Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's official: Class action lawsuit against Netflix

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NATIONWIDE CLASS ACTION FILED AGAINST NETFLIX; LAWSUIT ALLEGES POPULAR MOVIE WEBSITE FAILED TO CAPTION STREAMING VIDEO LIBRARY IN VIOLATION OF STATE AND FEDERAL LAW, MISLED DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING CUSTOMERS

The prominent San Diego-based Weston Firm has filed a class action lawsuit in San Jose federal court against Los Gatos, California-based Netflix, Inc., alleging the ubiquitous provider of on-demand streaming video programming failed to adequately caption its streaming library in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and California law. The suit also alleges Netflix misled deaf and hard of hearing customers about the amount of subtitled content available and the rate at which it was adding subtitled content to its online database. The lawsuit’s lead plaintiff, Donald Cullen, is deaf, and relied on Netflix’s promises that it was working to subtitle its streaming video library.


“For too long Netflix has been promising its millions of deaf and hard of hearing members that it would caption its streaming video library, but Netflix has been dragging its feet. This lawsuit was brought to ensure that the deaf and hard of hearing have full and equal access to content most of us take for granted,” says Jack Fitzgerald, partner at the Weston Firm, which represents Mr. Cullen and the putative classes.



"This lawsuit was brought to ensure that the deaf and hard of hearing have full and equal access to ceontent most of us take for granted."


The lawsuit alleges that after almost two years of promising its deaf and hard of hearing members more subtitles, today only about six percent of Netflix’s streaming programming is captioned, and that Netflix’s captioning rate is “anemic.”


“Netflix initially released streaming to the public in 2008. However, none of the movies were captioned. So while the hearing world at large could enjoy this new feature, the deaf were left behind,” says Cullen, an activist in the deaf community.


Despite its failure to provide adequate closed captioning, Netflix announced last November a low-priced, streaming-only subscription option, while at the same time raising prices on all other DVD-by-mail plans. The suit charges that for the deaf and hard of hearing— for whom the streaming-only plan is effectively useless—this amounts to unfair “deaf tax.”


Gregory S. Weston, managing partner of the Weston Firm says, “We are asking the court to certify a nationwide class and enter an injunction to bring a stop to Netflix’s wrongful conduct. I urge any other consumer that has been victimized by these tactics to contact my office.”



"We are asking the court to certify a nationwide class and enter an injunction to bring a stop to Netflix's wrongful conduct."


The case, which is styled Cullen v. Netflix, Inc., Case No. CV 11-1199 (N.D. Cal.), was filed on March 11, 2011. A copy of the Complaint is available at http://www.westonfirm.com/Netflix-Complaint.pdf.


Attorney Gregory S. Weston can be reached at 858-488-1672, or greg@westonfirm.com. Attorney Jack Fitzgerald can be reached at 408-459-0305, or jack@westonfirm.com. More information is available at the firm’s website, www.westonfirm.com.

21 comments:

  1. it's about darn time someone said something about the lack of closed captioning on netflix!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank You! I have been so frustrated as a regular Nexfilx customer for years, when they had this streaming video I was so excited. Told, they were working on the technology... Oh... waiting, waiting, waiting. Couldn't figure out why it was so difficult to manage, surely the programing was not that difficult to work out!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi, I personally felt that this class action is missing one more company, that is Microsoft. Microsoft and Netflix agreed that the on-demand movies will employ Microsoft Silverlight's technology. It could be Microsoft Silverlight development team who puts subtitles on the bottom of their priorities, putting Netflix in a hard place because the on-demand streaming is NOT Netflix's proprietary software.

    We should apply pressure to Microsoft Silverlight development team as well to help Netflix process the subtitles faster.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I hate to be "that guy" but I would bet a lot of $ on this lawsuit being quietly funded by big Cable. They'll do anything to kill Netflix.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I thought the movies themselves provided captions or am I wrong? I do not have Netflix but when renting a movie, it usually has a menu selection of caption or audio language choices. Can someone explain that to me?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love movie and tv show. Most TV show do not have closing captions. I would like to see all of them have closing captions so I can enjoy it with my hearing children.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I find it interesting that Netflix offers subtitles if the movie is streamed to my computer but they claim the technology to stream subtitles is unavailable because of cost and technology for my blu ray player

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hulu is able to provide subtitles within two weeks after new shows are released. So there is no excuse for Netflix.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This was send to me:
    http://blog.netflix.com/2009/06/closed-captions-and-subtitles.html

    ReplyDelete
  10. Rene, that's ridiculous.

