LBRY Saves 20,000 Courses from the ADA

by on March 21, 2017 at 1:55 pm in Current Affairs, Economics, Education | Permalink

Walter Olson at Overlawyered reports:

Those free online course materials may be gone from the University of California, Berkeley, courtesy of a U.S. Deparment of Justice interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and related statutes, but they’re not gone from the Internet: “20,000 Worldclass University Lectures Made Illegal, So We Irrevocably Mirrored Them” [LBRY] Won’t that infringe on a lot of copyrights? The site claims not: “The vast majority of the lectures are licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows attributed, non-commercial redistribution.” Earlier coverage here, here, here, and here.

As someone put it, it looks as if the internet recognizes ADA litigation as damage and routes around it.

Jeremy Kauffman at LBRY gives some more detail:

The LBRY protocol provides a completely decentralized network for discovering, distributing, and publishing all types of content and information, from books to movies.

When publishing the lectures to LBRY, the content metadata is written to a public blockchain, making it permanently public and robust to interference. Then, the content data itself is hosted via a peer-to-peer data network that offers economic incentives to ensure the data remains viable. This is superior to centralized or manual hosting, which is vulnerable to technical failure or other forms of attrition.

I wrote about online education and the ADA in Egalitarianism versus Online Education and I’m an adviser to LBRY so I’d like to say that this was my idea but I was not involved!

1 JWatts March 21, 2017 at 2:12 pm

I wasn’t aware of LBRY. Kudos for them for thwarting the anti-Freedom “Do gooder” brigade.

2 Anonymous March 21, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Also good on everyone who used Larry Lessig’s Creative Commons licenses .. even if they probably were socialists and do-gooders themselves.

3 Larry Siegel March 22, 2017 at 1:50 am


4 GoneWithTheWind March 22, 2017 at 10:02 am

The ADA was designed as a make work law for trail lawyers. It’s no surprise that it spawns useless and even harmful lawsuits.

5 prior_test2 March 21, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Seems like the day for linking to the blue –

Because there is a bit more to the story – ‘Accessibility specialist Scott Hollier, who worked for six years as an Advisory Committee representative to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), explains more in an Access iQ article, Concerns raised for assistive technology development as W3C debates encrypted media extensions. “Any sort of locked-down mechanism to support DRM will affect the way in which assistive technologies are able to engage and extract information for software such as screen readers and screen magnifiers, both of which struggled to work effectively under plug-in technologies such as Flash…There is also real concern that future innovation in the development of assistive technology products and their interaction with web browsers may be hampered should [an Encrypted Media Extension] result in restrictions on the availability of information to people with disabilities.”‘

6 NatashaRostova March 21, 2017 at 7:37 pm

I used to visit metafilter years ago. It’s the internet personification of mentally ill liberalism at its worst.

7 ConfirmationBiasIsAFemaleDog March 21, 2017 at 11:26 pm

Yes, because suggesting using insecure software like Flash or relying on DRM that may render content inaccessible in the future is a bad idea is “mentally ill liberalism.”

Flash is terribly insecure. It is one of the primary vectors for malware out there today. Course content relying on Flash is not only difficult for accessibility devices to work with it is terribly insecure. Outside of general purpose computers (think Windows/MacOS/Linux) Flash is basically no longer offered because it is impossible to secure.

DRM is useful to protect content but it’s not a good idea if you’re trying to build accessible courseware. First of all you necessarily limit your userbase because you’re not able to write your DRM for every platform. Secondly, the content you produce is limited to the viability of your organization. Should your organization fail and your DRM servers be taken offline it is still illegal to break your DRM. This has already happened and will happen again.

ADA makes it so publicly-funded secondary institutions have to make their course materials available to all students. Just because every classroom isn’t ADA accessible doesn’t invalidate the statute. Should a handicapped student need an accommodation in a classroom one will be provided. In a free online classroom it is difficult to believe any accommodation would be provided. As such it is not difficult to see why federal funds would not be provided for educational programs that by their very nature would be discriminatory.

But Alex Tabbarok is apparently unable to understand any of this. I begin to wonder why George Mason University continues to employ someone who very frequently demonstrates how shallow his analysis is.

8 Joël March 21, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Good job!

9 Ray Lopez March 21, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Yawn. So many things wrong with this post I could go on for hours.

1. AlexT is a contributory infringer, encouraging copyright infringement. Noted that contributory infringement of copyright laws, technically a felony, is encouraged on these august pages.

2. “Today, the University of California at Berkeley has deleted 20,000 college lectures from its YouTube channel. Berkeley removed the videos because of a lawsuit brought by two students from another university under the Americans with Disabilities Act.” – So Berkeley overreacted because of vexatious litigation ( Fine (the English Rule where litigants pay the winner’s legal fees would cut down on these lawsuits). So what? People do crazy stuff all the time. Some US citizens renounced their citizenship a while ago over the FATCA reporting requirements, which people like me who have overseas bank accounts have to comply with, filling out a form every year. Sure it’s time consuming, takes about a half hour, but is that grounds for renouncing your citizenship? No. Overreaction.

