Easy Captioning for UNESCO’s World Heritage Videos on YouTube

Accessibility 4 All by Claude Almansi

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[Editor’s note: The following message was sent by Claude Almansi to UNESCO workers on 12 June 2010 with the heading “Easy captioning for UNESCO’s World Heritage Videos on YouTube – Demo sample – copyright question.” See the following related articles by Almansi: UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Copyright Committee – 14th Session and UNESCO, World Anti-Piracy Observatory and YouTube. -JS]

Sent e-mail

Dear Workers of the “Section de la communication, de l’éducation et du partenariat (CLT/WHC/CEP)” of UNESCO’s World Heritage Center:

First, congratulations on the remarkable World Heritage video series posted by UNESCO on YouTube, with links to the relevant pages of http://whc.unesco.org. This is a great education tool.

However, I was wondering if you could not caption these videos: for most of them, you already have and offer a plain text transcript on http://whc.unesco.org. So on YouTube, for the videos in English,  it would be enough to add that transcript to the video as a .txt file, and then the YouTube software would automatically time-code this transcript to produce the captions – and an interactive transcript viewing below the video.

Moreover, YouTube also offers automatic translation of existing captions. And as the comments of these videos are a remarkable example of “Simple English,” these automatically translated captions are rather decent.

To illustrate the above, I have done such a captioned version of your “Vézelay” video:

– Your original: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFoakBvsKlA>

– Captioned version (with link to the original, your original description and some explanations about captioning in the description): <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbNI9dBtDRw>

I am aware that this video about Vézelay is under UNESCO’s copyright. So I was not surprised when I got an automatic warning from YouTube (reproduced below) about possible copyright violation within minutes of posting the captioned version.

However, I would be grateful if UNESCO would accept that this captioned version is covered by two limitations foreseen by most national copyright laws: the limitation concerning accessibility for people with disabilities (deafness in this case), and the limitation for educational purposes (the captioned version makes the video content accessible to people with no or little English).

But even if UNESCO should decide otherwise and ask for the removal of this captioned version, my goal would be reached if you started to caption the World Heritage videos yourselves.

Thank you in advance for your reply


Claude Almansi

Cc to:
James N. Shimabukuro, as chief editor of Educational Technology and
Change Journal (<https://etcjournal.com/>)
Roberto Ellero, as founder of the Webmultimediale.org project

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: YouTube <no_reply@youtube.com>
Date: Sat, Jun 12, 2010 at 10:48 AM
Subject: Information about your video “Vézelay, Church and Hill (with captions)”
To: calmansi <claude.almansi@…>

Dear calmansi,

Your video, Vézelay, Church and Hill (with captions) <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbNI9dBtDRw>, may have content that is owned or licensed by Unesco.

No action is required on your part; however, if you are interested in learning how this affects your video, please visit the Content ID Matches section of your account <http://www.youtube.com/my_videos_copyright> for more information.

– The YouTube Team
© 2010 YouTube, LLC
901 Cherry Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066


June 16, 2010:  Thanks, Jim. As we agreed, I waited till today in case the  people in charge of  the “Section de la communication, de l’éducation et du partenariat (CLT/WHC/CEP)” of UNESCO’s World Heritage Center answered. They did not so far, nor – apparently – have they asked YouTube to take down my captioned version of UNESCO’s video about Vézelay for copyright violation. If they should do either or both, I’ll update this post.

Meanwhile I have added an annotation linking to the original http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFoakBvsKlA video in the captioned version in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbNI9dBtDRw: in the latter’s description, I had already linked to the original, but this way, the link will be there even when the video gets embedded elsewhere, like this:

The interactive transcript feature connected to adding captions to a video, which I mentioned in the above e-mail, is explained very clearly  in YouTube’s Interactive Transcripts (Google Operating System – Unofficial news and tips about Google. 2010-06-04). This is a stupendous resource for teachers and learners, as it makes it possible to refer to an exact point in a video.

Unesco has the texts of the comments of all these World Heritage videos. Actually,  the comment of each of these videos has already been translated recorded in English, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic:  each version for each documentary gets offered in the corresponding linguistic youtube sub-channel of UNESCO TV:

Actually, UNESCO TV also has a sixth subchannel in its 6th official language: http://www.youtube.com/user/unescoChinese. However, so far, it only contains one video: 教科文组织: 教科文组织的历史 – a Chinese version (with documents subtitled and comment dubbed)  of  UNESCO History.

