It's Now A Federal Crime To Share Your HBO GO And Netflix Passwords

"Millions of people who engage in this ubiquitous, useful, and generally harmless conduct [have been made] into unwitting federal criminals."

By Eric Shorey

We all like to think of ourselves as nice, upstanding, law abiding citizens. The truth is we all break the law every day: we jaywalk, we smoke pot, we dont buckle our seatbelts, whatever. Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit have decided that sharing passwords on streaming services like HBO GO and Netflix is a federal crime. Guess we can add that to the long list of laws that none of us will ever actually obey.

The decision was made by a three-judge panel who declared that "a user cannot circumvent a computer system's security measures by 'going through the back door and accessing the computer through a third party,' per the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act."

The case, United States v. David Nosal, actually had very little to do with your binge-watching habit and was more about "sharing passwords without the authorization of the system’s owner." According to ABC7, "Defendant David Nosal allegedly used his colleague's credentials to access propriety information owned by his former employer, Korn/Ferry, after he left to start a competing recruitment firm." The court found Nosal guilty, fining him $827,983.25 in restitution. He was also sentenced to prison time.

But a dissenting opinion pointed out that the harsh decision made by the panel had implications beyond authorization and system management: "In my view, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ('CFAA') does not make the millions of people who engage in this ubiquitous, useful, and generally harmless conduct into unwitting federal criminals," wrote judge Stephen Reinhardt, arguing against his benchmates.

Meanwhile, the head honchos over at Netflix don't really give a f*ck if you're sharing you're password or not: “We love people sharing Netflix whether they’re two people on a couch or 10 people on a couch,” Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, said on TechCrunch. “That’s a positive thing, not a negative thing.”

So, fine. It's illegal to share Netflix accounts now. Whatever. It's not like police are going to storm my bedroom as I watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer on my mom's account for the thousandth time. Ain't no one actually getting punished for this. Let's just go about our business as usual and hope to never hear about this again.


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