3. I hate to say it, but videos are not a good way to learn something. A textbook accompanied by a video is fine, but a video alone is not. So no big loss that the videos removed.

On my last point, how do you find expensive textbooks, of the kind AlexT and TC publish? (their economics book is something like $200 last I checked on Amazon) Just go to this site (remove the spaces): bo ok zz .or g/ You can also find scientific papers and it some ways it’s better than Piratebay

Bonus trivia: Dorothy Squires, the wife of actor Roger Moore, was declared a “vexatious litigant” and barred from filing lawsuits without permission. Ironically, “Squire” is an archaic term for lawyer.

10 Daniel Weber March 21, 2017 at 2:58 pm

It’s not copyright infringement if no copyrights are being infringed.

11 Anon March 21, 2017 at 5:03 pm

It is not just FATCA reporting. Many find taxation of global income onerous ; are you paying US taxes on your chickens?

12 Ray Lopez March 21, 2017 at 6:43 pm

I don’t pay taxes on my income to the first $100k, since I work overseas online (my clients are all US based). Since the Philippines nor Greece has tax for online services, I pay no tax to anybody (

13 Harun March 21, 2017 at 11:26 pm

You must not really be that rich if it only takes 30 minutes. All those tales of Greek assets being hidden, etc.

Also, you have to report company holdings, too, including chicken farms.

14 Jonathan Harris March 22, 2017 at 6:31 am

I find my US tax bill onerous, but less onerous then lacking adequate defense against criminals and terrorists, seeing children grow up without a solid education, or the pain of having fellow men and women suffer from lack of clothing, healthcare, shelter, or food merely because they or their parents cannot command a high enough price for the labor they can currently contribute.

15 Cliff March 21, 2017 at 9:57 pm

Yawn. So many things wrong with this comment I could go on for hours.

16 ConfirmationBiasIsAFemaleDog March 21, 2017 at 11:27 pm

But you don’t so your comment is less that useless.

17 Eric Rasmusen March 22, 2017 at 12:17 am

Copyright infringement is fine if the copyright holder doesn’t mind (I don’t know if we ought to call it infringement in that case). Since Berkeley put up the material for free in the first place, they’re unlikely to sue for copyright infringement.

18 Daniel Weber March 21, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Public domain (more or less, for now) courses are a public good. The government should be encouraging them.

In fact, something the government could do to educate people, instead of pouring money into the private good of schooling, is to create more of these courses or improve them, such as by funding hosting and translation services for existing courses.

19 Anonymous March 21, 2017 at 2:58 pm

I agree. A better replacement for PBS would also pump stuff into the public domain.

All text, audio and video material produced exclusively by the Voice of America is in the public domain.

So perhaps shift funds.

20 Thomas March 21, 2017 at 3:01 pm

This was, politically, a very interesting story to watch develop. The ADA vs. Berkeley. The impression I received was that Berkeley was favored by internet lefties. No doubt ADA vs. Liberty University would have turned out different in the public opinion. Perhaps ADA is a good attack vector against leftists.

21 ConfirmationBiasIsAFemaleDog March 21, 2017 at 11:28 pm

Yes, because “attack vector[s] against leftists” are a reasonable way to formulate policy goals. It’s not about making good policy — it’s about attacking your supposed enemies.

22 Thomas March 22, 2017 at 1:15 am

Uh, yeah. Fair play against an opponent who does not play fair is a guaranteed loss. Are you daft like our other leftist commenters? What would leftists in Congress be saying about this if the ADA target weren’t the epicenter of movement marxism? Don’t play stupid.

23 Troll me March 22, 2017 at 3:21 pm

This is the problem with politics in America.

It’s about attacking those you disagree with, not working towards solutions that work well for everyone.

The ACA? It was Republican policy preference, basically, until Obama promoted a variant of it. At which point it became the worst thing EVER. And on and on it goes.

24 Paul March 21, 2017 at 3:50 pm

My understanding is that the ADA requires “reasonable” accommodation. Your local 50 year old little hotel does not have to retrofit with an elevator.

Anyhow, Google translation is surely soon at the point it can just be turned on and give a reasonably accurate captioning service of any video?

This is all congruent with the new Stasis MRU video, disturbingly so.

25 Harun March 21, 2017 at 10:56 pm

ADA is abused by lawyers in California. Its far from “reasonable.”

26 Jonathan Harris March 22, 2017 at 6:32 am

Isn’t this just the privatization of law enforcement?

27 Harun March 22, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Shaking down immigrant business owners for tiny, meaningless infractions is “law enforcement?”


The law was designed poorly. Lawyers who drive around collecting fees for not suing you is not really code enforcement. Its also based on imaginary damages not real damages.

