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University of California, Berkeley, To Delete Publicly Available Educational Content (insidehighered.com) 337

In response to a U.S. Justice Department order that requires colleges and universities make website content accessible for citizens with disabilities and impairments, the University of California, Berkeley, will cut off public access to tens of thousands of video lectures and podcasts. Officials said making the videos and audio more accessible would have proven too costly in comparison to removing them. Inside Higher Ed reports: Today, the content is available to the public on YouTube, iTunes U and the university's webcast.berkeley site. On March 15, the university will begin removing the more than 20,000 audio and video files from those platforms -- a process that will take three to five months -- and require users sign in with University of California credentials to view or listen to them. The university will continue to offer massive open online courses on edX and said it plans to create new public content that is accessible to listeners or viewers with disabilities. The Justice Department, following an investigation in August, determined that the university was violating the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. The department reached that conclusion after receiving complaints from two employees of Gallaudet University, saying Berkeley's free online educational content was inaccessible to blind and deaf people because of a lack of captions, screen reader compatibility and other issues. Cathy Koshland, vice chancellor for undergraduate education, made the announcement in a March 1 statement: "This move will also partially address recent findings by the Department of Justice, which suggests that the YouTube and iTunes U content meet higher accessibility standards as a condition of remaining publicly available. Finally, moving our content behind authentication allows us to better protect instructor intellectual property from 'pirates' who have reused content for personal profit without consent."
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University of California, Berkeley, To Delete Publicly Available Educational Content

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  • The New Normal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2017 @06:05PM (#53987773)

    When it's mandated that everyone must be a winner, everybody loses.

  • Free stuff (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2017 @06:06PM (#53987785)

    Free stuff should be exempt. Putting a cost (for the provider) to a free thing (for the public) will usually make that thing not free (for the public) anymore.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No. Even paid stuff should be exempt.
      If I sell a book am I required to sell an audio version?
      If I sell a song am I required to transcribe it?
      This is clearly shit.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Free stuff should be exempt. Putting a cost (for the provider) to a free thing (for the public) will usually make that thing not free (for the public) anymore.

      For the most part it's just an overhead to the budget. Like you use $X to design a web page for ordinary people, then +Y% for people with screen readers. If you're doing an infomercial for $X then subtitles for the deaf is +Y%. It's just a cost of being universally available that society wants us to take and it's usually not that high. It gets unreasonable is when you take something that's a byproduct of what you're already doing like holding lectures and you could offer them to the public almost for free b

    • Is anyone working on preserving copies of this?

  • by liquid_schwartz ( 530085 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @06:24PM (#53987907)
    I'd love to chalk this up to unintended consequences but the prohibitive cost of all this disability run amok has been pointed out numerous times.
  • Textbook publishers seem to have the ability to provide all of their stuff with ADA compliance for the starting cost of only $100 for cheap stuff and hundreds more for high quality stuff. When the Open Educational Resources (OER) stuff starts to eat their profits, they fight back by pushing for laws that hurt small free alternatives. Seems like it should be cheaper and easier to provide ADA compliance.
  • I must be a pirate! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudson@gm ... m minus caffeine> on Monday March 06, 2017 @06:31PM (#53987957) Journal

    allows us to better protect instructor intellectual property from 'pirates' who have reused content for personal profit without consent."

    Every time I learned something in school, it profited me, at least in the sense that I knew more than before. The whole idea of education is that people benefit from it. If you make something available to world+dog, do they need to get your permission to actually personally profit from it in some fashion? Of course not.

    The way print media such as books get around the obligation to provide access for handicapped people is that copyright allows for 3rd parties that specialize in services to the blind, etc., to make copies of non-dramatic works (written, audio, etc) without having to seek the permission of the copyright owner [loc.gov]. Seems to me all the uni should have to do is appeal, and point out that there is already a legal remedy that exempts publishers of copyright non-dramatic media from having to comply with the act, given that the law shifts that right and responsibility to authorized 3rd parties.

  • by Roger Wilcox ( 776904 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @06:33PM (#53987969)

    DOJ: "Your free online course materials are not accessible to blind people. Make them accessible."
    UCBerkeley: "Uhhh... how about we just make them inaccessible to everybody?"
    DOJ: "That's fine."

