They’re removing the content from iTunes U, YouTube, and their own website because two people (not UC Berkeley students) sued saying the educational content was inaccessible to deaf students (since the video content lacked subtitles and the audio content lacked transcripts).
They’re removing the content rather than go back and go through the expense of adding subtitles and transcripts.
Am I the only one who find this lawsuit ridiculous? Yes content should be accessible to everyone, but because it isn’t (likely because it wasn’t at the time it was created) nobody should allowed to see it?
On the one hand, yes, but on the other hand: UC Berkeley is a state school, funded in a large part by taxes; we as a society have decided that our public institutions have a commitment to be accessible. Moreover, they take huge amounts of federal grants. They’ve been aware of the ADA since its inception and have committed to following it, and even more than that they should have known. Every single other piece of educational media they produce is made accessible so it’s not like they didn’t have the resources to do it or knowledge that it needed to be done.
So the law being what it is, should we say “well, obviously you knew what the law was, but you didn’t follow it this time, but we’ll give you a pass because…?”
I don’t find the lawsuit ridiculous, but I do find the ruling/outcome ridiculous. There are so many better solutions to this problem than simply removing the content. They could use mturk or undergrads to do the transcriptions, or crowsource the transcriptions by adding a feature to their website, and so on. Removing the content is a net loss for everyone, whereas keeping them up while building a system to transcribe them over time is a net gain, even if the transcriptions take a long time to complete.
That was Berkeley’s choice. The judge didn’t tell them to take them down, but to make them accessible. Rather than do that, Berkeley chose to remove them.
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They were under no obligation to put them up for free, but they were obligated to follow the law. It sucks, but good intentions don’t mean you get to not follow rules you are well-aware of.
AFAIK, this is precisely the intent of the ADA. It’s just that in this case, the trade off is very readily apparent, but that trade off is always there. For example, the ADA might require a place of business to provide a wheelchair ramp to support employees that require a wheelchair for movement. It’s possible, but perhaps unlikely, that the business cannot afford to install a ramp. So either the business faces the consequences of violating the law (whatever that may be) or chooses to shut down.
You’re drawing a difference between the analogies, which is fine, it’s an analogy, it will have differences. The point is that the trade off remains. If the company cannot afford the ramp, then it either faces the consequences of the law or folds.
(I’m not trying to debate the finer points of the law. I’m drawing one type of equivalence between different scenarios covered by the law.)
If you were disabled in a way that made it so you couldn’t make use of the videos, I don’t think you’d be claiming that “nobody gets hurt”. Denial of a resource by a public entity (Berkeley in this case) because of an individual’s disability is against the law.
Your “option a” is not “better”, but it’s certainly more fair.
I recommend skimming through the DoJ’s letter, as it’s a good education on why the law exists by showing who was harmed and why.
“If you were disabled in a way that made it so you couldn’t make use of the videos, I don’t think you’d be claiming that “nobody gets hurt”. ”
I definitely would. I’m a severely-handicapped utilitarian focusing on the greater good with preference for objective measures of benefits or harm to people. I’d rather the videos stay online to help as many people as possible vs all those people get nothing since some people with one disability got nothing. It objectively would be more beneficial. Three other thoughts come to mind:
The philosophy of everyone gets benefits or nobody gets them probably doesn’t appeal to the people filing the lawsuit who are getting a college education that many won’t have access to for financial reasons or over learning disabilities. You probably won’t see them drop out on the principle of “if everyone can’t have access, nobody can.” They’re drawing lines for selfish benefit like Berkley is.
The ability for non-whites or women to participate in society equally was also against the law. As in, your point on the law is technically true in a way that can be used to harm Berkley to force compliance with a law. That doesn’t mean it’s morally just or anything. Simply that people in power passed the law for some set of reasons that may or may not be what was in the press releases. The others probably didn’t change it more for the votes they’d have lost when media portrayed them as “declaring war on disabled people.” They’re image conscious. The law != what’s right and wrong automatically even if a subset fits the bill.
