“We love people sharing Netflix,” says CEO Reed Hastings at a Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas this past year. Even though the CEO says it is A-Okay, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals past a ruling that may make it a federal crime.
This all started with a court case involving David Nosal. He was a headhunter who left his former company Korn/Ferry to start a new firm. He used the password of a current employee to access the company’s database and use the gathered information for his new firm. David Nosal was convicted of hacking charges in 2013 and sentenced to one year and one day in prison.
The ruling was issued under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) even though it is a legislation predominantly concerned with hacking. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is know as the worst law in technology. It bans “unauthorized access” of computers and those terms are vague on purpose. Orin Kerr, a former Justice Department attorney and leading scholar on computer-crime, claims that the law is so open-ended and broad, intentionally, to be unconstitutionally vague.
“This access falls squarely within the CFAA’s prohibition on access ‘without authorization,’ and thus we affirm Nosal’s conviction for violations of … the CFAA,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown claims.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt disagrees, Nosal’s case isn’t about hacking but password sharing. This can lead to the millions of people who share their Netflix or Hulu accounts becoming federal criminals. He claims that with decision they “lose sight of the anti-hacking purpose of the CFAA, and despite our warning, threatens to criminalize all sorts of innocuous conduct engaged in daily by ordinary citizens”
Yes, in a way, by sharing passwords is a breach of the terms and conditions but should you be prosecuted because of it? Very least, should be account suspension and very worst should be a ban.
Ultimately, the decision for prosecution will be up to the streaming service. If CEO Reed Hastings says its okay to share your password, it is unlikely that Netflix is going to come after you.