On March 13, Netflix announced the launch of Netflix Social, an application designed to take advantage of the recent amendments to the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act (“VPPA”) by permitting users to share favorite movies and shows with friends.
The VPPA was initially enacted to suppress a wake of bipartisan outrage in Congress over a newspaper’s publication of videotapes rented by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork in 1987. Since the passage of the VPPA in 1988, there have been dramatic changes to the commercial video distribution network. These changes required an update, according to Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the author of the amendments.
HR. 6671 easily passed through the House of Representatives and the Senate and was signed into law by President Obama on January 10th. Goodlatte explained that the VPPA amendments preserve “careful protections for consumers’ privacy while modernizing the law to empower consumers to do more with their video consumption preferences, including sharing favorite TV shows or recently watched movies via social media networks in a simple way.”
For the full text of H.R. 6671, please see the following link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr6671enr/pdf/BILLS-112hr6671enr.pdf
Sharing recently watched movies and TV shows now can be easily accomplished through Netflix Social. Netflix stated that subscribers using the new Netflix Social feature will “see what titles your friends have watched in a new ‘Watched by your friends’ row and what they have rated four or five stars in a new ‘Friends’ Favorites’ row. Your friends will also be able to see what you watch and rate highly.”
The company added that users could control what is shared with their friends. Netflix explained that if users did not want their friends to know about a particular movie, they could click a “Don’t Share This” button. It also said subscribers could decide to stop sharing altogether at any time.
(This post was contributed by Tricia Brauer. Thanks Tricia!)
(written by Tricia Brauer)
On December 19th, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) adopted final amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA”). The amendments were designed to strengthen kids’ privacy protections and give parents greater control over the personal information that websites and online services may collect from children under 13.
The FTC initiated a review of COPPA in 2010 to ensure that the Act tracked evolving technology and changes in the way children use and access the Internet, particularly mobile devices and social networking. The amendments to COPPA reflect the careful balance between protecting innovation and ensuring that parents are able to safeguard their children’s privacy.
The final amendments to COPPA include:
- modifying the list of “personal information” that cannot be collected without parental notice and consent, clarifying that this category includes geolocation information, photographs, and videos;
- offering companies a streamlined, voluntary and transparent approval process for new ways of getting parental consent;
- closing a loophole that allowed kid-directed apps and websites to permit third parties to collect personal information from children through plug-ins without parental notice and consent;
- extending coverage in some of those cases so that the third parties doing the additional collection also have to comply with COPPA;
- extending the COPPA Rule to cover persistent identifiers that can recognize users over time and across different websites or online services, such as IP addresses and mobile device IDs;
- strengthening data security protections by requiring that covered website operators and online service providers take reasonable steps to release children’s personal information only to companies that are capable of keeping it secure and confidential;
- requiring that covered website operators adopt reasonable procedures for data retention and deletion; and
- strengthening the FTC’s oversight of self-regulatory safe harbor programs.
For a more detailed outline of the COPPA amendments, please see: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2012/12/coppa.shtm.
The recent COPPA amendments were integral in settling the suit between the FTC and the social networking application Path on February 1, 2013. Path secretly collected information from mobile users’ address books without their consent, including information from children. Path was fined $800,000 for violating COPPA and received a court order to implement a comprehensive privacy program and submit to independent privacy assessments for the next twenty years.
The United States made new exemptions to Chapter 12 of Title 17 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), a copyright law enacted to implement provisions of the WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. It established a broad spectrum of rules which govern copyright owners, consumers, distributors, libraries, educators and online services providers in the digital marketplace.
Section 1201(a)(1)(A) of the DMCA specifically prohibits the circumvention of technological measures employed by or on behalf of the copyright owners to protect their works.
