Hollywood Studios, Netflix Named in Closed-Captioning Class Action Lawsuit

Disney, Fox, Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal and Sony accused of discriminating against the deaf and hearing impaired

Disney, Fox, Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal, Sony and Netflix are named in a class action lawsuit accusing the studios and streaming service of discriminating against the deaf and hearing impaired.

The suit, which was filed Monday at the Los Angeles Superior Court, claims the “Captain America” films, “X-Men” franchise, “Selma,” “Skyfall,” “House Of Cards” and “The Godfather” are among the movies that had song lyrics that were not captioned or subtitled.

“While the dialogue of some movies or shows are indeed fully subtitled, the practice of not subtitling song/music lyrics is frustratingly widespread,” the complaint stated. “Advertising the movies or shows as begin captioned or subtitled enlarges the market of the consumers, which  includes persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Such persons constitute approximately 10 percent of the population.

“Defendants continue to short change those who are deaf and hard of hearing,” it added.

One of the nine plaintiffs is Susan Bowell, communications director for a deaf advocacy group, who had rented purchased or rented numerous movies and found that much of the content or music wasn’t captioned, making it hard to understand, according to the legal filing.

“Defendant produced and distributed several DVDs enclosed in packaging with language advertising the DVDs were subtitled, movies that were advertised as captioned, and movies or shows with language, such as captioned, English subtitles, or subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, indicating that the movie or show is fully captioned or subtitled,” the suit continued. “Captions and subtitles allow Plaintiffs and class members, to follow the content of a film or show visually if they are not able to do so aurally. The DVD packaging does not indicate that the subtitles are limited in any way.”

The complaint seeks unspecified damages and injunctive relief and requests the “labeling on the mislabeled products to make it clear what content is captioned and what is not.”

John Girardi of Los Angeles law firm Girardi & Keese is the attorney for the plaintiffs.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.