    In what world does this logic compute? DOJ absolutely does not care about accessibility... just look at the result of this travesty of an order.

    This is 100% about reducing public access to information. No other interpretation even makes sense. DOJ and the rest of Washington should be ashamed of themselves for the serious and ongoing damage they inflict upon our society.

    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @06:54PM (#53988147)

      It has nothing to do with the DOJ caring about anything. The only thing that's important is the letter of the law. The law says publicly-available material must be handicap-accessible. This material is not. Therefore, the university has to fix this situation, to get into compliance with the law. They could spend a bunch of money and transcribe it all, but that's expensive. So they chose the cheaper option: remove it all from public availability. So, if there's no material that's publicly-available, then they're not running afoul of the law that says all publicly-available material must be accessible, and they're OK.

      What the DOJ cares about is irrelevant. Even if the DOJ doesn't like this, it's too bad: the law is the law. The law doesn't say "publicly-available material must be handicap-accessible, and if someone complains, you have to make it more accessible, rather than just removing it".

      The DOJ isn't really to blame here; they're just enforcing the law as written. If you don't like it, then you need to get Congress to amend the law and pass a better one. There's two parties at fault here: 1) Congress, for writing a crappy law (it should have exempted stuff that's freely available, as in beer: no one's under obligation to provide stuff for free, and beggars can't be choosers), and 2) the self-serving moron who complained about this and made it into a big legal issue.

      • What you say is perhaps the way it should be, but not precisely true either. The reality is that the DOJ has an absolutely incredible degree of leeway and discretion in terms of its enforcement agenda and priorities.

        This is nothing nefarious, just the inevitable outcome of the confluence of the following factors:

        • The sheer number of laws on the books
        • The overwhelming number of potential law enforcement actions possible as a result of the above
        • The limited resources of the DOJ
        • The reasonable expectation that t
    • In what world does this logic compute? DOJ absolutely does not care about accessibility...

      No indeed, the DOJ cares about the law. The law says that non accessible stuff is illegal. The law doesn't say stuff has to exist. It's a perfectly logical interpretation of the law: either making it accessible or removing it moves them into compliance (that is not having anything non accessible).

      The law is, as is very often the case, an ass.

    • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )
      DOJ didn't say it was fine to drop the courses. It only said Berkley should ensure disabled people should have access to it, and "Pay compensatory damages to aggrieved individuals for injuries caused by UC Berkeley’s failure to comply with title II."
  • This is one of those ideas that sounds great on paper, but in reality has these sorts of side effects. No one should be discriminated against, and I'm sure they had very good examples of where/why this should be done. But then you have this on the other end where a university was doing this gratis (or call it advertising/PR if you want), but to comply with the law is ridiculous so the result is they have to pull it all.
    • Not that I don't agree with the objective of the ADA, but as a developer the ADA is such a pain to conform to sometimes. I especially hate having to make products work with overpriced text-to-speech software, and what is worse I'm not blind so I don't use screen readers that often so I'm not really sure if what I'm building will work in practice for a disabled person so sometimes I almost wonder if I should ask my manager to hire a disabled person just to test ADA compliance.
  • Kurt Vonnegut (Score:5, Insightful)

    by darkitecture ( 627408 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @06:45PM (#53988063)
    "It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

    Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.

    There's something frustrating and sad about this article but I'm afraid I can't remember what it is. Felt like a doozy though.
    • This is the best of the Harrison Begeron posts in the thread.
    • The thing that always bothered me about that story is that I've known people who could not hit a moving human sized target even with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun, so how did she do it? It seemed obvious to me as a high school student reading this that the Handicapper General was not handicapped as much as some people. All handicapped are equal, but some handicapped are more equal than others.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2017 @06:54PM (#53988143)

    The DOJ findings are ridiculous. I've been reading through that PDF and it seems totally unreasonable. Here are a few samples.

