HBONo: Sharing Passwords and Prison Cells
“I’ll just have some of his.” This is a phrase I hear every time we go to eat at any restaurant and the dessert menu is passed around. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, now says you can’t have your cake and share it, too.
The court determined that sharing passwords is a federal crime under what is now called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CFAA. That means that if your co-worker wants to to catch up on a couple of weeks of the new ‘Luke Cage’ on Netflix when it comes out, your password shouldn’t be the one they borrow.
After a tedious couple of weeks of interviews by the FBI, Hillary Clinton was said to have unknowingly released classified information to attorneys who were not authorized to view it, but since there was no intent to break the law, it was recommended there be no further action. You and I are not Clintons. The CFAA is based on a case involving trade secrets, leading to prison time and just under $1,000,000 in costs. Accordingly, this could mean the average citizen with a Netflix account, Hulu+, or HBOGo account could face penalties, much the same as the Napster downloading issues a decade earlier.
So, what if we’re careless, or our password is used without our knowledge? For that matter, how would it be proven that the password was not entered by us, then we left the room after watching for 30 seconds of programming. Is 30 seconds sufficient? Or do we need to be present for the entire view-time?
Needless to say, the first person prosecuted under this law for “sharing” their password need look no further than the difference between your average citizen and the billionaires who tend to shirk their responsibility when it comes to the law. Another way around it is to drop the accounts and watch the pay-to-stream companies try desperately to avoid collapsing the way Blockbuster Video did. A traditional cable bill perhaps doesn’t look as bad, after today.