The new exemptions, which went into effect on October 28, 2012, characterize the following classes of works to be exempt from prohibition against circumvention of technological measures for the next three years:
- literary works distributed electronically – assistive technologies;
- wireless telephone handsets – software interoperability;
- wireless telephone handsets – interoperability with alternative networks;
- motion picture excerpts – commentary criticism and educational uses; and
- motion pictures and other audiovisual works – captioning and descriptive audio.
Other classes that were considered but were ultimately not chosen as exempt include digital access to literary works in the public domain, computer programs for interoperability for video game consoles, computer programs for interoperability for personal computing devices and space shifting for movies and other works in DVDs and other media. These exemptions were the fifth set since the enactment of the DMCA in 1998.
For more information regarding these new exemptions, please refer to the Federal Register notice available here: http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/DMCA-rule-77fr65260.pdf
Thanks to Tricia Brauer for the assist on getting this up!
Judge Pratt of the Southern District of Indiana upheld Friday the 2008 Indiana state law that prohibits convicted sex offenders in Indiana from using any social networking website, instant messaging, or chat rooms for the rest of his life. In her 18-page order, Judge Pratt found that the law only applies to social media sites where children under 18 are permitted to register and have accounts. (For example, LinkedIn is not covered by the law, because no one under 18 may use it.) The plaintiff in this case indicated that the restriction was overbroad and unconstitutional, because it prevented him from congregating and communicating on these sites for religious, political, and other legitimate/lawful purposes. Judge Pratt noted that, although this restriction seems broad, it still leaves open a huge section of the internet, including a multitude of communication options where the plaintiff in this case is permitted to communicate with others on those topics.
The order stressed, unsurprisingly, the protection and welfare of Indiana’s children. Judge Pratt relied on statistics from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which indicated the frequency with which children receive unwanted sexual content or solicitations online.
The director of the ACLU indicated on Monday that an appeal was possible.
Read the complaint, and the full order; thanks to IndianaLawBlog.com for the links.
Supporters of New York’s proposed I-STOP Bill have converged on Albany today to urge the state legislature to pass the bill, which would create an online, real-time database of controlled substance prescriptions. The New York Attorney General’s proposal for the bill can be found here.
The Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act would require pharmacists and prescribers to search for and report data regarding these prescriptions at various times during the treatment process. A doctor would have to review a patient’s past prescription history before writing the prescription; and a pharmacist would review the database to confirm the legitimacy of the prescription before dispensation. Both would be required to note the information on the patient’s file in the online database at that time.
While the primary goal is to ensure safe and effective health treatment, many of the supporters of the bill hope it will pass for a different reason: to prevent abuse of the controlled substances. A large number of the supporters in Albany today are mothers of children who overdosed on these drugs after obtaining multiple prescriptions either from their own doctor, or through “doctor-shopping.”
As is often the case with legislation aimed at the Internet, the goal here is noble but likely fraught with problems. Can such a database comply with HIPAA? How can we be sure our prescription information is as secure as it can be, when the database is accessible on the web?
More turmoil for the super-controversial eavesdropping laws in Illinois…
The Seventh Circuit ruled today that the law “likely violates” the First Amendment by making it illegal to make audio recordings of on-duty police officers in public settings without their consent.
Director of the ACLU Harvey Grossman, the party that brought the case to the 7th Circuit, noted in a statement on the ruling that “In order to make the rights of free expression and petition effective, individuals and organizations must be able to freely gather and record information about the conduct of government and their agents – especially the police.”
This ruling is especially interesting considering the recent statement by the City of Chicago that it did not plan on enforcing the rule during the upcoming NATO summit.
See our previous coverage on a proposed change to the law here, and continuing coverage on the law’s various court battles by Mudd Law Offices over here.
Cook County Judge Cepero ruled on Wednesday that Illinois’ Main Street Fairness Act is an unconstitutional regulation of interstate commerce by a state.
The nationwide battle over the collection of sales tax online is just another example of the government desperately trying to keep up with technology-driven changes in what was once a straightforward idea: shopping. Who collects a sales tax when we’re shopping in the cloud?