Now if UNESCO captioned at least the English versions of the World Heritage documentaries as I have done in the one about Vézelay above, Chinese speakers – as well as people who speak another language that is not one of UNESCO’s but is offered by YouTube –  could at least access them through the automatic translation of the captions. As I wrote in the e-mail above, these automatically translated captions of the World Heritage documentaries are quite decent, and certainly better than nothing.

But the main reason why UNESCO should do so is the right of deaf people to access these documentaries. After all, UNESCO has a whole section called People with Disabilities and ICT, and on May 11, 2010, at the World Summit on Information Society in Geneva, UNESCO organized the Fifth consultation on Action Line C3 “ICTs and Person with disabilities”:

… At WSIS Forum 2010, UNESCO, together with its partners, advocates for the right of persons with disabilities and promotes best practices of international, national, local, nongovernmental and civil society organizations working with persons with disabilities.

The key questions of this session include:

  • What are the main requirements to make the Internet accessible for persons with disabilities? (…)
  • What are the major challenges to make the Internet accessible for persons with disabilities? …

The minutes of that session are apparently not yet available. However, captioning a documentary by adding its already existing text (tran)script  on YouTube does not seem a “major challenge”.



June 28, 2010: UNESCO deletes narration texts of its World Heritage videos

All the  narration texts of UNESCO’s  World Heritage videos have been deleted from their corresponding pages in UNESCO’s web site. This deletion would completely cut off deaf people from the commentaries of these videos, were it not that some of these pages were saved by the Internet Archive before the narration text was removed.

E.g.: for the captions of the video embedded above, I  used the narration text that was then (June 12, 2010) provided in http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/84/video, and which has now disappeared. But it is still available in http://web.archive.org/web/20080502122018/http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/84/video, i.e. the version of that page that was saved by the Internet Archive on May 2, 2008.

However, there is no Internet Archive former copy for many of these pages that used to contain the narration texts for the World Heritage videos until recently. Cutting off deaf people from the verbal content of videos seems a very odd way to answer the question “What are the main requirements to make the Internet accessible for persons with disabilities?” asked by UNESCO in its description of the Fifth consultation on Action Line C3 “ICTs and Person with disabilities” (see above).

June 20, 2010: Arabic, English, French and Russian World Heritage playlists

I have gathered links to the Arabic, English, French and Russian World Heritage playlists in UNESCO TV’s separate linguistic channels under the unescowh tag (click on link for the last page)  – where it will be possible to add an as yet hypothetical Chinese World Heritage playlist if one is created  in future.

June 17, 2010: UNESCO has claimed captioned version of WH video about Vézelay

1. UNESCO has now claimed the captioned version http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbNI9dBtDRw of their http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFoakBvsKlA video about Vézelay.  I noticed it from the stats for the video, which now are preceded by “Because this video has been claimed by a copyright owner, statistics cannot be made public.”

As to right holders’ options when a third party uses their content, cf.  “Geoblocking as copyright measure” in YouTube, Geoblocks and Proxies:

… for quite a while now, YouTube has been offering its partners automated audio and video content identification, which allows them to find uses by third parties of  content under their copyright. And on September 28, 2009, YouTube announced that it was integrating this offer with YouTube Insight, which also gives complete statistics on the use of a given video.

This allowed right holders to fine-tune the management of their rights on  their content when they found it on YouTube: getting their share of the ad revenue, completely blocking or geoblocking uploads by third parties.

Of course, UNESCO is the right-holder for the content – video and captions – of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbNI9dBtDRw., so they are right to claim it.  However, I would have preferred them to caption their own original   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFoakBvsKlA video about Vézelay and to ask YouTube to delete mine.

2. Localized and hopefully temporary glitch with YT captions: see the YouTube captions on the blink? thread in the accessible google group. That I know of, the glitch, which affects captions but not the interactive transcript, concerns users in Italy and Switzerland – but apparently not in some other countries. It was temporary: now the captions are working again.

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