Bloomberg News

Congress Urged by Netflix, Facebook to Revise Video Rental Law

October 10, 2011

Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Netflix Inc. joined Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and IAC/InterActiveCorp. in urging U.S. lawmakers to change a 1988 privacy law that limits the disclosure of information about consumers’ movie rentals.

Netflix has backed House legislation that would allow its customers to share their favorite movies and TV shows with friends on Facebook, the world’s most popular social network. The companies supported the measure in an Oct. 6 letter to the top Republican and Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, which is set to vote on the bill on Thursday.

The Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 was enacted when people watched videocassette tapes from brick-and-mortar rental stores, and “many of the technologies consumers use today had not been invented,” the companies wrote in the letter addressed to Representative Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and the committee’s chairman, and John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat.

The proposed bill “empowers consumers to make decisions about how they wish to share their experience on social networks and content sites such as Netflix, Facebook, and Google,” according to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News.

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg on Sept. 22 unveiled new ways for members to share music, movies, TV shows and other content on the social network. Netflix took part in the announcement but said its U.S. members wouldn’t be able to share their favorite movies on Facebook because of the 1988 law, and urged its customers to push Congress to pass “modernizing” legislation.

Bork Nomination

The Video Privacy Protection Act was passed in response to the disclosure of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video- rental records to a newspaper, according to the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center. The law prohibits businesses from releasing video-rental information without a customer’s consent.

The House bill, H.R. 2471, was introduced by Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, and is co-sponsored by more than 20 other lawmakers from both parties. It would allow video providers to obtain “ongoing” consumer consent for sharing through the Internet.

Steve Swasey, a Netflix spokesman, said the companies’ letter speaks for itself and provided no additional comment. Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman, and Mistique Cano, a Google spokeswoman, said they had no comment beyond the letter. An IAC representative didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and e- mail seeking comment.

--With assistance from Brian Womack in San Francisco. Editors: Michael Shepard, Andrea Snyder

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Engleman in Washington at eengleman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Shepard at mshepard7@bloomberg.net


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