Last week there was some controversy in our Deaf/ASL community relating to a new Deaf-owned company — CineSigns — and their use of ASL videos on their members-only online platform with a $2.99 monthly cost (with the first month free). Their video library has various videos “pulled and embedded” on their website, with many of them from well-known ASL video content creators.
They released a short “teaser” video last week that was a preview of their online video content library. In it, it had screenshots of their video library, which consisted of several videos from another Deaf-run company, ASLized, which is a non-profit ASL video content creator with a free online ASL library for educational purposes.
ASLized, raised a complaint by making a Facebook posting on January 17 [http://bit.ly/2jpUBkd] In it, it said they’ve learned that a new Deaf-owned company (referring to Cinesigns) made copies of their videos into their fee-based library and is charing users to view them. ASLized said they were never contacted or informed if their videos could be used on their platform.
ASLized then asked this company to remove the videos from their library and promotional materials, which is in compliance with Creative Commons. It means anybody can use/adapt ASLized video materials as long as it is credited/attributed and is used for noncommercial (business) purposes.
CineSigns made a Facebook posting the next day, apparently in response to this posting and other social media comments. Seth Gore signed in ASL and he said Doug was sitting in front of him, off-camera.
In it, Seth said CineSigns is a platform for sign language to grow and that there needs to be an “one-place” stop for ASL videos. He said Cinesigns does not alter or modify the videos in any way and does not “rip” it from the internet — rather they embed it in their special “custom player skin” so people can view the videos — and that on the other end (the original video source) will still gain views and “Likes,” even from people watching from the CineSigns platform. He emphasized that CineSigns does not alter or influence the videos, just that they provided a good viewing experience.
Seth then said CineSigns want to start a new “Creators Program” where they would invite creators to create their videos, join their platform, and get paid. He invited people to contact him if they had any questions.
I’ve checked out the cinesigns.com website and am a member — so I could see it for myself — and I’ve seen multiple other videos in their library that are well-known in our community, made by various ASL creators. The videos have tags and credits to the creators, but there is not an ability to “click through” to where the original video is, or to link to the creator’s website.
I was able to reach out to CineSigns and asked them a few questions related to the controversy. I asked four questions and our back and forth was in English and the conversation is quite lengthy — so I will include the full exchange below in the transcript, but here are a few key things from the Q/A:
CineSigns said they only did a “soft launch” — that the product is not 100% finished — they wanted to see how the market responded, and to see if artists would have a problem or not with their platform and be able to make adjustments. They do not have a fully functional “Like” or “Share” features yet.
They said that their business model was about curation — to charge people ($2.99 a month) for the service of finding high-quality videos that met their standards, and that other, similar businesses (in the hearing world) do follow the same model of curating videos without reaching out to creators for permission. CineSigns said they will remove videos if an artist is unhappy their video is on Cinesigns, and have removed all ASLized videos.
CineSigns said they only found out about ASLized’s complaints from comments made by people on Facebook, and immediately removed their videos.
CineSigns said they took this situation to heart and made a decision that they would “eat the cost of curation” and will offer the website for free while they explore other options to financially sustain the expenses of offering CineSigns — and the payment features will be removed in a few days.
I’ve checked the current cinesigns.com website and it appears you can create an account, log in, and view the platform for free. There was previously a prompt to put in your credit card information along with being a member with a $2.99 monthly fee (with the first month free), but it’s no longer there. You have to create an account to view the videos.
You can check out the new website at cinesigns.com and also ASLized’s resources on ASLized.com. Both also have Facebook pages.