t look myself but do the standards explain the benefits of following them which is what I asked? It’s possible but I doubt it.

    I then asked for a list of suggested tools for me to research for myself. Your response is the article is not a how-to article. I agree, that wasn’t what I was suggesting. I asked for a list for me to investigate on my own. But the response to that; there are too many tools and none of them are good enough. So, exactly what are we supposed to do?

    “Rather than a how-to, this article is intended as an exposition on why voluntary captioning has failed and why Joe now believes regulation is the next step.”

    I admit it’s been a while since I read through the article but I don’t recall an explanation of why voluntary captioning hasn’t worked, just that it hasn’t. I remember a long rant that the solution is to force everyone to do so with regulation but there’s no suggestions as to how this would work, especially in an international setting, nor any thought to the negatives of doing so.

    Since you did not write the article and you are allowed to assume its intent then I may do the same. But I am unable to guess the intent of the article other than being a long rant on the subject. I did not feel the article was asking for help in determining an open standard, I felt it was calling for regulation which is not exactly the way to go about creating an open standard.

    And most companies will not be blind-sided by such regulations and you already assume they will happen. The easiest solution to the regulations, if they happen, is to take down all video that does not follow the regulation. Then it will be decided if it would be worth the additional costs and resources to include the required elements to put the video back on the web. I fear that many will feel it is not worth the cost.

    And I have to say I appreciate your comments as it is very helpful to get a different viewpoint of the matter. Plus the additional bonus is that you’ve been much more civil in the discussion than Joe was with his comments. This, I feel, is what those of us that disagreed with the tone of the article actually want. Because in the end, I do not disagree with the subject of the article but the attitude of the author.

  106. AIGA has made a commitment to improving accessibility of its websites because it’s the right thing to do, consistent with one of AIGA’s core values: fair and equitable treatment.

    It is, admittedly, time- and resource-consuming to generate captions for online rich media, but it is worth it.

    It took a significant amount of research and development to settle on our current solution, including development of a caption-capable media player by Citizen Scholar, Inc. Yet, all told, the process proved less expensive than imagined.

    Though developed specifically to provide access to hearing-impaired designers, others benefit when using the media player with captions visible in a public or noisy environment. In addition, PDF transcripts are provided, offering take-along access, of particular interest to students or others doing research.

    Though there is more work to be done to make completely accessible to people with varied abilities, it doesn’t take regulation to do it, just commitment to doing what is right.

    Lydia Mann, web director
    AIGA | the professional association for design

  107. Lydia, I am pleased and impressed by the captioned videos on your site. Thank you for your and your organization’s efforts – it’s definitely a great start. I look forward to when the rest of AIGA’s videos are captioned.

    If I may ask, what were the key factors (or people) in AIGA’s decision to make this commitment to captioning its video?

    These days, most captioned video seems to be on US governmental agency sites, which are required to comply with Section 508. I’m glad to see that AIGA is doing this even when not required.

    I only know of one other mainstream (i.e., not specific to the deaf community) site NOT under Section 508 that has captions on the majority of its videos: “Barack Obama’s site”: .

    Anyone know of any more “unregulated” sites with captioned video? I’d love to see them.

  108. “Writing Content that Works for a Living” by Erin Kissane was mostly negative, 90% of the article was concentrated on dissecting the bad example. Sure, there is a follow-up coming on that article but I don’t believe that I was the only one who missed that little note.

    A simple headline adjustment: “Writing Content that Works for a Living – Part 1” would have done a lot. I just don’t like reading a whole article and in the end find out it was mere part one and all of the article was about how not to do it.

    Maybe I am overreacting a bit but… 🙂

  109. It is wonderful to see the work being done by AIGA. However, AIGA is *one* company commited to doing the right thing. History has shown that without a mechanism in place to inspire—or force—businesses to accommodate minority customers…many do not.

    If you look at the history of Black Americans, it was major legislation that ushered in eras of greater opportunity. It has been the same for Deaf Americans. “The Technology Access Program at Gaulladet University”: has a summarized presentation of the history of Communication Access for the Deaf. You can find it “here”:

    In the US, we have a host of laws that regulate business. As business has naturally extended itself to the Web, it is only a matter of time before the laws governing business follow. Some of those laws happen to pertain to the accommodation of Deaf, blind, mobility and cognitively and otherwisely talented individuals.

    Deaf people do not wish to force others to do something they do not wish to do, there is no gain in that. Deaf people seek to gain equal access to the fastest growing communications medium. It doesn’t strike me as plausible that this can be accomplished in a reasonable timeframe, with standards and interoperability for mobile devices and various players, on a voluntary basis.

