Beware of Sharing Your Passwords with Friends and Family to Access Premium Online Services

If you live in Tennessee and are the kind of “giving” person who doesn’t mind sharing access to their online accounts like Netflix and Rhapsody, beware… your state has just passed the “Web entertainment theft bill,” which amends the state’s theft-of-cable laws. The fine for sharing $500 or less of entertainment through your subscription service is now considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500.

No doubt lobbyists for the big entertainment companies will be encouraging other states to follow suit. However, it’s worth mentioning that everyone should read their terms of service before getting too worried. Most services look the other way if you’re allowing family members to access your account via the same IP. With that said, though, I know for a fact that Netflix monitors, and makes you agree to their terms, when accessing their Watch Instantly service from a PC browser with an IP not recognized by their servers. In all likelihood, if they detect any funny business (like two or more people regularly using the same login from IPs in different cities or states), they’ll cancel your account. Being that they have this capability, makes you wonder if a law like this is really even necessary?

Below is a snippet from Netflix’s ToS:

You are also responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your account and password and for restricting access to your computer or Netflix ready device. If you disclose your password to anyone or share your account and/or devices with other people, you take full responsibility for their actions. Where possible, users of public or shared devices should log out at the completion of each visit. If you sell or return a computer or Netflix ready device, you should logout and/or deactivate the device before doing so. If you fail to log out or deactivate your device, subsequent users may be able to access certain of your account information.

So not only is it a bad idea to share your passwords with untrusted people, it may also make you personally responsible for any activity that person or persons do with your account — sort of like what happens with an open Wi-Fi hotspot.

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