In 2010, President Obama enacted the Communications and Video Accessibility Act CVAA, a law meant to ensure people with disabilities weren’t left behind as technology progressed in the digital age.   Among other rules, the law required programming captioned on TV also be captioned when delivered via IP, or online. The FCC set benchmarks to ensure a steady roll-out of the law, and most provisions are currently in place, with the exception of “clips.”

Who does the rule apply to?

The CVAA applies to programming that is captioned on TV.  Any programming captioned on TV must be captioned when delivered via Internet Protocol (IP).  This includes delivery to a personal computer, tablet device, cellular phone, game console, or streaming device like Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon Fire. Platforms or providers include YouTube, iTunes®, Netflix®, Amazon®, Crackle, and YaVeo™, among others. All captions must be of the same quality as those provided on TV (in other words, IP programming is subject to the same caption quality rules as TV programming).


Through January 1, 2016, this rule applies only to full-length programming, not “clips.”  In January 2016, the rules start to apply to “clips,” and different clips must be captioned at different times:

  • Single Excerpt Clip: Any portion of a longer piece of programming from broadcast television, whether it’s from a show, sporting event, or news broadcast. These are also referred to as “direct lift clips,” or “straight lift clips”. Effective January 1, 2016, any single excerpt clip from prerecorded programming captioned on television and subsequently delivered via IP must be captioned.
  • Montage Clip: Any combination of single excerpt clips from the same program, a series, or multiple programs. For example, a “best of,” or highlight reel could be considered a montage. Effective January 1, 2017, any montage from prerecorded programming captioned on television and subsequently delivered via IP must be captioned.
  • Near-Live Programming Clips: “Near-live” is content recorded less than 24 hours before it airs on TV. Effective July 1, 2017, any clip of a captioned near-live program must be captioned within 8 hours of its first broadcast on television.
  • Live Programming: Effective July 1, 2017, any clip of a live program that aired live captioned on TV and subsequently delivered via IP must be captioned within 12 hours of its first broadcast on television

Two Important differences between the Full-length and Clips Captioning Rules:

  • The clips rules only requires clips be captioned on the programmer’s website, not third-party sites. Full-length programming must be captioned no matter where the video is shown.
  • The clips rule only applies to programming created after the effective date. There are no “archive” rules, meaning clips that are already online will never have to be captioned, even if the program that clip was lifted from airs on TV.

Other Online Video:

“Online only” video is more popular and prevalent than ever. Though the creators of this content are not required by the FCC to caption content, many video platforms and streaming providers require their video be delivered with captions. This applies to all content delivered to Netflix® and iTunes® currently.