By: Alex Lindvall
A recent Federal Court of Appeals case has sparked a rumor on the internet that it is a federal crime to share your Netflix password. This rumor, however, like most “news” in the Twitter-verse, is unfounded.
The rumor started after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued it ruling in United States v. Nosal (2015). There, the defendant stole his employer’s client list using his employee-password. The Court held that this could be punished under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) because the defendant used the password “without authorization.” This phrase put reactionary internet users up-in-arms. They quickly jumped to the conclusion that sharing your Netflix password could be punishable under the CFAA. They are mistaken.
No one is going to jail for sharing their Netflix passwords. The current CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, has said that Netflix encourages password sharing. Federal Prosecutors are not interested in indicting the millions of Americans who share their passwords. They have bigger fish to fry. To be charged under the CFAA you would have to do something similar to what was done in Nosal — use someone’s password, without their permission, to defraud that person.
Rest easy, you can share your Netflix password without the fear of federal prosecution.