The Law And Business Of Social Media - Status Updates, November 10th, 2014

Author:Mr John Delaney
Profession:Morrison & Foerster LLP
 
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Tale of the tape. Remember the 1980s? Back then, watching a movie on demand meant visiting your local video store and renting the video tape version of the film that you wanted to watch (assuming it was available). During that era, Congress passed - and President Reagan signed into law - the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), which generally prohibits any "video tape service provider" from disclosing, outside of the ordinary course of business, information regarding a customer's rental and purchase of video tapes and similar audio visual materials. The law actually stems from the controversial, and failed, 1987 nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court, when Bork's opponents got hold of his video-rental records. As the video distribution industry has evolved, issues have arisen as to the application of the VPPA in this new era. Redbox is famous for its automated self-service kiosks at which customers can rent DVDs and Blu-ray disks; to handle customer inquiries, however, Redbox uses a third-party service provider, Stream Global Services (SGS). So that SGS can fulfill its obligations, Redbox makes available its customer records to the service provider. Does such disclosure violate the VPPA, or does it fall within the VPPA's exception for disclosures made in the "ordinary course of business"? Several consumers sued Redbox because of SGS's access to their rental information, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit recently found that Redbox is in the clear. The court noted that, in enacting the VPPA, "Congress contemplated customer service as part and parcel of the ordinary rental experience. That Redbox has replaced most live customer service interactions with a computer interface does not change this." Nevertheless, if your company is in the business of distributing videos online, you will want to pay attention to potential VPPA issues; although narrowly focused, it's a restrictive privacy law that can become a trap for the unwary. All politics is social. While the 2014 mid-year election has concluded, the involvement of social networks in politics is far from over. A study by the Pew Research Center reveals that Americans are using their mobile phones, apps, and social media far...

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