By Ann Stehling
A right to privacy is as old as the common law itself. The nature and extent of such protection has necessarily evolved to meet the demands of society—but not without growing pains. Recently, federal courts have struggled to apply the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 (VPPA or the Act) in the modern era of online video streaming. The VPPA was enacted in response to a profile that listed 146 films thenSupreme Court nominee Judge Robert H. Bork and his family had rented from a video store. The Act prohibits “video tape service provider[s]” from knowingly disclosing “personally identifiable information concerning any consumer” to a third-party. The Act defines “consumer” as “any renter, purchaser, or subscriber of goods or services from a video tape service provider.” Recently, in Yershov v. Gannett Satellite Info. Network, Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit applied the Act and found that downloading and using a free mobile application, or app, to watch video clips could qualify the user as a “subscriber.” The decision created a possible split with the Eleventh Circuit. This Note argues that the First Circuit’s decision is proper because it best effectuates legislative intent and achieves a desirable outcome by continuing to protect the right to privacy in the digital age.
Ann Stehling, From Blockbuster to Mobile Apps—Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 Continues to Protect the Digital Citizen, 70 SMU L. Rev. 205 (2017)