Earlier this month, a Federal Appeals Court handed down a ruling stating that password-sharing is now a federal crime according to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This of course sent the internet into a tizzy, with numerous people asking the question: what does that mean for my Netflix account? It’s not uncommon for people with media streaming accounts to share passwords, so this ruling came as a shock. Panic set in shortly thereafter. But here’s the thing: Netflix is totally cool with you sharing your account and, more importantly, Netflix password sharing won’t get you in trouble with the law. Here’s why.
The Ruling Doesn’t Apply to Netflix Passwords
The Internet jumped to conclusions when it collectively raised the alarm that Netflix password sharing. The ruling in question stated that those who have the intention to defraud others by sharing passwords without permission are in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. What helps in understanding this ruling is the context of the case itself, U.S. vs. Nosal.
David Nosal resigned from his position at executive search firm Korn/Ferry to start his own competing company. He then persuaded othert Korn/Ferry employees to download clients files and other proprietary information using their logins. Those employees then promptly left the Korn/Ferry, taking the information to Nosal’s new company. Making matters worse, another Korn/Ferry employee gave them access to her account so they could continue accessing the database.
It was a very complicated case that dragged on for years until the most recent ruling. But the bottom line is this: it had nothing to do with Netflix password sharing nor is it illegal to share your Netflix account with others. You’re not violating any federal statutes or computer crimes by allowing your mom to set up a stream of her own using your password.
Netflix Doesn’t Care Either
Netflix doesn’t give a darn if you’re sharing your password either. In fact, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has publicly said that Netflix loves that people share accounts. What the company cares more about is how many people are exposed to its content. To them, that is pivotal in getting new subscribers. They figure that eventually children who were once under their parents’ accounts will leave home and get their own subscriptions. It’s all about building brand loyalty for them and so far Netflix has not reported any issues.
But What About Other Media Streaming Accounts?
This is a little less clear. While no other companies (like HBO or Hulu, for example) has explicitly stated that people shouldn’t share passwords, it is possible in the future that they could crack down on the practice. It’s more likely that companies will start limiting the amount of streams you can create or devices you can use, but so far few companies are willing to enforce the rules.
So if you’re worried about giving your Cousin Bob your Netflix password, don’t be. You won’t be violating any federal crimes or computer laws. As long as you’re cool with Uncle Bob sharing your Netflix password, then you all can continue your episode binging at your usual discretion.