I wonder how many people would’ve scratched the itch of FOSS software that came from universities… UNIX, networking, and web coming to mind… if nothing could be released until it or its hosting platform could handle every disability the ADA might cover. One requirement for success is that there’s low friction for contributions. An ADA requirement that was enforced with lawsuits might have negatively impacted that. Some universities might have even forced the projects to cancel if they were getting sued to much over free software. This last one is speculative, though, since who knows what effect would happen and the changes might apply to a small amount of each system or software. Could’ve been hard on minicomputers and microcomputers, though, given low hardware justified less features and reliability in the first place. Much less accessibility…
I will say I’d rather them have captioned the videos. Other comments also noted shitty audio that often happens in free lectures that might make CC worth it by itself. Still, assuming a disabled person without access to the videos wouldn’t want them available is naive. I want them available for others and I haven’t even watched any of them. I just want a bunch of people to maximize their potential. If it can be more inclusive, then great. If it doesn’t for non-paying users, then oh well. It would be different if it was Berkley students but they have help for them.
Thanks for all the above explanation, I haven’t seen the details of the lawsuit. IMO Berkeley made a poor choice, and LBRY is right for wanting to archive this content.
According to this calculator, running 20,000 hours through the Google Speech API would cost about $28k. Even if the actual cost is twice that much, you would think Berkeley would be able to afford it.
In this specific case, the courts already explicitly found the automatic transcript insufficiently accurate to meet the obligations of ADA.
At the risk of sending this even more off topic, here is an alternative argument that points to a possible technical solution: Accessibility isn’t free, and we need freedom to make things accessible. The irony is that Berkeley’s actions as a result of the lawsuit could end up stalling advances in accessibility technology.
Reading comments, I don’t remember anyone mentioning that they were in a budget crisis of some sort per those comments. A college doing cuts across the board is well within reason able to terminate 20,000 videos that (a) resulted in legal fees, (b) will cost them tons of money to fix, and © not producing revenue. It’s a loss of money they need for their own students. I still find it non-optimal solution given the public benefit of those vids if other cuts are made.
People in comments section are talking about all kinds of groups fighting over budget. This decision is part of a larger picture of budget cuts. And the lawsuit inspiring it came from freeloaders who weren’t even students at their university. That just had to be irritating to admins trying to decide what’s worth their money for their students. It would increase the odds of them giving the middle finger to whoever sued them on top of the budget issues.
UC Berkeley does follow the ADA and provides captioned media for their own students. What happened at my university (and presumably at Berkeley) was that at the start of the semester, any students which needed closed captioning, or other support told the disabilities office which courses they were taking, and they coordinated with the course to get the videos closed captioned, student notes photocopied, e.t.c.
The law was written for a time when no-one had anticipated a university making their course content freely available to anyone in the entire world.
we as a society have decided that our public institutions have a commitment to be accessible.
And if it is not accessible in the euphemistic sense, it should not be accessible period.
Let’s make our society more equal by cutting off the legs of anybody that’s too tall.
I’d be more sympathetic if it weren’t for the fact that they’re a publicly-funded institution. If anything should be accessible, it should be things paid for with taxes. Berkeley made the wrong decision to take the videos down, but that wasn’t ordered by the judge: they had the option to make them accessible, they just didn’t. Letting them stay up would be to say that they could flout the law with impunity as long as it was “for the right reasons”.
(Now I’d be fine with amending the law to carve out exceptions, but the law as it exists today is what it is.)
Not only “they should have known”, but indeed they did, concretely, know. Quoting from the DoJ Letter:
Beginning July 1, 2015, UC Berkeley advised the Department that all faculty using the self-service model will be asked to sign off on a list of accessibility resource reviews prior to publishing the course.
The materials that didn’t go through the “self-service” model were distributed using the “Berkeley Resource Center for Online Education [which] follows best practices in design for accessibility” and presumably were fine. It was all the self-service publishing of materials between 2012-2015 where Berkeley wasn’t properly monitoring things.
The lawsuit was perfectly reasonable. Berkeley is ridiculous, for being told “you must make your content accessible” and deciding the best path forward was to delete it all.
I dont know. My impression is this is a bonus freebie they’re giving away to people not paying their University plus their students. Going through all that video to subtitle it could cost a lot of money. All for content not bringing them any money.
I wonder what the labor cost would’ve been to them given people doing subs sould have to watch the videos probably paid by the hour. Some administrator estimated the number & decided freeloaders arent worth it. I think they’re wrong but I see the reasoning.
They’re a public university, everything they do is paid for by taxes, so the concept of “this is a freebie” doesn’t apply. The state still paid someone to film them, someone to edit them, someone to upload them, someone to build the website.
Why should they get to skip the last steps of “someone to caption them” and “someone to make sure disabled people can use the website”?
