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The Video Privacy Protection Act
The Video Privacy Protection Act (18 U.S.C. 2710) was passed by Congress in the wake of the
controversy that arose when Judge Robert Bork's video rental records were
released during hearings into his Supreme Court nomination.
The Act forbids a video rental or sales outlet from disclosing information
concerning what tapes a person borrows and buys, or releasing other
personally identifiable information without the informed, written consent of the
customer. The Act also requires such outlets
to provide consumers with the opportunity to opt out from any sale of mailing lists.
The Video Privacy Act allows consumers to sue for damages if they are harmed
by violations of the Act.
Release of video tape rental records of the type Judge Bork suffered probably
comprises an invasion of privacy that a common law court would recognize as a tort
if it happened to an ordinary consumer.
Because Judge Bork was a public figure whose suitability for the Supreme Court
was a hotly debated issue, release of his video rental records may have been protected
by the First Amendment. Because tort law already protected ordinary consumers, the Video Privacy Act created a new way to sue video
rental outfits without improving the privacy of video rental information. When Congress
voted on the law, they undoubtedly saw themselves in Judge Bork; they did little for
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