Lawmakers Pass Bill Making Netflix Sharing a Crime in Tennessee

Performing certain actions will get you sent to the 'Big House' no matter where you live. Taking another person's life, for example. Robbing a bank. Stampeding across town in a drunken stupor without your clothes on at three o'clock in the afternoon (trust us on this one). But in Tennessee, you could be locked up for logging into your buddy's Netflix account and watching an episode of The Twilight Zone.

According to a report in The Tennessean, state lawmakers passed a new bill endorsed by Gov. Bill Haslam that, come July 1, will make it a crime to use someone's login information to watch movies or listen to music from streaming services like Netflix and Rhapsody. The bill, which was unsurprisingly pushed through by the RIAA, is supposed to stop hackers and crooks who sell passwords in bulk. That's fine and dandy, but the way it's worded, it could also be used against people who use a friend's or relative's account.

"What becomes not legal is if you send your username and password to all your friends so they can get free subscriptions," said the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Gerald McCormick.

Again, nothing wrong with that, except maybe the punishment. The bill is an expansion of an existing law that is used to send people to jail who steal cable TV or who like to dine-and-dash rather than pay for their meals, and adds "entertainment subscription service" to the list. Stealing $500 or less (emphasis on less) of entertainment could land uncle Billy in jail for up to a year with a fine of up to $2,500. Going beyond $500 is considered a felony.

Most people would agree that stealing is, well, not acceptable. But the problem some see with this law is that it's too open ended. Not only could the RIAA go after individuals outside of the bill's supposedly intended scope, but as public defender David Doyle points out, an 'entertainment subscription' could even apply to a magazine subscription or a health club membership.

In any event, fair warning to anyone living in Tennessee, especially college kids. If you're still using your parents' Netflix account, it's time to ration off a portion of your Pell Grant and pony up for your own subscription.
omegadoom13 3 years ago

"In any event, fair warning to anyone living in Tennessee, especially college kids. If you're still using your parents' Netflix account, it's time to ration off a portion of your Pell Grant and pony up for your own subscription."

LOL! I will not admit to anything concerning that quote. Luckily I don't live or go to school in TN :) Anyway, politics.. and politicians licking the boots of big businesses... not a surprise to me. They have more pressing "problems" to tackle, why mess with this one?

inspector 3 years ago

... now the government is going to make laws for certain companies??? So how do they actually track this? through ip? how do they know its not he original owner?

LLeCompte 3 years ago

WOW, is this really the most important thing they had to discuss? either TN is doing awesome with everything or they need to focus on real issues for a change.

herlof 3 years ago

the law is getting dumber and dumber

LBowen 3 years ago

This law is a tad excessive and in my opinion Netflix should have already be protecting it's interests by having measures against account sharing. What I mean by that is if the system detects simultaneous logons from two computers that account would be locked. That way the consumer is protected against unauthorized use and Netflix can continue to be profitable.

AKwyn 3 years ago

What LBowen said could work but then again, this bill really is driven to have a hidden agenda of preventing the sharing of accounts with families. And this is just really a long line of laws that are supposed to prevent content providers from losing money with stolen content; what's really odd is that the RIAA and MPAA has not realized this important fact. That they should respect the customers, get with the times when it comes to sharing (music, not movies) and just stop trying to suck the money out of a horse which has been killed 11 years ago.

EDIT: And giving Netflix accounts to friends and family is really basically personal choice; you can decide whether or not to give the account info or tell your friends or family to "get your own."; same goes for everything else.

omegadraco 3 years ago

I would have to agree that the law is a bit excessive and the RIAA almost always gets there way. We are going to sue your grandma because someone stole her internet and downloaded a 1 billion songs.

Int Protocol 3 years ago


realneil 3 years ago

I used to think that Lawmakers were special, you know, people. But this proves that it ain't so anymore.

infinityzen1 3 years ago

Netflix already has protections built into the system against this. For example, they will only allow two streams at the same time in one account. It's not that expensive anyway and Netflix needs to money to expand their services.

CMachicote 3 years ago

nobody piggybacks on my netflix account .. if they think they need to secure it more then do so .

realneil 3 years ago

[quote user="CMachicote"]nobody piggybacks on my netflix account [/quote]

Same here. Why give your access to your account to someone when it's so friggin cheap to get your own? NetFlix is the best deal I've found for streaming and the at home DVD service being a part of it is great too.


tan0okee 3 years ago

I don't see how they can even prove such a crime. Netflix is swimming in profit they don't need to get all federal due to greed.

3vi1 3 years ago

>> I don't see how they can even prove such a crime.

Here's how it works:

1) NetFlix is indifferent, but some company that's just a bunch of lawyers, let's call them SmiteHaven, goes to NetFlix and says "We'll go after people breaking a law and abusing your service, do all the litigation, and share the profits with you 50/50 if we can get them to settle."

2) NetFlix says: "Abusing our service? Breaking the law? Money for us? Sure, here are the IP logs of people watching our movies".

3) Smitehaven cross-references the IP addresses with the physical location of the ISP and finds that an hour after you watched a movie on the east coast, you watched it again on the west coast (where actually your mom watched it after you told her you wanted her to watch it because she'd love it, and gave her your NetFlix info so she doesn't have to sign up for this one-time thing).

4) Your mom settles out of court for $10k, or gets dragged through court out of state with the threat of bankruptcy in defense costs. Profit!

dadodgeson 3 years ago

is it still legal to marry your cuz in Tennessee

oh netflix thats a new fangled thing there got to protect that

lakawak 3 years ago

The final paragraph is just stupid. It could not be applied to a maggazine subscription..because when you give away your magazine, YOU no longer have it...but when you give away your NetFlix password, you BOTH can use it.

I don't see why you think it is wrong that it is lumped in with stealing cable. It is pretty much the EXACT same thing.

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