The Video Privacy Protection Act

18USCSec. 2710 — Wrongful Disclosure of Video Tape Rental or Sale Records


(a) Definitions. – For purposes of this section –

the term ”consumer” means any renter, purchaser, or subscriber of goods

or services from a video tape service provider;

the term ”ordinary course of business” means only debt collection activities,

order fulfillment, request processing, and the transfer of ownership;

the term ”personally identifiable information” includes information which

identifies a person as having requested or obtained specific video materials

or services from a video tape service provider; and

the term ”video tape service provider” means any person, engaged in the

business, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, of rental, sale, or

delivery of prerecorded video cassette tapes or similar audio visual

materials, or any person or other entity to whom a disclosure is made

under subparagraph (D) or (E) of subsection (b)(2), but only with respect

to the information contained in the disclosure.

(b) Video Tape Rental and Sale Records. –

A video tape service provider who knowingly discloses, to any person,

personally identifiable information concerning any consumer of such

provider shall be liable to the aggrieved person for the relief provided in

subsection (d).

A video tape service provider may disclose personally identifiable

information concerning any consumer –

(A) to the consumer;

(B) to any person with the informed, written consent of the consumer

given at the time the disclosure is sought;

(C) to a law enforcement agency pursuant to a warrant issued under the

Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, an equivalent State warrant,

a grand jury subpoena, or a court order;

(D) to any person if the disclosure is solely of the names and addresses

of consumers and if –

(i)  the video tape service provider has provided the consumer

with the opportunity, in a clear and conspicuous manner, to

prohibit such disclosure; and

(ii) the disclosure does not identify the title, description, or

subject matter of any video tapes or other audio visual

material; however, the subject matter of such materials may

be disclosed if the disclosure is for the exclusive use of

marketing goods and services directly to the consumer;

(E) to any person if the disclosure is incident to the ordinary course of

business of the video tape service provider; or

(F) pursuant to a court order, in a civil proceeding upon a showing of

compelling need for the information that cannot be accommodated

by any other means, if –

(i) the consumer is given reasonable notice, by the person

seeking the disclosure, of the court proceeding relevant to the

issuance of the court order; and

(ii) the consumer is afforded the opportunity to appear and

contest the claim of the person seeking the disclosure. If an

order is granted pursuant to subparagraph (C) or (F), the

court shall impose appropriate safeguards against unauthorized


Court orders authorizing disclosure under subparagraph (C) shall issue only

with prior notice to the consumer and only if the law enforcement agency

shows that there is probable cause to believe that the records or other

information sought are relevant to a legitimate law enforcement inquiry. In

the case of a State government authority, such a court order shall not issue

if prohibited by the law of such State. A court issuing an order pursuant to

this section, on a motion made promptly by the video tape service provider,

may quash or modify such order if the information or records requested are

unreasonably voluminous in nature or if compliance with such order

otherwise would cause an unreasonable burden on such provider.

(c) Civil Action. –

Any person aggrieved by any act of a person in violation of this section may

bring a civil action in a United States district court.

The court may award –

(A) actual damages but not less than liquidated damages in an amount

of $2,500;

(B) punitive damages;

(C) reasonable attorneys’ fees and other litigation costs reasonably incurred; and

(D) such other preliminary and equitable relief as the court determines to be


No action may be brought under this subsection unless such action is begun

within 2 years from the date of the act complained of or the date of discovery.

No liability shall result from lawful disclosure permitted by this section.

(d) Personally Identifiable Information. – Personally identifiable information obtained

in any manner other than as provided in this section shall not be received in evidence

in any trial, hearing, arbitration, or other proceeding in or before any court, grand jury,

department, officer, agency, regulatory body, legislative committee, or other authority

of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision of a State.

(e) Destruction of Old Records. – A person subject to this section shall destroy

personally identifiable information as soon as practicable, but no later than one year

from the date the information is no longer necessary for the purpose for which it was

collected and there are no pending requests or orders for access to such information

under subsection (b)(2) or (c)(2) or pursuant to a court order.

(f) Preemption. – The provisions of this section preempt only the provisions of State

or local law that require disclosure prohibited by this section.


(Added Pub. L. 100-618, Sec. 2(a)(2), Nov. 5, 1988, 102 Stat. 3195.)