    "Stacy Nowak, a member of NAD, is a professor and PhD student at Gallaudet University and she is deaf. Ms. Nowak would like to avail herself of what she believes is the increasingly frequent use of video and audio-based scholarship. Ms. Nowak teaches communication courses at Galludet, including Introduction to Communication and Nonverbal Communication. She would like to use numerous online resources related to communication in her classes, including the UC BerkeleyX course, “Journalism for Social Change,” but cannot because they are inaccessible. If UC Berkeley’s online content were accessible, she would take courses and utilize the online content in her lectures."

    What right does she have to reuse someone else's copyrighted materials? Just because the lectures are distributed online free of charge does not mean that you have a right to take content from them for derivative works and derive revenue from them.

    "Approximately half the videos did not provide audio description or any other alternative format for the visual information (graphs, charts, animations, or items on the chalkboard) contained in the videos. For example, in one video lecture, a professor pointed to and talked about an image and its structure without describing the image, making it inaccessible to individuals with vision disabilities."

    Because details aren't provided here, I can only assume this was a recording of a lecture given in person to students. If so, the primary purpose of that lecture is to accommodate the students who are in the room, taking the class at that time. If there are students with vision disabilities in that class, the instructor would reasonably be expected to accommodate those students. However, most instructors don't design content to be accessible unless there's a specific need for it at that time. It is typically the responsibility of students to notify the instructor of disabilities, so the instructor can provide appropriate accommodations. I don't see why there should be an issue with posting a recorded copy of that lecture online. I suspect that part of the reason for removing the content from being publicly available is so they can limit access and follow the typical procedure where students with disabilities notify the instructor for the need of accommodations.

    "Finally, UC Berkeley has not established that making its online content accessible would result in a fundamental alteration or undue administrative and financial burdens. As indicated below, the Department would prefer to resolve this matter cooperatively."

    This seems remarkable given the volume of content. That the content is now being removed suggests this finding is completely false. That's particularly odd, considering this text, also in the report: "In December 2015, UC Berkeley reported that its YouTube channel had about 9,600 hours of course video and 4,200 hours of events and other video content on its YouTube channel. Its iTunes U platform had 10,400 hours of course video, 800 hours of events video, 18,000 hours of course audio, and 225 hours of events audio. About 75 percent of the same video content on YouTube is also available on iTunes U. In May 2015, UC Berkeley informed the Department that for “budget reasons,” beginning in the Fall 2015, UC Berkeley would limit access to new online content on YouTube and iTunes U to enrolled UC Berkeley students taking specific courses."

    "To remedy the violations discussed above, UC Berkeley must at least take the following steps: [...] 6. Pay compensatory damages to aggrieved individuals for injuries caused by UC Berkeley’s failure to comply with title II."

    Huh? There are actual damages because free content was deemed to be insufficiently accessible? This is bizarre.

    • by Raenex ( 947668 )

      Huh? There are actual damages because free content was deemed to be insufficiently accessible? This is bizarre.

      Welcome to $CURRENT_YEAR. So progressive!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No longer UC's property, no longer UC's problem. And still available to whoever may wish to view it.

    • No longer UC's property, no longer UC's problem. And still available to whoever may wish to view it.

      You actually can't do this.

      Trying to put something in the public domain to get out from under legal liability is the reason things like the MIT and BSD license exist: in order to attach a hold harmless clause, you have to assert Copyright, such that the only terms on which the content may be legally used is via agreement to the terms of the license.

      It's unfortunate that there is not a blanket hold harmless exception for works placed in the public domain, but there's none. It's very difficult to make someth

  • If at all, this should only affect new content.

    There's no way this should apply to stuff that's already there.

  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @07:56PM (#53988785)

    A perfect example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

    Millions will lose access to valuable content, and it's unlikely that any of the people who couldn't access the content would agree that this is the right thing to do. If you're hearing impaired do you really want to screw over millions of people who aren't just because you can't access something? I doubt it.

    Skip building a single F-35 and you could could pay a team of 1000 people to do whatever it takes to make the content accessible to people with disabilities, but noooooooooo, we gotta have that fucking airplane.

    The government should pay for to make it accessible (or at least help) since they were the ones that decreed it had to be accessible. But again, noooooooo, we gotta build that fucking wall or give tax breaks to millionaires or train 10,000 extra ICE agents to round up families and deport them (at our expense, of course).

    Our priorities are fucking stupid.

