Video Privacy Protection Act

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Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn act to amend title 18, United States Code, to preserve personal privacy with respect to the rental, purchase, or delivery of video tapes or similar audio visual materials
Acronyms (colloquial)VPPA
Enacted bythe 100th United States Congress
EffectiveNovember 5, 1988
Public lawPub.L. 100–618
Statutes at Large102 Stat. 3195
Titles amendedTitle 18 of the United States Code
U.S.C. sections created18 U.S.C. § 2710
Legislative history
Major amendments
Pub.L. 112–258

The Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) was a bill passed by the United States Congress in 1988 as Pub.L. 100–618 and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. It was created to prevent what it refers to as "wrongful disclosure of video tape rental or sale records [or similar audio visual materials, to cover items such as video games and the future DVD format]." Congress passed the VPPA after Robert Bork's video rental history was published during his Supreme Court nomination. It makes any "video tape service provider" that discloses rental information outside the ordinary course of business liable for up to $2500 in actual damages.

Effects of the law[edit]

In 2008, a class action lawsuit against Blockbuster Inc. was filed over the release of customer rental and sales records to Facebook through the controversial Facebook Beacon program. The lawsuit alleged the release of the records was a violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act.[1]

In December 2009, an anonymous plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the online DVD rental company Netflix over its release of data sets for the Netflix Prize, alleging that the company's release of the information constituted a violation of the VPPA.[2]

This act was referenced in the Lane v. Facebook, Inc. class action. Based on this act it is generalized to other forms of rental records such as DVDs and Video games etc.

Netflix cited the act in 2011 following the announcement of its global integration with Facebook. The company noted that the VPPA was the sole reason why the new feature was not immediately available in the United States, and it encouraged its customers to contact their representatives in support of legislation that would clarify the language of the law.[3]

In 2012, Netflix changed its privacy rules so that it no longer retains records for people who have left the site. This change was due directly to a lawsuit indicating violation of the act.[4]

In January, 2013, President Obama signed into law H.R. 6671 which amended the Video Privacy Protection Act to allow video rental companies to share rental information on social networking sites after obtaining customer permission. Netflix had lobbied for the change.[5]

A San Francisco federal trial court found the VPPA’s subscriber protections apply to users with Hulu accounts.[6] In 2015, a federal appeals court in Atlanta found that those protections do not reach the users of a free android app, even when the app assigns each user a unique identification number and shares user behavior with a third-party data analytics company.[6]


  1. ^ Vijayan, Jaikumar (2008-04-18), "Blockbuster sued over Facebook Beacon information sharing Archived January 16, 2009, at the Wayback Machine". Computerworld.
  2. ^ Singel, Ryan. "Netflix Spilled Your Brokeback Mountain Secret, Lawsuit Claims", Wired Magazine
  3. ^ "Help Us Bring Facebook Sharing to Netflix USA". Netflix Blog. Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  4. ^ "Class-action lawsuit settlement forces Netflix privacy changes". Ars Technica.
  5. ^ Obama signs Netflix-backed amendment to video privacy law, Steven Musil, Cnet, January 10, 2013, accessed June 18, 2015
  6. ^ a b Recent Cases: Eleventh Circuit Limits the Scope of "Subscriber" for VPPA Protections, 129 Harv. L. Rev. 2011 (2016).