Uh Oh...Sharing Your Netflix Password Is Technically a Crime

Government regularly conjures up policy with unintended consequences. A recent appeals court ruling, intended to uphold cyber security, could be interpreted to criminalize common behavior. From Collider:

On July 5th, a ruling issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that using passwords for someone’s computer system without the authorization of the system’s owner is technically a crime that violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The specific case pertained to a former employee at an executive-search firm using the log-in credentials of a current employee without authorization by the company to access computer data owned by the former employer.

The problem is the line between criminal intent and the daily grind of logging into Netflix, HBO GO, and similar video streaming platforms may be blurred.

You needn’t go on the lam just yet though. Chances are, even if sharing passwords to streaming services proves illegal under this ruling, no one will be kicking down your door anytime soon.

Even if [the strictest] reading of the ruling becomes enforced, that would mean we need permission from said services to share someone’s passwords, and the CEOs for Netflix and HBO have been pretty cool about this whole business for some time.

Streaming companies know that their customers share passwords. Some address the issue by limiting the number of devices which can concurrently stream programming.

In any case, letting a friend or relative mooch an account serves as a kind of trial. Ultimately, if they come to desire their own profile and unlimited access to streaming, they will subscribe. Password sharing thus helps, rather than hurts, the business model.