Podcasts Need Transcripts: December 2021 lawsuit against SiriusXM

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This is an article about a lawsuit filed in the United States. The case was brought by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and deaf and hard of hearing people against three large podcast companies. The companies sued are SiriusXM, Pandora, and Stitcher. The case was filed because the companies do not offer transcripts or captions with podcasts. This excludes deaf and hard of hearing people from the podcast content and services. NAD and Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) are lawyers for the people suing. When something happens in this case this article will be updated.

Article updated

This article has been updated since it was first published on January 2, 2022. The most recent update was added on August 29, 2022. Read the updates for this article.

SiriusXM and STITCHER logos

On December 9, 2021, the National Association of the Deaf (“NAD”) and Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”) filed a lawsuit against SiriusXM, Stitcher, and Pandora. The companies do not provide transcripts or captions for podcasts. (Sirius purchased Stitcher in 2020 for 325 million dollars. In 2019 it acquired Pandora in a $3.5 billion all-stock transaction.)

The press announcement about the case explains that it was filed to “end exclusion of deaf and hard of hearing Americans from each company’s extensive podcast streaming service.”

As stated in the complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York:

Defendants’ failures to provide transcripts of their podcasts excludes deaf and hard-of-hearing persons from the critical sources of news, entertainment, educational programs, and popular culture that Defendants make available to their hearing customers, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”), and the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”)SiriusXM podcast accessibility legal complaint

As this case moves forward updates will be added to this article.

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Not the first podcast transcript lawsuit

This is not the first lawsuit about the need for transcripts on podcasts. In my July 2020 article titled Digital Accessibility Legal Update: ADA Anniversary Edition, I wrote about a lawsuit against Gimlet Media, a podcast service owned by Spotify.

I learned recently that the case, filed in July, 2020, was settled in November of that same year, just four months later. There was no public announcement and no public settlement. The case was filed by a serial web accessibility case filer identified as #4 in the list of lawyers filing the most web accessibility cases in the most recent UsableNet Year End Report on Web Accessibility Litigation.

A year before the Gimlet case was filed, I wrote extensively about this type of case in a 2019 article on this website titled Ethics in the Digital Accessibility Legal Space: ADA Enforcement Cases or Something Else?. Podcast accessibility is an important civil rights issue for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. I’m glad the legal issues are now in the hands of the National Association of the Deaf and Disability Rights Advocates — ethical and responsible lawyers with excellent track records for advancing disability rights in the digital space.

Resources about the SiriusXM accessibility case

Updates to this article

August 29, 2022 Update

As described in the February 27 update, the parties in this case about podcast captions put their litigation on hold to see if they could resolve the case in Structured Negotiation. Efforts to settle the case have not been successful. On June 29, 2022 the lawyers for the National Association of the Deaf set a letter to the Court saying “the parties have been unable to resolve this action and it is therefore necessary to return to litigation.” This does not mean the case will never settle, it just means it has not settled yet.

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February 27, 2022 Update

The parties are trying to resolve this case about podcast accessibility. On February 8, 2022 lawyers wrote to the judge “to request a stay of the proceedings in this matter for a period of one hundred twenty (“120”) days so that the parties may explore and work toward early resolution of the claims in this case.”

The lawyers for the National Association of the Deaf and Disability Rights Advocates, writing with lawyers for the company, told the court:

To avoid potentially unnecessary litigation and the expenses thereof, and in order to determine the feasibility of reaching a resolution, the parties have agreed to proceed under the terms of a Structured Negotiations Agreement. The parties will make reasonable, good faith efforts to continue to work toward a collaborative resolution of the claims raised in Plaintiffs’ Complaint outside of these legal proceedings.Letter to Court in SiriusXM podcast case

On February 22 the Judge assigned to the case agreed to put the case on pause, writing that “This case is stayed until June 22, 2022. The parties shall file a joint status letter on or before June 29, 2022.”

The parties in this case and their lawyers recognized that a lawsuit does not always have to mean a fight, excessive costs, or reputational harm. I appreciate that they have paused this important case for good faith negotiations (here Structured Negotiation) to try to resolve the claims.

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