    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      If you're hearing impaired do you really want to screw over millions of people who aren't just because you can't access something? I doubt it.

      I've encountered people with exactly this attitude. "If you don't make it in a form I can consume, then you can't make it at all." It doesn't matter if it's free, and transcription would cost the creator money. It doesn't matter if it's music without lyrics, they want it fully described. (Frank Zappa famously said "talking about music is like dancing about architecture".) It led to a rather bitter exchange on Quora which eventually led to me picking up "content warnings" for stuff that had been there for mo

  • a. The content is valuable to the public.

    b. We don't want people with disabilities excluded from society.

    c. We properly fund public education so that the material can be made accessible to them.

    Seriously. In all the talk about how awful it is this content will get pulled nobody once noticed the reason: The law was written with the assumption that we properly fund education in a country where we've been cutting that funding for 40 years. Hell, the right have a name for this: Starve the Beast. But ya
  • by Jodka ( 520060 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @08:37PM (#53989097)

    Crab mentality [wikipedia.org]- "If I can't have it, neither can you."

  • by Beeftopia ( 1846720 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @09:17PM (#53989365)

    From "Harrison Bergeron", by Kurt Vonnegut:

    "In the year 2081, amendments to the Constitution dictate that all Americans are fully equal and not allowed to be smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else. The Handicapper General's agents enforce the equality laws, forcing citizens to wear "handicaps": masks for those who are too beautiful, radios inside the ears of intelligent people, and heavy weights for the strong or athletic.

    One April, 14-year-old Harrison Bergeron, an intelligent and athletic teenager, is taken away from his parents, George and Hazel Bergeron, by the government. They are barely aware of the tragedy, as Hazel has "average" intelligence (a euphemism for stupidity), and George has a handicap radio installed by the government to regulate his above-average intelligence.

    Hazel and George watch ballet on television. They comment on the dancers, who are weighed down to counteract their gracefulness and masked to hide their attractiveness. George's thoughts are continually interrupted by the different noises emitted by his handicap radio, which piques Hazel's curiosity and imagination regarding handicaps. Noticing his exhaustion, Hazel urges George to lie down and rest his "handicap bag", 47 pounds (21 kg) of weights locked around George's neck. She suggests taking a few of the weights out of the bag, but George resists, aware of the illegality of such an action...."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Bergeron [wikipedia.org]

  • by aaronb1138 ( 2035478 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @09:29PM (#53989433)
    It's ridiculous the people trying to pawn the problem off on the ADA, politics, politicians, or the deaf people complaining. The problem is that universities jumped on this bandwagon of minimal effort, low production, record the classroom with a webcam bullshit as a means of advertising and it is biting them in the ass. Realize that universities aren't putting content online out of altruism, but as part of advertising and brand building.

    All of that said, it's even more retarded bullshit that a university is going to pull the content when a cheap scalable solution exists: automated closed captioning and OCR of projector / blackboard material, which can then produce output for braille. There is a solution and it is cheap, why is this even a discussion? Will the output be buggy, sure, but in the intervening time before grad students can be enslaved to tweak transcriptions, it's workable.

    On the other side of things, the universities know their legal requirements, and they already know from experiments like The Feynman Lectures on Physics to know that transcription is a huge chore. Easy fix: put the prof's notes online with the lecture.
    • by Raenex ( 947668 )

      It's ridiculous the people trying to pawn the problem off on the ADA, politics, politicians, or the deaf people complaining.

      What's ridiculous is assigning the blame to anybody else. It's an enormous expense to benefit the few, or in many cases, zero when no person with disabilities even uses the resource.

      What would have been sane would be for the deaf person to ask her school to pay for a transcription, and then make that transcription available back to Berkeley. But nooo, the politicians just legislate everybody has to go through upfront expenses and effort, because it's not them doing the work. So now something that was useful

  • So the Maples formed a Union
    And demanded equal rights
    ‘The Oaks are just too greedy
    We will make them give us light
    Now there’s no more Oak oppression
    For they passed a noble law
    And the trees are all kept equal
    By hatchet,
    And saw
  • Aren't voice APIs good enough nowadays to automate transcriptions?

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.