Lawsuit targets inaccessible music lyrics in movies

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Closed Captioning Suit

Hollywood is under fire for failing to provide closed captioning and subtitles for music lyrics in its movies and television shows, including such blockbusters as Captain America, Skyfall, X-Men and Netflix’s House of Cards series.

Filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on October 19, a new class-action lawsuit [PDF] aims to force the studios to make their videos’ music lyrics accessible to people who are deaf of hard of hearing. In addition, the plaintiffs accuse the studios of participating in fraudulent business practices by advertising films and TV shows as having subtitles or closed captioning, when these features weren’t available for the soundtracks.

“While the dialogue of some movies or shows are indeed fully subtitled, the practice of not subtitling song/music lyrics is frustratingly widespread…,” the lawsuit states. “Failure to caption subtitle the song/music lyric precludes deaf and hard of hearing consumers from being able to fully enjoy the movie or show. Plaintiffs and other similarly situated are denied full access to feature presentations or shows.”

The claims are brought under California’s civil rights act and unfair practices act, in addition to a range of breach of contract allegations.

The nine-named plaintiffs in the lawsuit are being represented by Los Angeles-based Girardi Keese. Disney, Fox, Warner Brothers, Buena Vista, Paramount, Universal, Sony and Netflix are among the named defendants.

“Plaintiffs and class members, pay for DVDs, theater tickets or streaming they do not have full access to, and hence do not get the benefit of the background,” the lawsuit states. “Such movies or show products were of less value to Plaintiffs and class members, than to persons without hearing loss.

“Further, the inability to understand non-subtitled music/song lyrics creates feelings of frustration and anger among people who are hard of hearing, and isolates them from their friends and family without hearing loss when they watch movies or shows together.”

One thought on “Lawsuit targets inaccessible music lyrics in movies

  1. Kristen Blomgren says:

    I got VERY upset renting Pitch Perfect 2 through redbox and find it not subtitled from about 5 mins total into the movie because it starts with singing!! I complained to them and they told me I simply didn’t understand how to turn on the subtitles. I’ve been Deaf my whole life that I’ve been playing with technology to figure out any way to get captioning or subtitles.

    Ridiculous, how can I help and file complaints against this kind of stuff???? It truly gets on my nerves, I have residual hearing that I love music within movies most of the time, like Guardians of the Galaxy, it was captioned in theaters but not on blu-ray? How can they lose the available transcription to transfer the dialogue and lyrics. That’s just lazy. What I really don’t get, is why people think music is not important to the Deaf culture? It has purpose behind the words, not only sound. I do like the rhythm as a Deaf person and I find entertainment in the lyrics because most of them add the purpose to the story and have some humor that I miss out on.

    Thanks!!

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