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Tennessee Law Outlaws Netflix Password Sharing

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Netflix by Mr. Thomas on Flickr

Image by Mr. Thomas on Flickr

A new law recently passed in Tennessee will make it illegal for people to share online subscriptions to entertainment services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Rhapsody.

Once the law goes into effect on July 1, Tennessee residents could face a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail for using someone else’s log-in information to gain access to online entertainment services — even with the subscriber’s permission. If the violator has a prior conviction and/or steals more than $500 of entertainment, he or she could be charged with a felony.

The intention of the bill is to target hackers and others who share content on a large scale, according to the bill’s sponsor Rep. Gerald McCormick, but the statutory language could also technically sweep up those sharing passwords with a significant other or family members. Still, McCormick insists the latter possibility isn’t really the point.

“What becomes not legal is if you send your username and password to all your friends so they can get free subscriptions,” said McCormick to The Tennessean.

The bill (PDF) actually tweaks an existing law regarding “theft-of-cables” by adding “entertainment subscription service or other public services” to the definition of services. It also adds a provision giving “[a]ny individual who is directly or indirectly harmed by a violation [of the law] . . . legal standing to report the violation to law enforcement and testify in support of corresponding criminal charges.”

One of the law’s main supporters was the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), apparently interested in cutting down on piracy and lost revenue due to password sharing.

This law is the first of its kind in the country, and proponents are hoping that other states follow suit.

What do you think of this law? Necessary evil or just evil?


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June 6th, 2011 at 1:28 pm