Sharing your Netflix password is a federal offence and could land you in jail, says judge

Three US judges ruled that sharing your Netflix password is a criminal act
By @nessdoctor on
The Netflix logo is shown in this illustration photograph in Encinitas, California October 14, 2014. Reuters/Mike Blake

Apparently, it is illegal to share your Netflix password to others. A number of judges stated that violators can be imprisoned for providing the sensitive information even to family and friends only.

Three US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit judges ruled earlier in July 2016 that sharing Netflix passwords is a criminal act. The ruling stemmed from the long-pending case of United States v. Nosal, which focuses on David Nosal, a headhunter who formerly worked for the company Korn/Ferry.

Subsequently, Nosal left his job and recruited former colleagues who used the password of one person who remained in the firm to download information from Korn/Ferry’s database to be used at the new company. Nosal was charged with hacking under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) for the deed.

Fusion cites that two of the Ninth Circuit judges ruled that it was unlawful to access data without authorisation. The third judge pointed out that all password-sharing activities should not be deemed illegal since ordinary citizens normally do these for regular activities that are not criminal in nature.

As for Netflix and HBO Go, their terms of service state that only subscribers must be streaming their content. Netflix recognised that a household can share one account and users can watch shows on six different devices.

Shows can also be streamed on up to two devices simultaneously, which can indicate that Netflix most likely allows members of the same household to stream or use the same password for one account. HBO One, however, is stricter by requiring app users to be a subscriber with an account in good standing with an authorised HBO distributor.

The Guardian notes Netflix and HBO in saying that password sharing is not a major cause of concern, although the industry allegedly lost hundreds of millions of dollars due to the practice. Some believe that sharing passwords and information has no significant negative effect on the market. It can actually serve as an effective marketing vehicle for new viewers.

More updates and details on whether password sharing on Netflix constitutes a federal offence are expected soon.

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