    Just because Netflix is using Microsoft's Silverlight technology doesn't mean that Microsoft has anything to do with the decisions that Netflix is making.

    Silverlight is a platform. Netflix is using this platform to deliver instant content. In other words, Microsoft provided the tools. Netflix built the player.

    ReplyDelete
  11. 80% of the netflix collection will be subtitled by the end of the year... i don't understand why they're filling the lawsuit now, as netflix has come through on their part of the deal

    ReplyDelete
  12. Xfinity (Comcast) is able to caption its On-Demand streaming movies so wahy can't Netflix? I have been emailing Netfix on this issue for over 2 years, each time receiving the promise that it's coming soon. In the meanwhile, we only watch Netfix DVDs that are captioned. I don't want to pay more and get nothing in return. Btw.. I am deaf and a CI user.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is very good news. However, the lawsuit should be extended to Apple iTunes store and Amazon's Videos on Demand (or Unbox). Neither of these services provide any closed captioning, and they have not given any hint at all when this would ever be available. Here is the message from Amazon:

    "Currently there is not such feature. Also we are unable to determine the exact availability of this feature in future."

    Go after these folks too, please!!! Cable is already too expensive, and these guys are forcing out all the local video stores like Blockbuster, so those who rely on closed captioning are getting left behind when it comes to movie options.

    ReplyDelete
  14. i heard that netflix now have downloaded movies close captioned... is that correct?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Rene,

    Microsoft is not responsible because they've always had the technology in the proprietary VC-1 codec which is what Silverlight uses. Netflix has skipped over using this capability to do so. So Microsoft has been doing the right thing for a long time unlike Netflix.

    ReplyDelete
  16. If NAD causes Netflix to have to shell out millions to speed up the process, NAD better be the ones to shell out the money. Its not fair to put the burden on the subscribers because deaf people want something done faster than Netflix can go.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Susan Ford KellerJuly 13, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    I'm glad that Netflix is being sued. It's not as if they didn't know about ADA requirements. But now, I see comments here and elsewhere (Netflix FB page) where people are alleging this lawsuit is driving the price increases for Netflix subscribers. Give me a break! Netflix is not above complying with ADA law - and the lawsuit has nothing to do with price increases. Netflix has a healthy bottom line. They just don't want to executives' compensation and bonuses.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm happy that this happening but sametime people who make any kind of resources of the media like netflix and movie theatres itself she be more considerate because really I'm a deaf girl in deaf culture who deals with this my whole life. And like it is very awkward and lonely to be hangout with your friends and family if they are watching something funny and they are laughing I don't know what it is going on. And if I wanted to watch my favorite movies I can't anymore because of netflix don't have captions. I don't care what those igorant people say and complaint about "oh I don't like the captions up it's too annoying I can't watch it". Well guess what dummys? You kinda need them anyway hearing or not especially if the actors are whispering or mumbling you need it then ,right? So any idiotic person says one more negative thing your making yourself look stupid on any site remember closed caption/ subtitles are usedul for many things and captions ARE NOT ONLY FOR "THE PEOPLE" for other needs people too. Please everyone don't complain about we are diffrent in general we all the same just except hearing or seeing or or language or speak or not whatever. Just remember that. We are all human beings and we all diserve to be just like everyone else.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I agree it's a deaf tax. When I cancelled my Net-flix account and switched to blockbuster, it asked me why I was cancelling and didn't give me an option to explain the real reason. Does anyone know the result of the lawsuit?

    ReplyDelete
  20. i believe they turned off captions completely yesterday evening to solve bandwidth problem. Discrimination?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Had a couple of people check it out. It seems online captioning is working fine?

      Delete