Sharing a Netflix account with friends or family is a very common practise these days but according to several judges in the US, this could actually be considered a criminal act and could be punishable by jail time under the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Obviously, that is a ridiculous implication and while the law could make it possible in the US as many reports today have been quick to point out, it is unlikely that anyone is going to jail for sharing their streaming service account.
According to a three-judge panel from the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sharing passwords without the permission of the site owner is a federal offence and jail time can be given. So what does this have to do with Netflix? Well according to one opposing judge, this ruling could “make the millions of people who engage in this ubiquitous, useful, and generally harmless conduct into unwitting federal criminals.”
The important thing to remember that the judges in this particular ruling were working on a case involving a former employee of a company, who used his old assistant's password to login to an internal database with the intention of using that information to form a rival company. That is obviously quite serious, whereas sharing a Netflix password simply is not.
The final thing worth pointing out is that sharing a Netflix account is actively encouraged, there are subscription tiers that allow for multiple streams to run off of the same account at any one time. If that wasn't enough for you, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix has previously stated publicly (via Techcrunch) that the company sees account sharing as a benefit and doesn't look down on it at all: “We love people sharing Netflix whether they’re two people on a couch or 10 people on a couch. That’s a positive thing, not a negative thing.”
“As kids move on in their life, they like to have control of their life, and as they have an income, we see them separately subscribe. It really hasn't been a problem”.
KitGuru Says: A lot of headlines this week have been stating that sharing a Netflix password is now criminal, which isn't really the case. Netflix may one day decide to try to put a stop to account sharing but for now, it doesn't actually seem to be an issue at all.