Spokeo decision may not protect magazine sellers who violate VRPA

By S. Laney Griffo | Apr 4, 2017

DETROIT (Legal Newsline) - A Michigan court recently ruled the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Spokeo Inc. v. Robins will not protect alleged violators of Michigan’s Video Rental Privacy Act (VRPA).

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, in its Feb. 15 decision, also found that a 2016 amendment to VRPA does not apply retroactively.

Carolyn Perlin claimed Time Inc. violated VRPA when the company shared her personal information with data mining companies.

The defendants argued that under the Spokeo ruling Perlin didn’t have a claim because she didn’t suffer monetary loss.

“Under Spokeo, you have to demonstrate there’s been a concrete injury,” David Klein, a partner at Klein Moynihan Turco who specializes in internet marketing, told Legal Newsline.

The court, however, found that Perlin had suffered a monetary loss in her subscription fees that she paid to Time. It also found that Time violated the part of VRPA that says a person “shall not knowingly disclose,” and by doing that, it violated the “VRPA's substantive core,” the opinion stated.

"It violated the essence of the courts’ feelings on how this information should be used or shared,” Klein said. “When a person signs up for a magazine subscription, they don’t think their information will be shared with the magazine’s marketing partners.”

The other issue in this case was a 2016 VRPA amendment. According to an article Klein recently authored, the amendment will “require that each plaintiff suffer actual damages in order to bring a VRPA.”

The court ruled the amendment is not retroactive, stating in the opinion, “retroactive application would impair or destroy plaintiff's vested right to sue for statutory damages without making a showing of actual damages.”

Klein believes similar cases may continue to appear.

“This is a very sensitive area and it will continue to be fraught with risk,” he said.

Klein also advises magazines and online and offline publishers to clearly get the consent of their readers to collect, use and share their information.

“Absent of that, you’re rolling the dice,” he said. 

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