July 19, 2023
On July 18, 2023, Weil won a complete victory for Paramount Global in a putative nationwide class action alleging violations of the federal Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), when the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee granted Paramount’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim in its entirety.
The plaintiff in this case subscribed by email to a free newsletter when he visited 247Sports.com (a popular website that focuses on news about college sports and recruiting), and allegedly also viewed videos and other content on the 247Sports.com website. The newsletter, though, is a separate offering from the video content found on the website. The plaintiff alleged that Paramount disclosed his online video-viewing history to Meta, through the use of an embedded piece of code called the Meta Pixel, in violation of the VPPA.
The VPPA was originally enacted in 1988 after a newspaper published information about Judge Robert Bork’s video rental history at a local movie rental store. In relevant part, the VPPA holds that “[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.”
Paramount moved to dismiss, maintaining that the plaintiff was trying to extend the reach of the VPPA beyond its intended scope of protecting the privacy of video-watching activity. The court agreed, finding the plaintiff failed to state a claim under the VPPA because signing up for the newsletter—which is “not audio visual content”—did not make the plaintiff a “consumer” within the meaning of the statute. In reaching its conclusion, the court emphasized that the statute must be analyzed “as a whole[,]” and that individuals can be considered subscribers “under the statute only when they subscribe to audio visual materials[.]” It further noted that finding otherwise “would lead to an unreasonable interpretation of the statute[,]” imposing liability in situations that have “nothing to do with video content” and which are “ill suited for a claim under the Video Privacy Protection Act.”
In its Opinion, the court “agree[d] with and incorporate[d] the statutory interpretation of the court” in Carter v. Scripps Networks, LLC, another VPPA case in which Weil recently prevailed on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
This is the third recent victory Weil has won in a VPPA class action, following another win for Paramount Global on a motion to compel arbitration in June 2023, and an earlier motion to dismiss victory for Scripps Networks in April 2023.