Recently, I let my mother "borrow" my Netflix login information so she could watch the new Sherlock Holmes series on Netflix Instant, a seemingly innocuous act. To me, it's no different than renting the disc and inviting friends and family over to watch it as well. In Tennessee, however, apparently I would be considered a criminal, thanks to a new measure that passed, outlawing the sharing of passwords to sites that stream movies and other related content.
The could-be law was written to go after those who sell such account information, but the lawmakers in question acknowledged the measure could affect those who share their Netflix passwords. From the report:
While those who share their subscriptions with a spouse or other family members under the same roof almost certainly have nothing to fear, blatant offenders — say, college students who give their logins to everyone on their dormitory floor — could get in trouble.
Apparently, my actions would be considered OK, but then again, I don't live in the same household as my mother, so maybe not. While the focus of the bill puts Netflix on the front and center, the legal document also goes after those who share/sell Hulu Plus accounts. Essentially, the bill tries to put a safety net around all of the sites that legally stream copyrighted content. It's also with very little surprise to find out members of the recording industry backed the bill in question, because, clearly, we the people are now under the thumb of entertainment industry and their litany of legal teams.
Say hello to the real government, the ones who now determine the way in which technology is regulated. And we the people just sit back and take it. Odd, that.
As for the bill's backing, BusinessInsider.com confirms the recording industry's influence:
The law was pushed through with the help of recording industry lobbyists trying to stop the bleeding that is illegal music sharing, and apparently illegal movie streaming as well.
The quoted article also points that sharing your password is not something directly discussed in the Netflix Terms of Service manifesto. Here's the entire section on password sharing, directly from the service in question:
The member who created the Netflix account and whose Payment Method is charged is referred to here as the Account Owner. The Account Owner has access and control over the Netflix account. The Account Owner's control is exercised through use of the Account Owner's password and therefore to maintain exclusive control, the Account Owner should not reveal the password to anyone. In addition, if the Account Owner wishes to prohibit others from contacting Netflix Customer Support and potentially altering the Account Owner's control, the Account Owner should not reveal the last four digits of their credit or debit card associated with their account, or their email address if they use PayPal as their payment method.
Notice there isn't any mention of "DO NOT SHARE PASSWORDS" anywhere in the text. Granted, it's doubtful Netflix would support bulk usage, in fact, they'd probably ban the accounts in question, but they do not explicitly spell it out. Instead, their terms simply offer this catch-all:
We reserve the right to terminate or restrict your use of our service, without notice, for any or no reason whatsoever.
Aside from that, nothing. Nevertheless, if you share your password in Tennessee, there's a very real possibility that, while not violating the specific terms of Netflix, you still may have broken the law. In light of this story, it feels right embedding the following video:
And the struggle to regulate technology continues.