Sharing your Netflix password is now a federal crime

“Three judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling this week that will affect everyone from whistleblowers to your ex who is still, somehow, using your Netflix password to watch Jessica Jones,” Ethan Chiel reports for Fusion. “The court ruled that sharing passwords is a criminal act.”

“The case concerns David Nosal, a headhunter who used to work for a firm called Korn/Ferry. Nosal left the job in 2004 and recruited former colleagues who used the password of a person still with the company to download information from Korn/Ferry’s database for use at the new firm,” Chiel reports. “For that, Nosal was charged in 2008 with hacking under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a.k.a ‘the Worst Law in Technology.'”

“The new Ninth Circuit decision was decided 2-1 in the government’s favor. Judge M. Margaret McKeown, in the majority, insists that Nosal and his co-conspirators ‘accessed trade secrets in a proprietary database through the back door when the front door had been firmly closed’ putting the case “squarely within the CFAA’s prohibition on access ‘without authorization,'” Chiel reports. “But Judge Stephen Reinhardt disagreed, and as Motherboard points out, appears to have a better sense of what constitutes hacking, the purported purpose of the CFAA. Reinhardt expressed concern that that decision by the majority criminalizes all password-sharing, including your giving out your parent’s Netflix password to your friends.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yum! Unintended consequences are always so lip-smackingly delicious!

[Attribution: WPTV. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]


  1. This case and the corporation involved plus the type of information accessed and shared are far different than sharing a Netflix password. The judge’s comment are far off base stretch of the case facts.

  2. This isn’t actually a statement about sharing your Netflix viewer account. Therefore, the headline is misleading. This is about professional access to the Netflix business server and stealing company property. This is clearly a crime. It produced provable harm.

    Note that if you’re caught having deliberately shared your Netflix viewer account with Granny, it is NOT going to qualify as ‘Fair Use’. It’s an abuse of your account. See your Netflix EULA for details. I’d guess that you’d have your account closed and you’d be banned from future membership, at worst. You’re not going to jail unless you’ve shared it with the world and/or caused provable harm.

    1. What you write isn’t true. Google it. There’re numerous instances of Netflix encouraging people to share accounts.

      I understand what you’re saying about the EULA, but considering as I said, they not only don’t discourage sharing, but encourage it. I wouldn’t worry about it as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.

      1. You’d be unlikely to ever get on again. I know some websites will check out what IP you’re using to log in and where it’s generally located. I suspect Netflix would know when a zillion users are using the same account. They’d of course also be able to detect login collisions.

  3. what makes you think “unintended consequences” ?

    media companies have many ways of looking out for their own best interests, why do you suppose you see the seal of the homeland security department at the beginning of your rent a movie cd’s ?

    since when did the unauthorized copying or showing of the movie contained there in become a matter of national security??

  4. Yes citizens of the free and civilized world, it’s true that we leaned the value of sharing way back in kindergarten, but that certainly is not the case in that part of the world. In fact, some guy, Philando Castile, got shot to death for trying to share his driver’s license and registration. Not a good thing to try with a police officer there, especially when they’ll bait you and ask for you to share your driver’s license and registration. Got to shake your head at the selective justice of the place, on one hand the expediency of the legal judge, jury, executioner for sharing a driver’s license and registration on one hand, and on the other a total denial of freedom and justice for those still held at the Guantanmo on the Bay resort.

    Yup, definitely a country that does not like to share, it’s all attack and take when it comes to these folks.

  5. It’s actually not (sharing your Neflix account, that is) illegal.

    What could makes it so is if Netflix took the stance that it were a crime and did all in their power to stop it (never mind this most recent court ruling).

    Instead of what’s actually the case, which is that Netlix actually encourages users to share their accounts with others.

    Besides, the effort required to make a relatively open service no longer so would do more damage to the company’s PR than they could ever gain from a financial perspective.

  6. I was checking the terms of use ( and I don’t see anything there that says that you can’t share the password with any number of people.

    Each account is limited by sever software so that only a limited number of people can use it at the same time. They even offer a slightly more expensive tier that allows more people to use it at the same time that is meant to be for larger families. That’s how its controlled, so Netflix doesn’t care how many people use the same account, as long as they don’t all use it at the same time.

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