The Video Privacy Protection Act (“VPPA”) is a federal law enacted in 1988. The same year, Michigan passed a Video Rental Privacy Protection Act (“MI-VRPA”). Both laws were primarily intended to protect consumers’ privacy when renting videotapes, a popular pastime in the late 1980’s. Several attempts have been made over the past few years to apply both the federal and state laws to other types of businesses and services.
In Ellis v. The Cartoon Network, a consumer argued that Cartoon Network’s sharing of information collected via a free mobile app was a violation of the VPPA. The information collected and shared was Ellis’ Android ID and video viewing habits. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s dismissal of Ellis’ claim, holding that downloading a free app did not make him a “subscriber” under the VPPA.
The statutory language of MI-VRPA reads broadly and may potentially apply to any business “selling at retail, renting or lending books or other written materials, sound recordings, or video recordings.” With current offerings via the Internet and mobile apps, the application of both acts could reach well beyond the now largely-defunct video rental industry.
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