Sharing Netflix Passwords Is Now A Federal Crime — Find Out If YOU Could Be Prosecuted!

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Say it ain’t so!

These days, EVERYONE has an account with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, or some combination.

That is, unless their sister-in-law already had one…

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Quite a few people have access to the streaming services because they received the login name and password from either a friend or family member — Netflix in particular has made it incredibly easy to share an account with multiple logins and up to 6 devices.

But unfortunately, you may not be able to do that anymore — not legally anyway!

Last Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuit upheld a 2013 ruling that sharing passwords to an online account “without authorization” by the system owner is a violation of FEDERAL LAW.

This all came about as a result of the case of David Nosal, a former employee for search firm Korn Ferry who used the login info from a current employee to help gain information to establish a competing company.

Nosal was convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, but last week his case went up for appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court.

Ultimately, Judge M. Margaret McKeown ruled that the employee who shared the password with Nosal:

“had no authority from Korn/Ferry to provide her password to former employees whose computer access had been revoked.”

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As a result, Nosal will have to pay $827,983.25 in restitution and serve the one year and one day of prison time he was originally sentenced to.

There was one judge on the Ninth Circuit though that saw this ruling as a slippery slope as Judge Stephen Reinhardt pointed out:

“Today, addressing only slightly different conduct, the majority repudiates important parts of Nosal I, jeopardizing most password sharing. It loses sight of the anti-hacking purpose of the CFAA, and despite our warning, threatens to criminalize all sorts of innocuous conduct engaged in daily by ordinary citizens.”

His dissent brings up a scary point; “ordinary citizens” doing something similar like sharing passwords to streaming services could be prosecuted for something so incredibly trivial.

So what does this mean for you?!

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Well, nothing for now. The federal government isn’t looking to prosecute you or your sister-in-law. So while you technically COULD be guilty, one of the streaming services themselves would have to decide to go after half their users.

While we don’t exactly know HBO, Hulu, or Amazon’s stance on the whole sharing passwords thing, Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings talked about sharing passwords earlier this year saying:

“We love people sharing Netflix whether they’re two people on a couch or 10 people on a couch. That’s a positive thing, not a negative thing.”

Hastings even went on to specify that he’s okay with families sharing and doesn’t see it as that big of a deal:

“As kids move on in their life, they like to have control of their life, and as they have an income, we see them separately subscribe. It really hasn’t been a problem.”

Sure, the hit online service can change their mind at any point, but it’s nice to know that they’re extremely understanding and we can still share an account with our loved ones!

What do you think about the federal ruling?

Jul 12, 2016 9:37am PDT

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