Blocked, Buster: Video Rental Company Settles Lawsuit

VHS collection

A settlement has been reached by top video rental company, Blockbuster, in a class-action lawsuit.  A Minnesota man, Baseem Missaghi, claimed that Blockbuster has been violating the Video Privacy Protection Act. The Privacy Protection Act was created specifically for rental companies like Blockbuster to prevent harvesting their end user’s information. The law states that video rental companies are not allowed to unveil information specific to each user’s account without their consent. Blockbuster had reportedly been holding onto the private data for millions of their consumers across the world. As part of the settlement, Blockbuster was required to pay lawyer fees totaling around $140,000.

One of the things I’m not quite clear on is to why there is a law in place that prevents companies from keeping their users’ information on file. If an end user has willingly given a company their business, in the form of money and contact information, where is the issue? This class-action does not mention whether or not Blockbuster was mining this data and re-selling it elsewhere; that I would have a major problem with. Additionally, why was the settlement non-monetary? If I were Mr. Missaghi or any of the other people of this class-action, I would have definitely gone after some money or at least a lifetime subscription. You can’t deny the fact that free rentals for life would almost be worth a paycheck with a comma in it.

Personally, I think this case is an odd representation of violating a privacy agreement. I think there’s a difference between the unlicensed distribution of data that you’d find via internet piracy and the idea of Blockbuster simply keeping information on file. I’m not sure how valuable a privacy agreement that prevents companies from using their own personal business for research on ways to improve their service. In fact, analyzing data is one of the best ways a company can grow. It’s not as if Blockbuster is some big, evil corporation that sits up it its Ivory Tower and hates its consumers. They’ve always been a bubbly, friendly company that was simply providing a service. I think this is an unfortunate case of a group of people taking advantage of a silly law. Sounds like the wrong party got busted on this block.


hat actually sees them avoiding the loss of a large, lump sum of cash.