    Is regulation desirable? Not really. But, it does tend to get things organized.

    With regulation, companies such as AIGA will have standards to look to for implementing their web accessibility initiatives. This will decrease the research and development burden as no one will need to reinvent the wheel.

    Regulation would not mean that every video on the web needs to be captioned. As one commenter stated, that is akin to building a ramp on every house or requiring every book to be printed in braille.

    Do not imagine a YouTube where all UGC is captioned. Imagine a YouTube that captions its own corporate videos, requires captioning of videos from Business accounts, spotlights captioned content and points users to tools to caption their works.

    Ok, all that said, perhaps the Internet can turn history on its head and the captioning of online video content can evolve as Web Standards have. It is possible.

    Perhaps, like AIGA, YouTube will do this voluntarily.

  110. There are many comments and I’ve not had a chance to read them all. I would say that even if there’s a need for legislation on this matter there’s absolutely no point trying to force all hosts/producers of online video to provide accessible material at all times.

    Not only will ot be too expensive/time consuming for the majority but it would open up so many cases for litigation that the authorities just wouldn’t cope.

    The way to do it would be to require organisations to provide the material in a timely manner unless they could provide a valid reason for not doing so.

    As far as I’m aware that’s more or less how it currently works with more traditional media (ie print) here in the UK.

  111. bq. Deaf people seek to gain equal access to the fastest growing communications medium. It doesn’t strike me as plausible that this can be accomplished in a reasonable timeframe […] on a voluntary basis. Is regulation desirable? Not really. But, it does tend to get things organized.

    Your inability to get other people to fulfill your wishes according to your schedule does not justify forcing them to do so. This is the method of bank robbers and dictators, and it’s both wrong and “ineffective”: .

  112. No more regulation. Not no way, not no how. It’s ridiculous the direction this world always heads. Let’s force people to do this, or that, and by the time anyone realizes something’s wrong, people are being forced to sit in internment camps doing two things: working and starving.

    There are places where regulation makes sense, especially in matters of public safety and anything that involves extremely large quantities of money (the root of all evils is too tempting for most men), but we’re talking about a medium that hasn’t even developed to its full potential yet. An open standard for captioned content can’t be enforced on any massive scale on the internet, purely for the problems of man-power.

    Going off-topic slightly: Eileen, you draw a comparison between Black History and the topic of regulation here, and I can only presume you mean to compare the efforts of black people to do things like: earning freedom, the right to vote, and ending segregation, to the current plight of deaf people to get captions in online video. This is a crude comparison of struggles, as I’m sure it boils down to more than just “getting captions,” but functionally, that’s what this article is about.

    Freedom for the former came down to a punishment for the south for seceding. I believe West Virginians were still slave owners after the civil war, but just them. Either way, this was not a push for regulation for the betterment of humanity or the internet or something like that; it was plain old revenge.

    Winning the right to vote was a great victory, but let’s be honest; how in the hell is the privilege of watching videos online even comparable to the inextricable right to vote? Hell, we took our sweet time on that one, anyway; we even continued to deny women the right to vote for awhile.

    And the ending of segregation. Also a great victory, but this is the part where I go back to enforcement, because enforcing desegregation can be a problem, and my real problem with this proposal for regulation (apart from it being regulation) is how it will be enforced.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that this occurs regularly or has even happened at all, but it most certainly could: say a black man walks into a restaurant and gets kicked out for being drunk, loud and obnoxious. What’s to prevent him from accusing the restaurant of removing him because of his race? Even if there were other black people there, the restaurant would need them to testify, because in cases like this the burden-of-proof these days is a joke. Hell, it could go the other way around, too; say the restaurant refuses him service because of his race. When he sues, the restaurant cites some obscure paragraph of a law or otherwise makes it impossible to bring proof. So the question really is, what the hell does the regulation do?

    Simple. Matter. Of. Fact. NOTHING. De-segregation regulations effectively do nothing now. That’s not to say racism is over (thx2u obama 4 endng racsm), but rather that they aren’t necessary. Any intelligent company that wants to stay open these days will serve every market, because if they don’t, someone else will. These old regulations have now become a heaping pile of cash for someone with a good story and a better lawyer.

    Through obscurities in text and manipulation of key phrases in said text, John Smith might get rich off of Shelly’s Toy Store because he got kicked out after he cursed at a kid and Shelly never got cameras. These particular regulations are probably the least abused, but how many stories about some lucky jerk getting $50,000,000 for finding a nail in his soup have you heard? And those are NECESSARY regulations!

