A federal magistrate has ruled that the Video Privacy Protection Act (“VPPA”), a federal statute that restricts “video tape service providers” from disclosing information about their customers’ viewing habits, applies to online streaming video providers. This is the first time that the VPPA, enacted in 1988 in response to the disclosure of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental records, has been found to apply to streaming video services.
Earlier this month, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that damages are not available under the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) for violations of subsection (e) of the statute, the “Destruction of Old Records” provision. The court concluded that the damages provision only applies to a video tape service provider’s knowing disclosure of a consumer’s personally identifiable information–such as video viewing history–in violation of subsection (b) of the statute. The court relied on two key factors in reaching this decision: (1) the location of the damages provision vis-à-vis the prohibitions in subsections (b), (d), and (e); and (2) the absence of injury in the event that a video tape service provider fails to timely destroy consumers’ personally identifiable information as required by subsection (e).