LBRY public sharing platform uploads 20,000 deleted UC Berkeley lectures

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LBRY, a content sharing and publishing platform, copied 20,000 lectures from UC Berkeley’s YouTube channel before they were deleted and will make them publicly available beginning in April.

UC Berkeley announced in early March that it would restrict public access to legacy recorded classroom lectures, or Course Capture, after the Department of Justice determined that the publicly available lectures were not up to standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Jeremy Kauffman, founder and CEO of LBRY, said it was unfortunate that the campus was forced to take down the lectures and that his company believed it would be better if they were still available without subtitles than not available at all.

“What motivated our community is that we saw information disappearing that shouldn’t disappear, and our technology is designed to keep information around,” Kauffman said.

The videos being uploaded onto LBRY currently do not have subtitles, but Kauffman said he’d be happy to work with anyone interested in collaborating with the company to provide them.

A lawsuit, which was filed in 2014 by viewers unaffiliated with UC Berkeley, alleged that many aspects of the Course Captures were in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including inaccessible video captions, and it concluded that those with disabilities are denied equal access to UC Berkeley’s services. After its investigation, the DOJ found “significant portions of UC Berkeley’s online content” in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which states equality must be granted on all public forums.

In a campuswide email, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Catherine Koshland said the campus recognized the need to “meet higher accessibility standards as a condition of remaining publicly available,” and she said all Course Capture content will instead be moved to a website where viewers will need authentication login for access. She added that UC Berkeley will emphasize making its future content more accessible to the public.

LBRY, based in Alexandria, Egypt, describes itself as a protocol in which artists can upload their content on a network of hosts, while serving as a digital library for things such as books and music for regular users. According to its website, because UC Berkeley lectures are a Creative Commons license, meaning that they can be copied and republished with credit for noncommercial use, mirroring and cataloging the lecture is legal.

In response to LBRY’s actions, campus spokesperson Roqua Montez stated in an email that UC Berkeley became aware that the content was being scraped and reposted only after the fact and that they are currently assessing the situation.

Georgina Kleege, a co-director of the disabilities studies minor program at UC Berkeley and campus English professor, said while she understands that it is too costly for the campus to add captioning after the fact, the issue of accessibility for the general public, which includes disabled people, should have been taken into consideration from the beginning.

Kleege said there should not be an opposition between the public and those with a disability.

“They say they are uploading it for the public, but (if) I’m a disabled, (then) I’m outside of the public,” Kleege said. “I feel that that’s discrimination.”

Contact Christine Lee at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @christinejlee17.