Denied Again: Alleged Violation of Statute is Enough for Hulu Privacy Case to Proceed

by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

On December 20, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order in In re: Hulu Privacy Litigation that solely addressed the issue of whether the Video Privacy Protection Act (the “VPPA”) requires plaintiffs to show actual injury that is separate from a statutory violation to recover actual or liquidated damages. This is the second setback for Hulu. The court denied Hulu’s Motion to Dismiss more than a year ago, holding that online streaming video content is covered by the VPPA, despite the statute’s emphasis on prerecorded video cassette tapes and “similar audio visual materials.” The Court also found that any user of Hulu’s streaming service was a protected “consumer” under the statute, whether or not the user paid for the service.

In its first Motion for Summary Judgment, Hulu argued that in order for a person to be “aggrieved” under the VPPA, the plaintiff must suffer an actual injury beyond the statutory injury. However, parts of the opinion suggest that Hulu had not briefed the issues optimally, confusing whether injury was necessary to confer Article III standing requirements, recover liquidated damages, or both.  In any event, Magistrate Judge Beeler addressed both arguments.

The order adds to the split of authority on this issue, holding that although the VPPA provides a remedy to “aggrieved” persons, no showing of actual injury is required, only a wrongful disclosure. This is consistent with the decision in In re Google Inc. Gmail Litigation, where Judge Koh held that allegations of a statute alone, without showing actual damages, is sufficient to establish standing.

Relying on Sterk v. Best Buy Stores, L.P., Hulu argued that actual injury is a prerequisite to recovering statutory damages. In Sterk, the Northern District of Illinois held that a plaintiff must plead an injury beyond a statutory violation to meet the standing requirement of Article III. Contrary to the Northern District of Illinois and the Seventh Circuit, the Ninth Circuit recognizes that a plaintiff satisfies Article III’s injury-in-fact requirement by simply alleging a violation of a statutorily-created right.  Moreover, Magistrate Judge Beeler differentiated the cases through the apparent disclosures. In Sterk v. Best Buy, the Plaintiff’s information had been transferred by a wholly-owned subsidiary to a parent company, whereas in the case at hand, Plaintiff’s personally identifiable information had allegedly been disclosed to unaffiliated third parties.

The court similarly reconciled her opinion with the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Sterk v. Redbox Automated Retail, where Sterk alleged that he was entitled to the VPPA’s statutory damages when Redbox failed to destroy his records within one year, as required by the statute. In that case, Judge Posner dismissed the case, finding that the Plaintiff could not recover statutory damages without a disclosure of the records, as required in subsection (b)(1) of the statute.

Hulu’s second Motion for Summary Judgment is still pending and addresses the argument that it did not “knowingly” transmit “personally identifiable information” to comScore and Facebook in violation of the VPPA; in addition to an individual being aggrieved, under the VPPA the provider must have knowingly disclosed PII for a cause of action to arise. This motion and Plaintiff’s motion for class certification are set for hearing February 6, 2014.  Maybe the third time will be a charm.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Davis Wright Tremaine LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.