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Home > Privacy and Business > Privacy Law Governing the Private Sector > Select Statutes > The Video Privacy Protection Act

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 consumers.


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[updated 8/29/00]

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