Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Panel Rejects Suit Over Sony’s Use of Customer Information
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit claiming that Sony Corporation violated federal law by retaining a customer’s personal identifying information for more than a year.
The panel concluded that a provision in the Video Privacy Protection Act prohibiting companies covered by the law from retaining such information for more than a year cannot be enforced in a privacy action. It also ruled that the law’s ban on disclosing such information to third parties did not apply to disclosures between Sony-affiliated companies.
Daniel Rodriguez sued Sony Computer Entertainment America, LLC and Sony Network Entertainment International, LLC. Rodriguez alleged that the two companies shared his personal information that he provided as a customer of Sony’s PlayStation Network, through which he had online gaming and video services streamed to his television set between 2008 and 2010.
He also claimed that Sony Computer should have destroyed his personal information a year after he provided it. Failing to do so, he said, violated the VPPA, which was famously adopted in 1988 in response to a Washington, D.C. weekly’s article publicizing Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental selections.
Judge Johnnie Rawlinson, writing for the Ninth Circuit, agreed with Chief District Judge Phyllis Hamilton of the Northern District of California that Congress never intended for the law to be used to sue video service providers.
The judge rejected the claim that the damages claim for unlawful retention was authorized by 18 U.S.C. §2710(c)(1), which allows a civil action for violation of “this section.” She noted that the Sixth and Seventh circuits have rejected the same argument, noting that §2710(c) does not explicate the scope of relief for violations, and holding that legislative intent was to provide a remedy only for unlawful disclosure, and not unlawful retention.
Rawlinson, citing a Senate Committee report, wrote:
““[T]he Act’s legislative history does not evince any Congressional intent to create a private right of action for a video service provider’s retention of a consumer’s personal
Information beyond the statutorily proscribed time limitations. When the Act was passed in 1988, its purpose was ‘[t]o preserve personal privacy with respect to the rental, purchase or delivery of video tapes or similar audio visual materials….’ It appears that Congress intended to fulfill its expressed purpose by providing a civil remedy for the unlawful disclosure of personal information, but not for unlawful retention of that information.”
The report, she pointed out, specifically refers to the possibility of an action for “unauthorized disclosure,” but makes no such mention to the possibility of a suit over unauthorized retention.
The case is Rodriguez v. Sony Computer Entertainment America, LLC, 12-17391
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