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What the Netflix Lawsuit is All About

If you’re like me, you woke up this morning to an email entitled “Video Privacy Lawsuit — Current and Former Netflix Subscribers” and wondered what was going on. Most of the Netflix-related emails I receive ask “How was the video quality of C.H.U.D.?”, so I was taken aback by the letter and decided to do some research. Here’s what you need to know:

What’s the lawsuit about?

Releasing your data. Netflix is accused of unlawfully keeping and disclosing the viewing and rental history of former customers. In other words, if you were a subscriber until 2007, Netflix is accused of holding onto (and possibly profiting from) the fact that you rented The Matrix Reloaded. It’s okay. We thought it would be a good movie too.

What’s a class action?

Class action lawsuits are formed when a handful of plaintiffs sue a copmany or individual on their behalf and the behalf of other, “similarly situated” parties. In this case, that means a handful of customers sued Netflix for their data retention policies on the behalf of millions of Netflix subscribers.

Who’s a plaintiff in this case?

Basically everyone who’s ever used Netflix. According to the lawsuit itself, a class member is defined as someone who was a “current or former subscriber as of July 5, 2012.”

What’s the status of the lawsuit?

It’s been settled. A judge has preliminarily approved a $9 million settlement and Netflix has agreed to change its privacy and data storing policies. Netflix denies wrongdoing, but has agreed to essentially scrap all viewing history after ex-customers have been gone for a full year.

So, wait. $9 million?! How much of that do I get?

Zilch. The original plaintiffs will split $30,000, while their attorneys will get $2.25 million (which is good work if you can get it). Netflix will also pay administrative expenses (such as the cost of alerting plaintiffs) and make donations to Court-approved non-profits.

Then why did I receive this email in the first place?

So you could take action if you wanted to. You could exclude yourself from the class and thus keep your right to sue Netflix if you wanted to, for whatever strange reason. You can also object to the settlement as a member of the class or speak at a court hearing on December 5th of this year.

What happens if I do nothing?

You probably won’t notice a thing. Unlike a 2005 Netflix settlement, where customers were treated to a one-month upgrade, this settlement won’t affect your account or your pocketbook. When you quit Netflix (if you ever do), they’re now obligated to not disclose your data after 365 days.

What movie should I watch next?

I saw Drive last night. It was pretty good. Just as long as you’re not this lady.

Is there anything else I should know?

Not much. There’s a website dedicated to the this lawsuit and settlement – www.VideoPrivacyClass.com — so if you want to get the important dates, read the complaint, or peruse the settlement agreement, that’s available.

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