Tenn. outlaws sharing passwords for Netflix, other entertainment sites

Beginning in July, it will be illegal for anyone in Tennessee to share their log-in information for entertainment sites such as Netflix and Rhapsody.

Gov. Bill Haslam this week signed a bill that makes it a crime to share “entertainment subscription services.” It expands an existing law that is used to prosecute people who steal cable television service or leave restaurants without paying for their meals, the Associated Press reported.

The law is the first of its kind in the country, reported Josh Voorhees in Slate.

Stealing $500 or less of entertainment would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Those stealing or otherwise accessing more than one log-in would face a felony charge. How the cost of stolen goods would be calculated is unclear, Voorhees reported.

Additionally, the scope of the law is unclear. Public defender David Doyle told AP that the vague and broad wording of the bill could be interpreted to mean a magazine subscription or a health club membership. 

The bill was pushed by recording industry officials, who described it as a necessary protective measure to stop illegal sharing of music, along with movies and other entertainment media. The music industry’s domestic revenue is half of what it was 10 years ago, down to $7 billion from $15 billion, said Mitch Glazier, executive vice president of public policy for the Recording Industry Association of America, according to AP.

Although it is unlikely that those who share information with family and friends within the same household will be charged under the bill, the cutoff has not been defined.

“What becomes not legal is if you send your resume and password to all your friends so they can get free subscriptions,” said Rep. Gerald McCormick, one of the bill’s sponsors, Voorhees reported.

The legislation was aimed at hackers and thieves who sell passwords in bulk.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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Reader Comments

Mon, Jun 6, 2011

Lawmakers should be mindful of the fact that even a well meaning law can be interpreted by an over zealous distric attorney and catch others in its net.

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