Related point: Maybe if everyone committed to getting videos captioned/made accessible, there would be more accessibility experts, and the price of doing so would come down.
The University’s funding is mixed. They probably shouldn’t have skipped the last step. The takedown due to budgeting issues or politics is still a net loss. Fortunately, it got cancelled out by people restoring access to the videos.
Your last idea is interesting where that could happen. Im not hopeful because it’s mostly a labor-intensive process. Constantly listening, transcribing, or fixing.
this is what happens when a public institution for knowledge is treated as a profit driven enterprise. of course it doesn’t bring them in any money. they should be optimizing for knowledge generation and dissemination, not money.
yes, it takes money to generate and disseminate information. that’s what the public funds (and tuition) are for.
(this comment not specifically aimed at you, nickpsecurity [shout out – love your posts], but just a reaction to reading your comment “all for content not bringing them money”)
Appreciate your clarification at the end. :) Well, institutions like this get complex. The successful ones are run much like businesses out of necessity. Those that don’t remain low impact or sometimes disappear in the case of research labs. The business-like style is also how they get as much money as they do for their operations. That probably influences the culture of their administrators. There might also be an ego component given it’s a prestigious institution reacting to a lawsuit trying to force a course of action. Many groups give the middle finger as a reflex if it’s possible.
I agree the organizations should optimize for knowledge generation and dissemination. It’s why I said “I think they’re wrong.” Subtitling it would be justifiable expense for social impact. It might even get paid back some if the courses lead H.S. students to choose their university. The businessmen looking out for university’s self-interest thought otherwise. Fortunately, it all got copied and reposted anyway. :)
As a consumer of this information, I was sad to see it removed. However, I have also worked with and for the deaf at various times over the last 20 years. I will pass along something that happened early on. My deaf coworker was sick and trying to schedule a doctor’s appointment. The soonest they would see her for a sick visit was 3 weeks out. She was frustrated and asked me to call and try to book an appointment with the same symptoms. I did and they were willing to see me the same day.
The lawsuit might seem petty but these are people that see 20,000 “World-class” university lectures made available for anyone but not for them where the ADA says that they should be accessible. And rightly or not the experience I shared was not uncommon, I can sympathize somewhat with the school as it is not a small expense, but at the same time I feel for my friends who are not able to share any of the wealth of information that I too-often take for granted.
I don’t have the full story of this particular case, so it is possible I am missing something. However, I am quite frankly more surprised that Berkley did not try more creative solutions like crowd-sourcing captions or transcripts as opposed to allowing it to go to court, paying the lawyers and then removing everything.
“made illegal” my ass, and any sort of framing like disabled people are party poopers for this sort of thing: get fucked
Completely agree, and the people behind this mirroring seemed to miss the point entirely.
The content wasn’t “made illegal”. The illegal part was for a public, tax funded institution to release it without meeting the requirements of ADA. Nobody’s taking down MIT’s OpenCourseWare videos, because they actually followed the law and put captioning on theirs.
It really wouldn’t surprise me if this gets a DMCA take down notice or something like that, because mirroring it really doesn’t change the fact that it came from Berkley without the legally required captions.
According to the site, most of it was released under a creative commons license.
I’m not sure that matters if it wasn’t legal to release it without captions in the first place.
It wasn’t legal for a public institution to release it without captions. CC allows you to re-distribute, maybe getting rid of captions, and i don’t believe there’s an obligation to stay ADA compliant if it’s a private (rather than state) resource.
Now, it would be great to see an effort to get all of these captioned as well, but them not being deleted is a first step towards this.
I agree with the sentiment, but maybe be a bit politer than just raging?
This is called tone policing.
Only if it’s used as criticism or harassment, and I don’t think that’s what angersock meant? I think angersock was just asking for rational discourse.
Rage very much has its place in discourse any the initial post makes it very clear why the are enraged.
Disagree. Original post was:
This can be paraphrased (slightly) as:
This makes me angry, and fuck anybody who says the disabled people are being party poopers.
That’s an opinion and an imperative. There is no “This makes me angry (because of reasons x, y z). There is no "fuck anybody (and here’s what that policy would look like)”.
It’s a yelp of anger that gets upvotes for the emotion and not the content. There isn’t anything to engage with as it’s just an unsupported opinion, and not a terribly articulate or nuanced one at that.
This sort of thing is shitposting.
I agree. I REALLY don’t understand why Berkeley didn’t think out of box a little and find a way to get these subtitled :\