CAN ACCOUNT SHARING GET YOU IN HOT WATER?
If you’re like many Americans, you probably share passwords to your favorite online services like Netflix and HBO GO. A new Federal Appeals Court ruling now makes password sharing a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
But don’t fear federal prosecution just yet.
Netflix doesn’t seem to mind if you share your passwords — at least among family members who use sharing as an alternative to buying an upgraded account. In fact, the popular entertainment streaming service believes that consumers who get addicted to Netflix will later subscribe. It’s all part of a broader user acquisition strategy where children share their parents’ accounts and eventually subscribe themselves.
According to an article in TechCrunch, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is quoted as saying, “We love people sharing Netflix whether they’re two people on a couch or 10 people on a couch.” Sharing among non-family members, however, hasn’t been addressed as openly.
Similar to Netflix, HBO has previously taken the stance that account sharing helps lock in the next generation of viewers. The company operates HBO GO for cable and satellite TV subscribers and the new HBO NOW for cord cutters. Since HBO GO account sharing could potentially keep people from signing up for its new HBO NOW service, the company could soon be changing its tune. But using federal law to prosecute consumers remains unlikely.
Since companies most likely won’t take advantage of the new federal ruling, they will probably seek technical solutions to crack down on account sharing. By using tools like geolocation or concurrent streaming restrictions, Netflix and HBO can make account sharing much more difficult. Both companies already limit concurrent streaming, and consumers may see more strict enforcement of those rules in the future.