April 24, 2014

The Law Does Not Always Keep Up With Technology

Connecticut entrepreneurs need to remain mindful of anachronistic laws. Connecticut businesses used to be able to rely on laws passed in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, but the technology and social media booms of the past ten or so years may cause those laws to be overlooked.

This problem is no more apparent than with the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2710. Passed by Congress and signed into law in 1988, the VPPA was an immediate reaction to the events surrounding the Robert Bork Supreme Court nomination.

While Judge Bork was waiting to receive confirmation from the Senate on his eventually unsuccessful nomination, a writer named Michael Dolan came across Judge Bork's video rental information and published it in the Washington D.C. City Paper. Though nothing embarrasing was found in his rental history, a debate over video rental privacy commenced, and the VPPA was passed. In simplest terms, the VPPA made the leaking of video rental history punishable by up to a $2500 fine.

In the midst of digital age of Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, and Twitter, however, action has been taken to reduce the VPPA's power with respect to social media. Ironically coinciding with Judge Bork's recent death on December 19, 2012, a Congressional bill was just passed amending the VPPA to allow social media sharing of Netflix and other video rental records.

On January 10, 2013, President Obama signed H.R. 6671 into law, allowing video rental companies like Netflix to post customer viewing preferences on social networking sites provided they obtain customer consent.

While the VPPA is limited to a specific industry, Connecticut business owners should remain cognizant of potentially outdated laws and should continually ensure their practices are lawful, no matter how technology develops.

© 2014 by Raymond Law Group LLC.

About the Author

Senior Associate

Jay Marshall Wolman has served as an advocate or neutral in hundreds of contested matters, appearing before state and federal courts and agencies in Massachusetts and throughout the United States. His experience includes commercial disputes, consumer class actions, and personal injury, including products liability. As a civil litigator, a substantial portion of Attorney Wolman's practice has included representation of employers and employees in workplace matters, including discrimination on the bases of race, sex, pregnancy and disability, wage and hour disputes, occupational safety...


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