In January, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings admitted that he sees account sharing between users as a positive thing. But a new ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals may eventually put an end to password sharing, which has become a standard practice among millennial Netflix users.
In the case of The United States v. David Nosa, the court ruled that sharing passwords is officially a criminal act, after David Nosal was found guilty of using his former employer’s passwords to access classified information long after he left his job. And while the ruling officially makes password sharing a federal crime, going to jail for using a friend’s Netflix account is highly unlikely.
“This case is about password sharing,” wrote the dissenting judge, Steven Reinhardt. “People frequently share their passwords, notwithstanding the fact that websites and employers have policies prohibiting it. In my view, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (‘CFAA’) does not make the millions of people who engage in this ubiquitous, useful, and generally harmless conduct into unwitting federal criminals.”
Reinhardt argues that the ruling “threatens to criminalize all sorts of innocuous conduct engaged in daily by ordinary citizens,” based on the fact that getting permission to use a password from the account holder is not enough. It has to be granted by the company itself. However, based on their customer-friendly positions, it’s unlikely that streaming services like Netflix and Spotify will start cracking down on users who share their passwords rather than getting their own account.
That sound you hear is a collective sigh of relief from Americans everywhere.
Will this ruling affect the way you use Netflix?