On January 10, 2013, President Obama signed the Video Privacy Protection Act Amendments of 2012 (P.L. 112-258) (the “VPPA Amendments Act”). The new law updates the Video Privacy Protection Act (“VPPA”) by allowing consumers to consent to having their video viewing records shared automatically for up to two years. The VPPA Amendments Act also adds requirements for obtaining such consent whether online or offline.

Previously, consumers were required to grant consent for entities to disclose their video viewing records at the time of each intended disclosure. Proponents of the VPPA Amendments Act argued that the development of social media sites and new technologies such as video content platforms made the structure of obtaining consent cumbersome and outmoded.

The VPPA, as amended, now states that consent for disclosure can be obtained in advance and electronically. Thus, for example, a service may now give customers the choice up front to share all of their video viewing choices with their online social networking contacts on a continuous basis.

Whether offline or online, consent will now need to meet three requirements: (1) must be obtained distinctly and separately from other legal or financial disclosures; (2) may be obtained at the time the disclosure is sought or in advance for a set period of time up to two years (unless consent is withdrawn); and (3) must give consumers a clear opportunity to opt-out of case-by-case or ongoing disclosure.

Other provisions of the VPPA remain in place, such as the ability for entities to disclose consumers’ names, addresses, and general subject matter of the viewing material to anyone without affirmative consent, if the disclosure is for marketing purposes and if the video service provider has given consumers the opportunity to opt out of the disclosure.