On November 29, 2012, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved several amendments to H.R. 2471, including a provision inserting a second section on "Electronic... Read More


This bill was introduced in a previous session of Congress and was passed by the House on Dec 6, 2011 but was never passed by the Senate.


Date Introduced
Jul 8, 2011


Bill Text


To amend section 2710 of title 18, United States Code, to clarify that a video tape service provider may obtain a consumer's informed, written consent on an ongoing basis and that consent may be obtained through the Internet.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


Section 2710(b)(2) of title 18, United States Code, is amended by striking subparagraph (B) and inserting the following: ``(B) to any person with the informed, written consent (including through an electronic means using the Internet) of the consumer given at one or both of the following times: ``(i) The time the disclosure is sought. ``(ii) In advance for a set period of time or until consent is withdrawn by such consumer.''. <all>

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(Washington, DC – October 13, 2011) In response to the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of H.R. 2471, Gregory Alan Barnes, Director of Government Affairs for the Digital Media Association, issued the following statement: “H.R. 2471 represents an important step forward for video service providers that are covered under the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 (“VPPA”). The bill’s passage will make it easier for consumers and covered services to come to an agreement over the exact terms and circumstances by which an individual’s rental history of prerecorded video cassette tapes or similar audio-visual materials can be shared with friends or acquaintances online. “We commend Representative Bob Goodlatte and other members of the House Judiciary Committee for their leadership on this issue, and their willingness to update current law while not changing the scope or breadth of service providers covered under the VPPA’s existing provisions.”

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The Video Privacy Protection Act was passed in 1988 following the disclosure of the private video rental records of a Supreme Court nominee by a video rental store to a news organization. There was broad-based support for passage and the Act was signed into law by President Reagan. The VPPA is considered a model privacy law in many respects - it is technology neutral, focusing on the obligations of businesses and the rights of customers in the collection and use of personal information. It makes clear the circumstances when personal information may be disclosed and it provides a private right of action when violations occur. The VPPA makes no specific references to particular technologies. First Amendment concerns are addressed in the Act by recognizing that when the press seeks to publish information, Congress may not limit the rights of the press. However, businesses that collect information from their customers have an obligation to safeguard that information and to ensure it is used only for appropriate purposes. As with most privacy laws, the VPPA contains a consent provision that allows individuals to disclose their personal information to others if they wish. There is nothing in the Act that prevents individuals from so doing. H.R. 2471 would undermine the key provision in the VPPA, which is the right of users to give meaningful consent to the disclosure of their personal information. Such blanket consent provisions transfer control from the individual user to the company in possession of the data and diminish the control that Netflix customers would have in the use and disclosure of their personal information. While we recognize that other companies routinely report on the activities of their customers, we note that Facebook users have never been particularly happy about this - the history of Beacon is well known - and also that the routine disclosure of video viewing activities is not something that most Facebook users are clamoring for. if anything, most Netflix users seem to be unhappy about the company's disregard for its customers. The proposal is particularly surprising in light of the recent decision by the Federal Trade Commission concerning Facebook and privacy, which found that when companies seek to change the privacy defaults of their users, they are essentially engaging in an unfair and deceptive trade practice. That would be the practical impact of this amendment- to take away control of the user's information after the user had subscribed to the service. There is nothing in the proposal that would "modernize" the Act; it simply allows Netflix to post more information about the activity of its customers, whether or not the customers would choose to post such information themselves. EPIC would therefore recommend that members of Congress vote NO on H.R. 2471. Users remain free to disclose their video viewing habits if they wish; there is no reason to change the default. EPIC would also recommend a hearing on the legislation so that all views, both for and against, can be presented, and Members are provided an opportunity to fully assess the proposal. Privacy is the number one concern of Internet users today. lt would be foolish to adopt an amendment that weakens privacy legislation already in place.

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Bill Summary

On November 29, 2012, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved several amendments to H.R. 2471, including a provision inserting a second section on "Electronic Communications Privacy." Read the Substitute Amendment that passed the Committee.

H.R. 2470 E-SERV Act H.R. 2472 Health Care Professionals Protection Act of 2011