For a PlayStation owner with a decidedly paranoid view as to what happened or what might occur with his personal information, especially data on his movie-viewing habits, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has just handed down a ruling that best can be summarized in two words: buzz off. The appellate judges based in California thereby joined judicial colleagues in a federal district court in Oakland as well as jurists on the appellate benches in the Sixth and Seventh circuits in tossing the lawsuits filed by PlayStation owner Daniel Rodriguez, who claimed that others should be allowed to join him in a class action against two Sony subsidiaries.
Rodriguez had sought to get courts to apply the 1988 federal Video Protection Act to data that Sony might have and might have shared through his owning of a PlayStation gaming console. For those who have forgotten the madness on all sides associated with the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Judge Robert Bork, the video act was a legacy of his confirmation fight. It sought to bar disclosure by video services of consumers’ personal information, especially their movie-viewing habits, as happened to Bork.
Although the videotaped movie has become almost as extinct as a Chevy Corvair, post-Bork service providers like Redbox, which operated stand-alone kiosks where customers could rent tapes, have run afoul of and successfully defended themselves against consumer complaints about their handling of their information, see Sterk v. Redbox Automated Retail, LLC, 770 F.3d 618, 623 (7thCir. 2014).
But as in Sterk (which actually became two cases decided in appellate courts), the courts have set a key and fundamental barrier to claims under the Video Protection Act–asking what demonstrable harm have the plaintiffs suffered to pursue an action? A federal district court applied this test to Rodriguez and his Sony suits, which have been filed and withdrawn and refiled in various iterations. The district court tossed Rodriguez’s suits. The appellate judges also found merit lacking in his assertion that his personal information improperly was breached when two Sony subisidiaries, Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Network Entertainment International, shared it.