Massachusetts Federal Court Finds On-Demand Web Streaming Service Falls within the ADA’s Scope

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On June 19, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled that Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” on-demand movie and television streaming service is a “place of public accommodation” subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) bar on disability-based discrimination. Nat’l Ass’n of the Deaf v. Netflix, Inc., No. 11-30168 (D. Mass. June 19, 2012). Plaintiffs asserted that the streaming service provided inadequate closed-captioned content and sought declaratory and injunctive relief directing the company to provide closed-captioning for all “Watch Instantly” offerings. Netflix moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the ADA did not apply to its on-demand service and that the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) precluded the plaintiffs’ interpretation of the ADA. The court disagreed, finding that the plaintiffs adequately pled their claim that the scope of the ADA applies to the company’s on-demand service. In addition, the court rejected the company’s argument that the CVAA precluded the plaintiffs’ ADA claim, concluding that the CVAA’s specific requirements related to captioning of streamed video did not present an irreconcilable conflict with the ADA.