According to a letter to shareholders released yesterday, Netflix is finally going to launch an app to integrate itself with Facebook…in Latin America and Canada. Why is the U.S. missing out? That would be because of the Video Privacy Protection Act.
The VPPA – passed in 1988, following an alt-weekly’s publishing of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental history – is a recurring thorn in Netflix’s side (the company is already facing legal action because of it), but in this case, it entirely disrupts one of the main points of the proposed Netflix/Facebook pairing: the sharing of titles you’re viewing with your friends.
According to the VPPA, in order for such an act to be legal, Netflix would have to obtain written consent to share your viewing history every single time it wanted to do so – meaning, every time it wanted to publish your most recent rental/streamed video to your Facebook wall. That isn’t impossible, but it is annoying and disruptive enough to make people not want to participate, therefore defeating the entire purpose of the enterprise.
Plans are already afoot to change the law – PaidContent reports that a bi-partisan group of legislators have already introduced a bill to modify the VPPA to allow for continuous, online publishing permission rights to be given once on an ongoing basis – so it might not be too long before the US gets to experience Netflix on Facebook…but it’ll still be after Canadians and Latin Americans get the chance. Thanks, lawyers.
Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.