March 19, 2013, 10:43 AM — In these, the salad days of patent trolling, the idea of a company choosing not to charge a licensing fee for a technology it developed and patented seems hard to believe. Yet, this week I’ve run into a real live example of such patent-related generosity. Best of all, it involves a technology to make one form of entertainment accessible to people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Image credit: NCAM
Yesterday, I wrote about legislation recently introduced in Congress, the CINEMA Act, that would require movie theaters with more than two screens to offer captioning and video descriptions for all films. As I mentioned, the proposed act would not require theaters to use a particular captioning technology, of which there are several, including Rear Window Captioning (RWC), CaptiView and Sony’s Entertainment Access Glasses. Theaters could also choose to offer open captions to be in compliance with the CINEMA Act, should it become law.
As I also mention in that post, RWC was developed (and patented) by the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). When I asked NCAM director Larry Goldberg about the new legislation, he shared some information with me about RWC that will hopefully encourage more theaters to offer captions, regardless of whether CINEMA becomes law or not. Specifically, he told me that, going forward, NCAM will no longer require theaters to pay a fee to license the technology.
Up until now, theaters that wanted to implement RWC, in addition to having to buy hardware to support it, also had to pay NCAM a licensing fee for their patented captioning technology. Goldberg told me that from now on NCAM will waive the RWC licensing fees as “a gesture of support for the entertainment industry and its deaf and hard-of-hearing customers.” The decision was also made as a way to celebrate NCAM’s 20th anniversary this year. “We hope this will help advance accessible moviegoing experiences,” Goldberg said.
Theaters will still need to buy the hardware to support RWC. Those interested can reach out to NCAM here.
Are you deaf or hard-of-hearing? Do your local theaters support captioning? Do you prefer closed or open captioning at movie theaters? Share your experiences and opinions in the comments.
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