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Supreme Court Declines to Weigh in on What Constitutes “Personally Identifiable Information” Protected by the Video Privacy Protection Act

Children-403582_1920By Julie Ann Shepard, Emily A. Bruemmer and Andrew C. Noll

Long after the disappearance of most video rental stores, the issue of the applicability of the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) in the digital age is not going away.  On January 9, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in C.A.F. v. Viacom, Inc., declining to address the Third Circuit’s June 2016 ruling that internet protocol (IP) addresses were not personally identifiable information (PII) protected under the VPPA and settle what some have characterized as a split with the First Circuit. 

The VPPA was passed in 1988, following the publication of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental records.  It imposes civil liability on any “video tape service provider who knowingly discloses, to any person, personally identifiable information concerning any consumer of such provider.”  18 U.S.C. § 2710(b)(1).  In re Hulu Privacy Litigation, a case before the Northern District of California, made it clear in 2012 that the VPPA applies in the digital realm and in the world of online content delivery such as the website Hulu.com. 

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