Netflix to use crowd-sourced captions

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Wednesday, 8 August 2012 14:19pm

Online video company Netflix is testing crowd-sourced captions for the TV shows and movies available on its service. After calling out for volunteers, Netflix has built a community of captioners on Amara, an open-source, non-profit project that promotes the captioning of online video content.

Following a landmark case made against Netflix in the US, the company is trialling the use of crowd-sourced captions to fulfil its commitment to accessible content. This week, Netflix called on volunteers to join the Amara community to help provide captions for Netflix using Amara's online captioning tool. Netflix has one captioned video uploaded to the community page so far.

There are currently 50,000 movies and television shows available to be streamed on-demand through Netflix. Members who have subscribed to the service are able to stream movies and television shows to devices of their choice including desktop computers, TVs, Apple iPads and game consoles. In addition to the US, Netflix has expanded to include Latin America, Canada, the UK and Ireland.

In June, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) in the US won a lawsuit made against Netflix. The NAD claimed Netflix was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide captions on movies and TV shows that appeared under its ’Watch Instantly’ service. This is an important case for people with a disability as it shows for the first time that the ADA can apply to website-only businesses and services.

In a February 2011 blog post by Netflix, chief product officer Neil Hunt claimed 30 per cent of the television shows and movies on the site had been captioned. Should this crowd-source initiative prove successful, it will drastically increase the availability of captioned content online.

Amara's captioning tool has been used by the likes of news organisations Al Jazeera and the PBS NewsHour.

The captioning community set up by Netflix is currently at capacity, however volunteers can sign up to receive updates for upcoming opportunities to be involved in the project.

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