Starting next month it will be a crime in Tennessee to use a friend’s login to live-stream a movie from Netflix, even if that friend gives you permission to do so.
That’s because state lawmakers passed a new law this week that makes the state the first in the nation to make it illegal to use someone else’s subscription to online entertainment services like the on-demand video site, the Associated Press reports. The scope of the law, which will go into effect on July 1, remains unclear, but it also appears to extend to music sites like Rhapsody and other Internet media services.
The AP notes that the bill was aimed at computer hackers who sell passwords in bulk, and not necessarily others who simply share their password with a friend, relative or roommate. Nevertheless, the law makes the sharing of login information a crime that can result in jail time for anyone who violates it.
Under the law, stealing $500 or less worth of entertainment would be a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Those who use stolen or borrowed logins to gain access to more than that would face a felony charge. It remains unclear how the cost of the stolen goods is calculated.
Backers of the law say that it is unlikely that police will go after Tennesseans who share their username with a friend or family member they share a house with, but it appears as though the law sets up a slippery slope for prosecution.
“What becomes not legal is if you send your resume and password to all your friends so they can get free subscriptions,” said Rep. Gerald McCormick, one of the bill’s sponsors.
The measure technically expands an existing law on the books used to prosecute people who steal cable television or leave restaurants without paying their tabs. But by adding “entertainment subscription service” to the list of things protected by that law, critics say the law could be used to go after people who share health club memberships or even magazine subscriptions.