|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [Hangout-NYLXS] One step forward,
There is irrational comfort taken in the belief that man-made laws
somehow ensure equality for all. More often than not, the exact opposite
Within the next week, UC Berkeley will be forced to remove over 20,000
lectures, videos, and other digital documents from its free online
library. While the prestigious school has been generous in making its
electronic resources available to the public, a violation of the
Americans with Disability Act has left the University with no other
choice but to remove the online archive in its entirety.
We are currently living in a golden age of information, where the
internet has provided the world with limitless sources of learning
without ever having to leave the comfort of home. Like many institutions
of higher education, including many other Ivy League schools, UC
Berkeley has contributed to open source learning by sharing its
curricula and other materials to online platforms like YouTube and
iTunes, as well as its own site.
Berkeley’s free online library was found in violation of the ADA.
While many were celebrating the fact that technology has helped make Ivy
League education accessible to anyone with a computer and a wireless
connection, others did not believe this accessibility went far enough.
Enter the State
Nearly 3,000 miles away from the iconic Sather Gate entrance at UC
Berkeley, two employees of Washington D.C.’s Gallaudet University—a
school for the deaf— were outraged to learn that Berkeley’s online
archives, though extensive in scope, were not accessible to those with
Instead of contacting Berkeley to see if accommodations could be made
without resorting to state intervention, the complainants sought help
from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
After investigating the claims made by the two Gallaudet employees, the
DOJ came to the conclusion that yes, Berkeley’s free online archive had
in fact violated the ADA, particularly Title II, which mandates that all
public audio and video content provide accommodations for the deaf and
hard of hearing. Among these stipulations is the requirement that all
applicable content offer closed captioning, which, regrettably, 543 of
Berkeley’s videos were missing.
The DOJ has declined from publicly commenting on the matter, but its
letter to Berkeley officials laid out the alleged violations clearly:
“The Department found that of the 543 videos it could identify on
the YouTube channel, 75 had manually generated closed captions. Of the
remainder, many had automatic captioning generated by YouTube’s speech
Unfortunately, the government is not a magical entity, it cannot wave a
wand and level all playing fields without trespassing on someone else’s
freedom along the way., which is precisely what is happening as a result
of the complaints filed against UC Berkeley.
Now, the whole world will lose access to Berkeley's entire digital archive.
All or Nothing
All 20,000 files will have to be removed from the online library. Now,
instead of one group of people having limited access to a very small
portion of Berkeley’s extensive online library, the whole world will
lose access to the entire archive.
UC Berkeley was put in the unfortunate position of being demonized for
providing free information. To satisfy the ADA requirements and keep the
content live, the University was going to have to reformat all the
videos in question. However, this process is both timely and
extraordinarily expensive, which left Berkeley with only one remaining
option if it wished to comply with the DOJ’s demands.
In September, Cathy Koshland, vice chancellor for undergraduate
education at the University made the following statement:
“In many cases the requirements proposed by the department would
require the university to implement extremely expensive measures to
continue to make these resources available to the public for free. We
believe that in a time of substantial budget deficits and shrinking
state financial support, our first obligation is to use our limited
resources to support our enrolled students. Therefore, we must strongly
consider the unenviable option of whether to remove content from public
Last week, the University made its decision final, and announced that it
will begin the process of removing all the content on March 15th. To add
insult to injury, it turns out that removing this digital library will
ultimately end up requiring about five months worth of work— a cost UC
Berkeley will be forced to pay.
The Market Provides a Way
While this entire situation is frustrating, there is, of course, a
possibility that the two authors of the DOJ complaints had no idea their
actions would result in a major loss of public information.
However, for many people, and perhaps even most people, they view the
state as the benevolent enforcer of all things good, not realizing that
government entities always hurt what they claim to protect: liberty.
The fact that the two scorned Gallaudet employees felt they had no
option aside from involving the state in this matter is the real tragedy
at hand. Perhaps, if instead of choosing to file complaints these two
people would have channeled their disappointment and passion into a
positive solution, both parties could have benefitted, rather than both
Once the government gets involved in a scuffle, everybody loses.
Generally speaking, people love being a part of something bigger than
themselves. Giving back to communities we feel connected to, and
dedicating ourselves to causes we feel passionately about, is part of
the human experience.
Just as technology has made sharing information more convenient than
ever, it has also made fundraising and coalition-building easier as well.
Utilizing crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe and KickStarter.com allows
individuals from all walks of life the opportunity to feel as though
they are invested in some grand, unified effort. It allows each donor to
feel as if they have participated in something important, whether they
donated a few thousand dollars or just a couple of bucks.
Imagine an alternative reality where instead of pursuing legal action
against UC Berkley, those who felt passionately about this matter joined
together as a community and raised awareness and funds in order to
provide the funding needed to have the 543 videos reformatted. If they
had “criticized by creating,” instead of by litigating, not only would
the problem have been solved in a more productive manner than it
actually was, but all parties would actually benefited in the end.
Berkeley wouldn’t have to spend several months taking down its content,
those who wanted the content adapted for those with hearing impairments
would have not only gotten what they wanted, but they would have also
raised awareness and possible donors to their own school. Additionally,
the entire world would have also continued to benefit from the use of
Unfortunately, as this situation has so aptly demonstrated, once the
government gets involved in a scuffle, everybody loses.
Brittany Hunter is an associate editor at FEE. Brittany studied
political science at Utah Valley University with a minor in
So many immigrant groups have swept through our town
that Brooklyn, like Atlantis, reaches mythological
proportions in the mind of the world - RI Safir 1998
DRM is THEFT - We are the STAKEHOLDERS - RI Safir 2002
http://www.nylxs.com - Leadership Development in Free Software
http://www2.mrbrklyn.com/resources - Unpublished Archive
http://www.coinhangout.com - coins!
Being so tracked is for FARM ANIMALS and and extermination camps,
but incompatible with living as a free human being. -RI Safir 2013
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