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Can You Be Prosecuted for Using Someone Else's HBO or Netflix Passwords?

By Dustin Rowles | Streaming | July 12, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | Streaming | July 12, 2016 |

In Salem, West Virginia, citizens are not allowed to eat candy less than an hour and a half before church service. Like, that’s a law. Also a law: Ice cream is not allowed to be served in restaurants on Sunday. In Florida, unmarried women aren’t allowed to parachute on Sundays (why only unmarried women?).

There are a lot of laws on the books that are not only antiquated, but aren’t enforced. For instance, in Texas, the legislature refused to pull the anti-sodomy law off the books, even though it was ruled unconstitutional.

This court ruling is not like that. This ruling in effect creates a new law that’s probably ahead of its time, but don’t be surprised if streaming services like Netflix and HBO start to enforce it when times get lean. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has ruled that is is illegal to use someone else’s password “without authorization from the system’s owner,” stating that it violates the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

That’s not a podunk court back section of Hicktown’s Piggly Wiggly. That’s the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is one step below the Supreme Court. That means that sharing passwords is in effect illegal in California, Idaho, Washington, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii. Unless other Court of Appeals have arrived at a different decisions, that decision could be used in other Court of Appeals as precedent for other password sharing cases.

In other words: It’s the law, and just because it won’t be enforced against you now doesn’t mean it won’t be enforced against you in the future.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.