Re: Adding closed-captions to videotapes

Ben Achtenberg (
Tue, 5 Sep 2000 10:27:42 -0700 (PDT)

Dear Chris --

If you don't mind my recyclying a prior posting, here are a few suggestions
we made in response to a similar query last year:

1) You would definitely need authorization from the copyright holder to make a
captioned copy, but I would suggest a couple of approaches in that regard:
First of all, contact the distributor -- you might find that they've added
captioning since you purchased your copy of the film and, if so, might be
willing to sell you a replacement copy at a discounted price that would
likely be much less than the cost of captioning it yourself. If they
haven't captioned it already, but have received queries from other
customers about the same title, your request might provide the critical
mass that would encourage them to do so.

2) If they're not yet prepared to caption the show themselves, they MAY be
willing to give you the right to do so without charge, especially if you
assure them you're only making one copy. They might (and we've done this
in a couple of cases) ask you to reciprocate by giving them a copy of the
newly-captioned version.

3) In terms of alternatives, we have some customers who -- if we can't provide
them a captioned copy -- will request a transcript so that they can have
someone do simultaneous signing. I gather that there are also setups which
would enable you to do the captioning into your computer, either "live" or
in advance, and superimpose it on the image during projection -- without
actually making a captioned copy. Actually, I think even this might
technically be a copyright violation, but it's one I can't imagine anyone
objecting to. Sorry, I can't give you any specifics about this, but maybe
somebody else on the list can.

Good luck.

Ben Achtenberg
Fanlight Productions


At 08:54 AM 9/5/2000 -0700, you wrote:
>We have a deaf student who would like to be able to watch three videotapes
>that we have that are not closed-captioned. I know that the Americans with
>Disabilities Act requires that organizations make a reasonable
>accommodation to insure that individuals with disabilities are treated
>equally. The organization is only protected when an accommodation would
>cause an undue burden (financial or otherwise). Up till now we have not
>made any effort to add after-market closed-captions and I can't see how we
>would go about it without permission of the copyright holder. But it is
>possible to add captions to a tape and assuming a copyright holder granted
>permission and the cost wasn't enormous, I feel that the law requires us to
>make this kind of accommodation. Has anyone else had to address this yet?
>Chris Lewis
>American U
Ben Achtenberg
Fanlight Productions
4196 Washington St, Suite 2
Boston, MA 02131

(800) 937-4113 / (617) 469-4999
Fax: (617) 469-3379