The Main Street Fairness Act attempted to nail online retailers like Amazon down to a brick-and-mortar presence in Illinois by incorporating affiliates into the statutory definition of “physical presence.” Affiliates are companies who refer online business to Amazon. CouponCabin.com is one of the largest of the nearly 9000 affiliate-type businesses in Illinois. A click-through referral from CouponCabin nets it a commission from Amazon on the eventual sale. Before the MSFA, Amazon didn’t have to collect Illinois sales tax on that purchase, resulting in a better deal for the consumer.
The MSFA was enacted in March of last year; on April 15, Amazon terminated its relationships with Illinois-based affiliates. Overstock.com made the same move on May 1. Thereafter, several Illinois affiliates were reported to be exploring the possibility of a move to Wisconsin or Indiana to avoid losing Amazon commission revenue.
The Illinois Department of Revenue, the loser in Wednesday’s ruling, has indicated that it is reviewing appeal options and reiterated that the MSFA was passed by both Illinois General Assembly houses with significant support.
This case highlights the difficulty of one state trying to regulate something as omnipresent as the Internet. Perhaps this issue is better suited for a federal solution? Sen. John Ensign (@JohnEnsign) thinks so; he sponsored the pending Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act of 2011 in the Senate. It currently sits in the Committee on Finance.
Is tax-fairness legislation necessary to even the playing field between online and brick-and-mortar retailers? Do we have legislators willing to learn the difference between the two in order to fairly regulate both? What do you think?
Although not Internet related, there is interesting stuff stirring in Illinois…
Under a woefully outdated eavesdropping statute, it is currently illegal in Illinois to tape or video record an on duty police officer. If convicted, it could net you up to fifteen years in prison. Late last month, HB 3944, an attempt to decriminalize this conduct, failed to pass the Illinois House.
The amendment would carve out an exception to the eavesdropping law by allowing a person who is not a law enforcement officer (nor acting at one’s direction) to “record the conversation of a law enforcement officer who is performing a public duty in a public place and any other person who is having a conversation with that law enforcement officer if the conversation is at a volume audible to the unassisted ear of the person who is making the recording.”
Although the amendment failed, there has been support from judges in Illinois on this issue. Read more about the recent findings by these judges that the law is unconstitutional on MLO’s blog here.
Last week, my colleague Mark posted about a bill in Arizona that would criminalize any electronic communication or posting intended to be annoying, offensive, or obscene. That seems to cover, oh I don’t know, most of the Internet?
For example, as Eugene Volokh pointed out, pretty much every irritating blog commenter could be thrown in jail:
So, under the statute, posting a comment to a newspaper article — or a blog — saying that the article or post author is “fucking out of line” would be a crime: It’s said with intent to offend, it uses an electronic or digital device, and it uses what likely will be seen as profane language (see, e.g., City of Columbia Falls v. Bennett (Mont. 1991)). Likewise if a blog poster were to post the same in response to a commenter’s comment. Likewise if someone posts something in response to an e-mail on an e-mail-based discussion list, or in a chatroom, or wherever else.
Naturally, there was a not-small amount of uproar over the bill’s extreme, and likely unconstitutionally broad, phrasing. The bill was passed by the Arizona legislature a week ago, and the lawmakers have apparently been at least a little annoyed and irritated by the response because they’re now scrambling to make some amendments.
Arizona State Rep. Ted Vogt (@VogtForArizona) put the bill on time-out so the concerns of the public could be addressed and, hopefully, incorporated. Vogt has indicated that the revised version would more precisely state that it is intended to stop an individual from specifically targeting and harassing another individual online. Rep. Vic Williams (@VicWilliams) also made extensive comments to the media about the good intentions of the legislature in passing the bill, and the goals they hope to still accomplish.
Abbreviation central: Mudd Law Offices has launched its own short URL service at mlo.bz. All our short URLs here at Legislation Superhighway will now be linked through there. Pretty cool!