Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Netflix settles Class Action Suit - but you get nothing!

The other day I received this email:

If You Are a Current or Former Netflix Subscriber A Class Action Settlement Could Affect You

Para una notificación en Español, llamar 1-866-898-5088 o visitar www.VideoPrivacyClass.com

Our records show that you were a current or former Netflix subscriber as of July 5, 2012. We are emailing to tell you about a Settlement that may affect your legal rights. Please read this email carefully. Go to www.VideoPrivacyClass.com for more information.

A Settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit that claims Netflix unlawfully kept and disclosed information, including records on the movies and TV shows its customers viewed. Netflix denies that it has done anything wrong.

What does the Settlement provide?

Netflix has agreed to change its data retention practices so that it separates (known as “decoupling”) Entertainment Content Viewing History (that is, movies and TV shows that someone watched) from identification information for those subscribers who have not been a Netflix subscriber for at least 365 days, with some exceptions.

In addition, Netflix will pay $9 million into a Settlement Fund to:
• Make donations to Court-approved not-for-profit organizations, institutions, or programs.
• Pay notice and settlement administration expenses.
• Pay attorneys’ fees of up to 25% or $2.25 million of the Settlement Fund, plus up to $25,000 in expenses.
• Pay a total incentive award of $30,000 to the Named Plaintiffs.

Proposals from potential donation recipients will be sought, and, after consideration, recommendations will be made to the Court. A list of the proposed donation recipients will be posted on the website.

Your Options

If you do nothing, you will remain in the Settlement and your rights will be affected. If you do not want to be included, you must exclude yourself by November 14, 2012. If you exclude yourself you will keep your right to sue Netflix about the claims in this lawsuit. If you remain in the Settlement, you can object to it by November 14, 2012.

The Court will hold a hearing on December 5, 2012 to consider any objections, whether to approve the Settlement, award attorneys’ fees, and incentive award. You can appear at the hearing, but you don’t have to. You can hire your own attorney, at your own expense, to appear or speak for you at the hearing.

For more information: 1-866-898-5088    www.VideoPrivacyClass.com PO Box 2750 Faribault, MN 55021-9750


What's going on you ask?  Well, if you're a current or past Netflix subscriber you may be part of a Class Action suit, but you'll get nothing.  Basically, Netflix was sued for keeping track of the movies that you rented or streamed, both while you're a paying customer AND after you cancel your account, for up to 2 years - that's a big no no - AND they were using that information for Marketing

See, all the way back in the late 80's when video rentals were a new and exciting thing, Supreme Court Nominee Robert Bork's video rental history was released in a newspaper article.  So the The Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 was enacted to keep those records sealed - and make it unlawful for companies to share with others.  Just imagine if you were trying to get a job and they pulled your video rental records, would you want them to find out you rented "Donny Does Dallas" 23 times?

Also, this is the reason why you can't readily share your Netflix viewing history with  your friends via Facebook or any other current social media - because Netflix can't share the information legally.....but that doesn't stop them from keeping track of it, which is where this lawsuit comes to play.

But anywho, Netflix has apparently submitted a preliminary settlement, but you get nothing, other than the satisifaction of knowing that they won't be sharing your information anytime soon.  Some folks will be getting money, the six plaintiffs in the case will get to share $30,000; the attorney's will get up to $2.25MM and the remaining of the $9MM will go to some court-appointed Non-Profits (I wonder who those will be).  In addition Netflix will "de-couple" your billing information (your name, credit card, address) from your viewing history.

So don't get excited that you're involved in Class Action suit against Netflix, you get nothing - Money wise that is.

But it does bring up a really big question: Should The Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 be amended or changed to voluntarilly allow people to share their video rental history?  Or should it always be locked tight?

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