Have you ever shared your Netflix password with a friend?
Have you ever watched HBO Go using a family member’s account information? Let’s admit it, we’ve all done it. Are you one of the many who freaked out amidst rumors that such password sharing had recently been deemed a federal crime?
Calm down, everybody, and don’t believe everything you hear. A number of news outlets falsely reported that, due to a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the practice of sharing your login information to access streaming services had become punishable as a felony.
Sensational headlines such as “Federal Court Rules That Sharing Is Illegal Under Insane Ancient Law” were peppered across newspapers and the Internet. Social media responded, with users spreading the story through the rumor mill.
The case never even mentioned Netflix
These false claims have been clarified, thanks to Kim LaCapria at Snopes.com, a website famous for uncovering the truth behind urban legends and other questionable gossip.
The court case in question concerned a former employee of a company, whose login privileges had been revoked, using a current employee’s username and password to gain access to computer data. In this case, the court ruled that the former employee’s attempts to log in violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act because their previous authorization to access said computers had been revoked.
The case had absolutely nothing to do with Netflix or any other streaming service. Netflix was not even mentioned once in the entire 67 page opinion released by the court.
Making criminals of password sharers? Nope
One dissenting judge expressed concern that the decision might “make criminals of” people who share passwords, “who would have little reason to suspect they are committing a federal crime.” But the other judges involved assured the court that their “conclusion does nothing to expand the scope of violations under the CFAA.”
In other words, one judge was worried that the case might make password sharing illegal, but in fact, it does nothing of the kind.
Keep on keepin’ on
In reality, streaming services know that people share passwords, and they don’t seem to particularly care. HBO and Netflix have both reported that they are aware that people share passwords, but it doesn’t cause much of a problem, and they have no plans to crack down on the practice.
In fact, Netflix says that “as long as they aren’t selling them, members can use their passwords however they please,” and feel that password sharing is a good way to attract new customers.
So take a deep breath, and keep watching Game of Thrones on your roommate’s HBO account.