The Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) applies to videotape service providers (VTSP), which is defined as “any person, engaged in the business . . . of rental, sale, or delivery of prerecorded video cassette tapes or similar audio visual materials.”1  VTSPs may not disclose “information which identifies a person as having requested or obtained specific video materials or services.”2  However, disclosure to third parties may be allowed in the following circumstances:

  • with the consumer’s informed written consent, which may be electronic, and which the consumer must have the right to withdraw;
  • so long as the information is only the consumer’s name and address, without rental history, and the consumer has had the opportunity to prohibit such disclosures;
  • in the ordinary course of the VTSP’s business (e.g., changes in ownership); or
  • as required by appropriate law enforcement or court orders.3

Despite its origins in the 1980s, the VPPA has been interpreted such that streaming service providers are indeed covered by the law as VTSPs.  These decisions focus on the statutory definition of VTSPs, which includes any person or entity engaged in the business of renting, selling or delivering “prerecorded video cassette tapes or similar audio visual materials.”4

18 USC § 2710(a)(4).

2 Id. § 2710(a)(3).

Id. § 2710(b).

Id. § 2710(a)(4); see also In Re Hulu Privacy Litig., No. 11-CV-03764 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 10, 2012) (reasoning Congress used “similar audio visual materials” to ensure the VPPA’s protections would retain their force as technologies evolve).

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