Let’s be real: Sharing Netflix passwords has become a common practice related to the streamer, up there with hearing the infamous “tudum” intro music or finding out that your favorite original series has gotten the boot.
Yes, it’s technically not allowed, but many viewers didn’t particularly seem to care — until news broke last spring that Netflix was planning to crack down on password sharing, and some people understandably started to worry.
Could something as low key as lending your Netflix password to someone lead to legal repercussions? And is it really a federal crime to share your Netflix password, or to use someone else’s password? Here’s what you need to know.
IS IT A FEDERAL CRIME TO SHARE YOUR NETFLIX PASSWORD?
Technically, yes. In 2016, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that sharing online passwords is a crime prosecutable under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. At the time, SCOTUS declined to take up the issue on appeal, and no ruling was explicitly issued in regards to streaming services.
Netflix has a user agreement prohibiting sharing your password, too. But it’s worth noting that since the ruling, law enforcement have never actually prosecuted anyone for sharing a streaming service password.
IS NETFLIX CRACKING DOWN ON PASSWORD SHARING?
Sort of! In March of 2021, Netflix tested a form of two-factor authentication in order to discourage users from sharing their passwords. But by April 2021, Netflix executives said during an earnings call that the company was merely conducting a routine test.
“We will test many things, but we would never roll something out that feels like turning the screws,” Netflix Co-CEO Reed Hastings said at the time.
According to PC Mag, he implied that a serious crackdown on password sharing could turn off existing users. Moving forward, Netflix will implement targeted tests, rather than applying these measures to everyone.
“It’s got to feel like it makes sense to consumers that [the users] understand,” Hastings added. “And [Netflix’s chief product officer] Greg has been doing a lot of great research on…how to try variants that harmonize with the way consumers think about it.”
So yeah, Netflix isn’t exactly giving you the go-ahead to share your password with everyone. But if you are sharing your password, don’t expect the FBI to bust down your door anytime soon.
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