    I don’t care if you want to talk about provisions in the law that might protect UGC and small websites, because it doesn’t work like that. It is not as simple as saying “this is UGC” or “this is business,” and I don’t think that’s a point I have to prove. Anyone who sees things as that black and white is blind, and I’m not talking about their capacity to see light.

    If you want focus on this issue, you’re better off rewarding the people who develop the first widely-used and implemented open standard, rather than establish a regulation to punish everyone for failing to do so.

  113. I forgot my favorite point. The fact of the matter is, laws don’t really touch the internet.

    Hi, I’m serving tons of video content and making megabucks off it. Captioning? Nah, too expensive. What do you mean it’s regulated, and that I have to? Ohhhh, I see where you’re getting confused. See, my server isn’t in your country, and we don’t have those laws here. I’m not really doing business in the states; folks from the states just happen to use my site more than any other country.

    There’s a certain pirating site where they’ve been doing this to get around things like the DMCA and such for years, and it’s incredibly successful because it’s easy and legally valid!

    “Internet” laws and regulations are really just computer regulations. A given country has authority over the computers in its area and that’s it. Personally I like it that way. Please don’t change it, please don’t regulate it, because you’ll ruin the freest, most human invention before it ever gets its chance to shine. Laws are a black mark on humanity, demonstrating only that we are unable to control ourselves.

  114. The article is making a big deal of the alleged difference between captioning and subtitling. In the UK – where closed-captioning was invented, by the BBC in the late ’70s – it has always been known as subtitling. As far as I know it’s only the US (and presumably Canada) which has this definition of the difference, and there’s no particular reason that the US definition should be the one the internet takes on.

    Otherwise, the idea of every video online being captioned is lovely, but unrealistic. In an hour, one person can produce an average of six or seven minutes of reasonable quality block subtitles, so the number of man-hours that would be needed to caption every video online is phenomenal.

  115. Where is your discussion of rights? You propose a government solution to what you say is a problem, but you don’t even mention the concept of rights. Let me speculate why you don’t mention them. You acknowledge that non-governmental efforts to get in place what you want have failed. So, your solution is to force your desires on people. Acknowledging rights would end the argument.

    Rights do not conflict. I have a right (well, in 19th century America, I might have had) to my life, which entails a right to acquire property. This legislation you propose conflicts with that right, because it draws on my resources. It therefore doesn’t represent a valid right. In your totalitarian little scheme, I’m not free to act, I’m constrained by d#$%heads that want to tell me how I am allowed to pursue wealth creation. I want you and a55holes like you everywhere to know just how much I hate you.

  116. Joe,

    I’m not sure if you’re still reading comments, since they seem to have become a tit-for-tat discussion, but there is a giant hole in your entire argument. To be fair and to make sure I hadn’t missed it, I re-read the article and re-read every comment.

    Which government institution will be responsible for monitoring, reviewing, reprimanding, and prosecuting the private institutions which create online video content? Should this new government entity actively seek out offenders or simply respond to submitted complaints? Will there be an approval process before video content can be displayed? Will compliance with captioning law be dictated by the size of the group that creates the video, the number of online views, the type of site (or channel therein) which hosts the video, or the legal status of the organization which creates the content? By extension, how will fines (or other criminal ramifications) be determined? Will there be rewards and/or incentives to being compliant? Who determines those incentives and how will they be paid for?

    Let me be clear, captioning is a necessary step toward universal accessibility, but regardless of one’s particular political leanings, government regulation is an objectively terrible way to implement it. If universal accessibility is truly the goal, then regulating and requiring the implementation of CSS3 and strict code validation would go much, much further toward that end.

    In your first screencap, Greg is described as a “Deaf Singer,” an obvious and slightly hilarious misspelling. Please describe the legal process required to force an update of the spelling and, if the offending organization was unwilling to change it, how they would be punished.

  117. You rubbed me the wrong way when you started out saying that government intervention and legislation are good things for the internet. However, I do agree with you that better “features” need to be implemented to help the handicapped.

  118. wow..


    but : may i suggest – one more ->

    standard for login and captcha – should have a finite set of twists ..


  119. For real, thank you for posting this article. It does illustrate the lack of centralization in the industry. I think it’s because of basic competition and the numbers game, companies need to cater to the largest audience possible, that’s where profit is, unfortunately this causes many issues. I can see that standards are finally being used, but sadly, there is much left to do and few willing to invest in getting it done.

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