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Senate Passes Video Accessibility Act

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The Senate was working late last night and the results will have a lasting impact on the online video industry. That's because the Senate passed the Twenty-First Century Video Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010.

The House has already passed a version of this bill on July 26. Since the two versions have differences, they now need to be reconciled in conference. Or, one house could adopt the others' version of the bill. After that, the president will need to sign the bill for it to become law.

The purpose of the bill is to make sure that people with disabilities have full access to online media. The FCC had previously created video description rules, but those were struck down by the courts.

Measures in the bill will require captioning of all online video that has been shown on television. It won't touch on user-generated videos or work produced exclusively for the Web, as online-only content isn't covered by the bill. The bill will also improve accessibility on smartphones and other mobile devices.

The Senate version of the bill was introduced by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) and co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark). The House version was authored by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass).

The bill doesn't set a schedule for online captioning, but calls for the creation of a commission which will set a timetable.

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