Basically, the law was written poorly, possibly on purpose. But, they are talking about fixing it. Keep in mind trial lawyers own California’s assembly.

28 mulp March 21, 2017 at 4:42 pm

So, Alex believes all persons have a right to access online educations, a “person” defined as anyone with hearing and sight capabilities that meet minimum standards set by the author paid with public funds.

Those excluded from the “person” class are liabilities to the public that should be subject to creative destruction by the free market:

euthanasia and body parts sold to “persons” in need of organ transplants?

29 aMichael March 21, 2017 at 6:25 pm

I for one think that anyone with vision should be blindfolded at all times to not give them an advantage over the blind.

I also feel guilty every time I enjoy a song that a deaf person can’t.

30 Borjigid March 21, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Yeah, but how many of these videos will ever be watched in their new format?

31 Anna Orion March 21, 2017 at 6:53 pm

This story pisses me off. The ADA requires “reasonable accommodation.” Taking them down, and denying the public access, is not reasonable.

This is a good law being twisted by extremists.

32 Eric Rasmusen March 22, 2017 at 12:19 am

A good law? The text may sound OK, but could it ever have been expected to work? And, actually, even the text is just giving a special privilege to a powerful interest group. We don’t require companies to charge “reasonable prices” or make their products “reasonably available” to consumers. We let them decide what to do themselves.

33 Alain March 22, 2017 at 1:42 am

I agree. Why do these people think that they have the option of taking down material after they’ve judged that they have insufficient resources to make the content comply with this good law.

We need the government to *immediately* send in the national guard and point their rifles at the faces of these goons until they comply. Now that is a policy that makes sense.

34 Dan Hanson March 21, 2017 at 6:53 pm

Liberal academics suddenly discover that gigantic overarching laws like the ADA can have perverse effects when it is education being gored. The next step is to realize that these laws have similar crazy consequences for many other businesses, and are a major drag on the economy and on people’s freedom.

35 Thomas March 22, 2017 at 1:30 am

Exactly this. Leftists only understand force. Thy will only understand that blcking entrances to speeches isn’t protest if the entrances to abortion clinics are blocked. They will only understand that ADA is wrong when lawsuits ar filed against Universities across the country.

Leftists never imagined that their Berkeley would be impeded by ADA or that their “vegan” bakers would be forced to cater a fire and brimstone, “God hates Gays” wedding. We can make them understand how evil is their desire to use violence to force their aesthetic.

There are so many special interest lawyers that file malicious lawsuits to hurt political enemies on the left and so few on the right.

36 Stuart March 21, 2017 at 7:34 pm

It seems the big problem is that creating transcripts is expensive and time-consuming, correct? If so, is there anyway I can donate my time and transcription skills to help make academic videos more accessible? I play video games and watch copious amounts of TV- I’d happily sacrifice some of that to transcribe academic videos if it would help.

It seems technology will solve this problem eventually, but in the meantime, I bet crowdsourcing this could mitigate the problem a good amount.

37 Eric Rasmusen March 22, 2017 at 12:20 am

It would be a waste of your time, generous though your offer is. These lawsuits are brought for settlement money, not because any handicapped person actually is bothered by the status quo.

38 Stuart March 22, 2017 at 9:27 am

So you’re saying there is never a case where a disabled person would like to benefit from a MOOC but it isn’t available in an accessible format? Do you have any evidence to support that assertion?

39 zztop March 22, 2017 at 12:20 am

Kinda stinks this walling off of information nonsense, but MR is awesome for having made us aware of the UCB workaround. You guys are the best!

40 Thomas March 22, 2017 at 1:33 am

If UCB had anything to do with this, including not enforcing copyright or facilitating the transfer in any way, why shouldn’t the firm continue to hold these other-abled-phobic leftists accountable? It’s 2017.

41 antalya şoförlü araç kiralama March 22, 2017 at 9:34 am

DRM is useful to protect content but it’s not a good idea if you’re trying to build accessible courseware. First of all you necessarily limit your userbase because you’re not able to write your DRM for every platform. Secondly, the content you produce is limited to the viability of your organization. Should your organization fail and your DRM servers be taken offline it is still illegal to break your DRM. This has already happened and will happen again.

ADA makes it so publicly-funded secondary institutions have to make their course materials available to all students. Just because every classroom isn’t ADA accessible doesn’t invalidate the statute. Should a handicapped student need an accommodation in a classroom one will be provided. In a free online classroom it is difficult to believe any accommodation would be provided.

42 JK Brown March 22, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Interesting. So the ADA in essence makes the courses, in their present form, economically valueless. Any attempt to provide the courses to the public by any institution that could be construed as pursuing their primary business will lead to legal claims. To go after a content hosting service, however, would be the same as saying every library must provide an ADA compliant version of every book, photo, map, etc. in their collection, even those written in undecipherable languages.

Of course, the economic value equation would be different if a form of expression was created that was ADA compliant.

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