Share Your Netflix Password? That’s a Felony

NEW YORK (MainStreet) —Tennessee lawmakers passed a measure Wednesday that makes it illegal for residents to share their usernames and passwords for entertainment subscription services like Netflix and Rhapsody.

The Web Entertainment Theft Bill, which the lawmakers hope other states adopt, is a move to thwart hackers from selling passwords in bulk, but might also raise issues for subscribers who share their accounts with friends.

The law, signed by Governor Bill Haslam and slated to go into effect next month, states that pirating $500 or less of entertainment from these subscription services will constitute a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500; thefts worth more than $500 will constitute a felony with harsher penalties.

The law permits download services that believe they are being hacked to go to law enforcement authorities and press charges.

Fortunately, families that share one account shouldn’t be worried.

"What becomes not legal is if you send your user name and password to all your friends so they can get free subscriptions," Rep. Gerald McCormick, the bill's sponsor, told the Associated Press.

For its part, Netflix says it supports the bill since it reinforces similar tenets in its user agreement.

“Netflix supports any efforts to stave off piracy,” Steve Swasey, vice president of corporate communications, told MainStreet.

Certain Netflix accounts allow users to stream movies on more than one device, but Swasey said no policy changes were being made in light of the new law since the company’s terms of use makes it clear that passwords and usernames are only to be shared within one household.

“It’s a household account,” Swasey said. “It’s clearly not intended for use in multiple households.”

The bill expands on an existing law by adding "entertainment subscription service" to the list of services protected by law. The same law also prosecutes people for stealing cable TV or leaving restaurants without paying.

Such laws exist in other states, but Tennessee is the first state to include popular subscription services in its mandate.

Sharing passwords and usernames to log on entertainment accounts may soon be illegal in Tennessee, but is it ethical everywhere else? Find out in this MainStreet article.

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