Online music company Pandora is asking for a privacy lawsuit against it to be dismissed on the grounds that a Michigan law protecting the confidentiality of consumers' music and video rentals does not apply to material streamed on the Web.
“Pandora webcasts music performances and does not sell, rent or lend sound recordings. As such, it is not subject to the VRPA [Video Rental Privacy Act] and this case must be dismissed,” the company says in papers filed recently with the court.
Pandora filed its motion in response to a lawsuit brought in September by Michigan resident Peter Deacon. He alleges that Pandora's integration with Facebook in April 2010 resulted in the disclosure of "sensitive listening records" to his social networking contacts.
Deacon argues that Pandora's Facebook integration violated Michigan's Video Rental Privacy Act, which prohibits companies that sell or rent books, music or videos from disclosing customers' identities without their consent. That law was enacted in Michigan more than 20 years ago -- around the same time that Congress passed the federal Video Privacy Protection Act. The Michigan law is broader than the federal statute, which only applies to movies.
But Pandora contends that the statute applies only to the “sale, rental or lending” of music, and not to public performances. The company says it's an Internet radio provider, not a rental service. Deacon's “attempt to characterize Pandora as a 'lender' not only flies in the face of the common-sense understanding of 'rent' or 'lend,' but also conflicts with federal law holding that Internet radio stations that stream music are 'performing' it, subject to a statutory license,” Pandora argues.
The matter is pending in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif.