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Sharing your Netflix password may be a crime

Giving your password to people who aren't members of your household could get you charged with a crime in Tennessee.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 6, 2011 4:33PM

This post comes from Jeanine Skowronski at partner site MainStreet.


Tennessee lawmakers have passed a measure that makes it illegal for residents to share their user names 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 Gov. 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. Post continues after video.

Like leaving a restaurant without paying

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 make it clear that passwords and user names 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.


More on MainStreet and MSN Money:

Jun 7, 2011 9:15AM
"Like leaving a restaurant without paying" It's nothing like dining and dashing. It's the equivalent to buying ONE meal and sharing it with your 5 friends.

Jun 7, 2011 9:12AM
I am SOOO glad that tennessee has balanced their budget, fixed their schools, eliminated discrimination, cleaned up their air and water, and eliminated crime, so they can move on to **** legistation like this. Parhaps the lawmakers in tennesse should do something productive like maybe look for another job since they are not qualified for the one they have.
Jun 7, 2011 10:30AM
When I go to see my family in other states and want to relax with a movie on an account I pay for I should be able to do so without having to haul my laptop with me, what if I don't own a laptop.  I should be able to use their computer in another state without harm.  I understand trying to curb scammer that are selling passwords but it should not apply to everyone.  We could rerecord cassettes like crazy when I was a kid and no one got thrown in jail for it.
Jun 7, 2011 8:55AM

The whole point of the Netflix/Amazon Prime/Youtube/Hulu video streaming is that I can watch the movies on my laptop/tablet/TV anywhere I have broadband internet access.  I travel a lot for my job and it is nice to be able to choose from a huge list of movies.  How do they even plan to enforce this law?

Jun 7, 2011 8:17AM
This law is definitely going to be challenged. Without a doubt, the lawmakers cannot enforce such actions as Netflix and others will have a very difficult time proving they were victims of a crime in progress. Look at it this way... my daughter has an iphone, an android touchpad, a laptop, and of course, our community library offers free internet to students.

If she watches Netflix on all of her devices, the IP address is locked into Netflix. Under this law, any idiotic Netflix employee will contact law enforcement for an investigation and to refer for prosecution. Problem is such complaint by Netflix can land them into a major civil lawsuit of filing a false police report.

I would love to be the first to challenge Netflix. HEY!!! I bet Netflix will quickly settle and the payout would definitely pay my daughter's entire college education at an ivy league college, dorm fees, food and expenses, and extra change to buy luxury tech products.

What's next... misinterpreting this law to add sharing my mascara a crime??? OMG! OMG! OMG! My friend used my mascara!!! Estee Lauder is going to call the police on me!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
Jun 7, 2011 7:22AM
Have to wonder how much the politicos were paid.  Stupid.  Passwords cannot be contained.  You give teenage family members the password and within a day it is disseminated amongst all their friends - then the next layer of friends - etc.

Jun 7, 2011 11:40AM
Why is it that we as consumers have to bear the burden of this stupid law?  Let the suppliers of the products find a way to protect their assets at their expense.
Jun 7, 2011 9:16AM
Jun 7, 2011 12:56PM
Solution: Change Your Password !!!!!
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