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This week, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals entertained an interlocutory appeal stemming from a Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) lawsuit.
No, movie rental is not the booming business it once was, thanks to online streaming services, but the VPPA -- a federal law that keeps your video/DVD rental history private -- is still being used in class action lawsuits.
The VPPA was adopted after a newspaper published Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork's video rental history in the '80s (a practice that became known as borking). The law prohibits video providers from disclosing which videos a person has requested or obtained, and requires video providers to "destroy personally identifiable information as soon as practicable, but no later than one year from the date the information is no longer necessary for the purpose for which it was collected."
A video provider who knowingly discloses a viewer's personally identifiable information is liable to the aggrieved person for damages.
Redbox, a company that specializes in renting DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, and video games to consumers from automated retail kiosks, asked the Seventh Circuit to take an interlocutory appeal in a class action suit to determine whether the record destruction provision of the VPPA could be enforced by a VPPA lawsuit for damages.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the only prohibited act under the VPPA that warrants damages is disclosure of a viewer's video information. A court can order a video provider to comply with the record destruction requirement, but a viewer cannot use a VPPA lawsuit to collect damages for record destruction requirement violations.
Consumers are clearly becoming aware of their rights under the VPPA; both Netflix and Redbox were sued last year for VPPA violations. If you have a client who wants to bring a VPPA lawsuit in a Seventh Circuit feeder court, inform your client that the appellate court recognizes VPPA damages for willful breaches of a viewer's information, but not for record destruction violations.