Women in Music 2016

Hollywood Studios Sued Over Missing Song Lyrics in Closed-Captioned Movies

Courtesy Photo
Poster for James Bond film "Skyfall"

Several Hollywood studios including Disney, Fox, Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros., as well as Netflix, are being targeted with a class-action lawsuit accusing them of discrimination against the deaf and hearing impaired.

In the complaint, which was filed Monday at the Los Angeles Superior Court, nine plaintiffs allege that numerous films are being falsely advertised as fully subtitled because they lack song lyrics. According to The Wrap, the lyric-less movies included Captain America, The Godfather, Skyfall, X-Men, and Netflix's House of Cards series.

"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."

Plaintiffs argue that studios are deceiving consumers by selling DVDs with language stating they are captioned. The packaging for the offending DVDs fail to "indicate that the subtitles are limited in any way," according to the complaint. The complainants are seeking unspecified damages, plus they want the studios to begin making clear "what content is captioned and what is not."

Netflix has been accused of discrimination against the hearing impaired before. In 2011, blogger/activist Donald Cullen proposed a class-action suit against the streaming service, saying it violated federal and state disability laws by not captioning some items in its library. A year after filing his complaint, Cullen’s suit was dismissed and his appeal was shot down by the 9th Circuit this past August.