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Sony, Disney, Netflix Among Eight Major Motion Picture and Television Studios Named in AG Bell Members' Lawsuit

Lawsuit for not captioning song lyrics in movies and TV shows.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Although Netflix, Sony, Disney, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Buena Vista advertise movies and shows as fully captioned, members of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) and other deaf individuals found otherwise. As a result, AG Bell members and other deaf individuals filed a class action lawsuit against these major studios for damages they sustained as a result of the studios practice of not captioning song lyrics in movies and television shows.

“For people who are deaf and hard of hearing to understand a show, captions and subtitles are essential,” said Meredith K. Sugar, Esq., AG Bell President. "If part of the show is not captioned or subtitled, then they cannot follow what is being said and they miss out on enjoying popular culture the same way as other people without hearing loss enjoy.”

AG Bell has long promoted greater captioning accessibility throughout the world of entertainment.

“We have made tremendous progress in captioning over the decades,” said Emilio Alonso-Mendoza, J.D., CFRE, AG Bell CEO. “However, the studios’ failure to caption song lyrics has greatly frustrated people who are deaf and hard of hearing nationwide.”

Earlier in 2015, an article in the UCLA Entertainment Law Journal sharply criticized studios for not captioning or subtitling song lyrics.

“Studios believe that copyright law prohibits them from captioning song lyrics in movies and television shows. That is just flat-out wrong,” said John F. Stanton, Esq., AG Bell member and author of the article. “Courts have made clear that reproducing otherwise copyrighted material for the purpose of making the material accessible to people with disabilities is not a violation of the federal Copyright Act.”

“Song lyrics can be significant,” Stanton continued. “Among other things, they can explain the premise of a show, set the tone or mood for the show, provide for comic value, show romance, provide political commentary, set up a pivotal point, or explain surrounding historical events better than ordinary dialogue ever could. There is no excuse for studios not to caption song lyrics.”

The Complaint was filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles. The plaintiffs are Christine Anthony, Susan Boswell, Evan Brunell, Darby Leigh, Ken Levinson, Catharine McNally, Pauline Newton, Jay Wyant and Kristin Zlogar. The plaintiffs are represented by John “Jack” A. Girardi of Girardi and Keese.

The defendants are Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Inc., The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., Warner Home Entertainment, Inc., Universal Studios Home Entertainment LLC, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. and Netflix.

About the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) helps families, health care providers and education professionals understand childhood hearing loss and the importance of early diagnosis and intervention. Through advocacy, education and financial aid, AG Bell helps to ensure that every child and adult with hearing loss has the opportunity to listen, talk and thrive. With chapters located in the United States and a network of international affiliates, AG Bell supports its mission: Advancing Listening and Spoken Language for Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Visit www.agbell.org.