Sharing Your Netflix Password Could Become A Federal Crime
Listen up Netflix users and fellow binge watchers. A lot of us are guilty of this.
We've all done it. Your friends or family decide to watch House of Cards, or they finally give in to the hype you've been building up about Breaking Bad or Jessica Jones. To do so, the easiest solution is to shoot them a text, letting them know your ever important Netflix password (in this scenario, your friends or family have lives, so they haven't formed the binge watching habits you have, hence, they don't have a Netflix account). You have willingly shared your Netflix password. No big deal, right? Until it is.
This past week, three judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruled that sharing online passwords could be considered a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Thanks to the decision in United States v. Nosal, the ruling means that sharing passwords is a criminal act.
The party involved in the aforementioned case is David Nosal, a former employee of the headhunting firm Korn/Ferry. After Nosal had left the company, he used the password of a person still with the company to download information from Korn/Ferry's database for use at his new firm. Soon after, Nosal was charged with hacking.
So what does this mean for you when your friends with your Netflix password finally decide they want to start watching Orange Is The New Black? Nothing just yet. However, according to the language used in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, it's just vague enough so that everyone who has given away their streaming password is complicit. Basically if they wanted to, Netflix could go after users, but they haven't and likely won't.
Dissenting judge Stephen Reinhardt said in an interview with Fusion, "this case is about password sharing. People frequently share their passwords, notwithstanding the fact that websites and employers have policies prohibiting it. In my view, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act does not make the millions of people who engage in this ubiquitous, useful, and generally harmless conduct into unwitting federal criminals.”
So in the meantime, share your Netflix password with whoever you want. Unless of course it's your mooching ex who has the audacity to selfishly ask you for it since they can't afford the $9.99 per month fee. If that's the case, then you might want to change all your passwords. Problem solved.