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G3ict Releases Report on Copyrights and Third Party Captioning

Report highlights conflicts between disability and copyrights law, impact on industry and persons with disabilities, and possible solutions.

ATLANTA (March 24, 2014) —

G3ict, the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies, announced today the publication of a seminal report to inform the discussion of copyright issues in relation to third party captioning, highlighting conflicts between U.S. copyrights and disability legislation in an increasingly critical domain of accessibility.

While copyright owners, including broadcast, cable, and satellite programmers, now take responsibility for captioning their own programming, in part due to expansive requirements under telecommunications and accessibility laws, enforced by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice and through private lawsuits, first-party captioning remains far from ubiquitous online, particularly in light of the increasing amount of video programming uploaded by consumers without access to or knowledge of captioning tools.

Accordingly, the need for third-party captioners in the mold of Emerson Romero is ever growing. From schools and libraries to families and friends of people who are deaf and hard of hearing to Internet video distributors, third parties are increasingly interested in adding captions to video programming to which they don’t hold the copyright.

At the same time, advanced technologies promise to fill the demand for accessibility where first-party captioning falls short. Web based services allow volunteers from all over the world to create captions and subtitles for Internet videos—a “crowdsourcing” approach to captioning. In another example, YouTube has added to its functionalities and refined the ability to automatically generate captions. New technologies also promise to alter the underlying economics of captioning by lowering costs and affording potential revenue streams for video by leveraging captions to perform advanced data mining, advertising, and search engine optimization.

Over the intersection of these trends in video programming and captioning technology looms the specter of copyright law. Well-meaning third-party captioners striving to improve video accessibility face potential liability for infringing the copyright of video creators.

This paper, authored by Blake E. Reid, Assistant Clinical Professor, Colorado Law, and Director, Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law and Policy Clinic, aims to take stock of this critical moment for captioning. The report begins with an overview of closed captioning laws and regulations. It then turns to the potential legal conflicts between captioning and copyright law. It considers potential drivers behind the conflict, closing with an analysis of potential solutions including contracts, fair use, and legislation.

The featured session organized at CSUN 2014 for the launching of the report on March 20 included, in addition to Axel Leblois, President and Executive Director of G3ict, the author of the report, Blake E. Reid, as well as Harris Cohen Associate Product Counsel, Google/YouTube, Mark Richert Esq., Director, Public Policy, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), and Andrew Phillips, Policy Counsel, The Law & Advocacy Center of the National Association of the Deaf.

Following the session at CSUN 2014, G3ict plans to organize further meetings during 2014 in Washington, DC, and Geneva, Switzerland for further stakeholder awareness raising and discussions.

To download a free copy of the White Paper, click here.

For ordering a print copy, please visit:

About G3ict

G3ict – the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies – is an advocacy initiative launched in December 2006 by the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development, in cooperation with the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at UNDESA. Its mission is to facilitate and support the implementation of the dispositions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) promoting digital accessibility and Assistive Technologies. Participating organizations include industry, academia, the public sector and organizations representing persons with disabilities. G3ict organizes or contributes to awareness-raising and capacity building programs for policy makers in cooperation with international organizations, such as the ITU, ILO, UNESCO, UNITAR, UNESCAP, UN Global Compact and the World Bank. In 2011, G3ict launched the M-Enabling Summit Series to promote accessible mobile phones and services for persons with disabilities in cooperation with the ITU and the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). G3ict produces jointly with ITU the e-Accessibility Policy Toolkit for Persons with Disabilities (, as well as specialized reports which are widely used around the world by policy makers involved in the implementation of the CRPD. For additional information on G3ict, visit


Contact: Francesca Cesa Bianchi, Vice President, G3ict at

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