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.