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House Passes Amended Video Privacy Protection Act

19 Dec, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel



Consumers' ability to share their movie rental and streaming viewing habits online took another step forward after the House of Representatives Dec. 18 passed a motion amending the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 to allow videotape service providers to facilitate sharing on social media networks of the video content watched or recommended by users.

H.R. 6671 requires that the consent to share video consumption preferences be “distinct” and “separate” from other user-consent agreements such as monthly rental plan and payments. Companies must provide consumers with the “clear and conspicuous” option to withdraw their consent to share at any time. A consumer’s consent to share expires after 24 months, unless the consumer chooses to opt-in again.

“Today’s technology and the ever-changing consumer marketplace demand an update to the antiquated VPPA,” Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), author of the bill, said in a statement. “Over the past two decades, video distribution and the way consumers view video content has changed dramatically. Social media users, especially young people, do not understand why they cannot share information about their favorite movies or TV shows in the same way that they can music or books.” 

The VPPA was established following the contentious Supreme Court confirmation process for federal judge Robert Bork in which his video-rental history was made public. Ironically, Bork, whose nomination was denied, died Dec. 19 at the age of 85.

Goodlatte said H.R. 6671 preserves careful protections for consumers' privacy while modernizing the law to empower consumers to do more with their video consumption preferences, including sharing favorite TV shows or recently watched movies via social media networks in a simple way.

Netflix has aggressively backed the legislation, which must still pass the Senate. The by-mail and SVOD pioneer has upped lobbying efforts in Congress after last year's failed attempt to amend the VPPA. Netflix currently integrates user rental activities with Facebook internationally, where it is legal to do so.

Goodlatte said that while protecting consumer privacy is paramount in the digital age, it should not be a hindrance as well.

“This bipartisan bill is truly pro-consumer and places the decision of whether or not to share video rentals with one's friends squarely in the hands of the consumer,” he said.


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