Pretty much everyone out there uses websites and applications like Amazon and Netflix. Many websites like this provide a variety of good deals. One of the things that people love to do, is share good things with friends and family members. This is why one person may pay for a Netflix account, and then have several friends who have access to the streaming service.
Some people question the legality of the practice of sharing passwords with friends and family members. To some people, it may feel like cheating in a way. They take advantage of a loved one’s account in order to reap the benefits without having to actually pay for them. This all came to a front back in 2016 when an Appeals Court issued a ruling on password sharing. Now many people truly question the legality of sharing their account passwords with loved ones so that they can enjoy the benefits.
What Caused This Concern?
In 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco determined that David Nosal’s held true. The court determined that Nosal violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). He was a former employee of Korn/Ferry International Research Firm and after his termination at the company, Nosal used his old password to access the company’s database without authorization. It is easy to see why the company got so upset at him.
When a person is fired or let go, they are usually purged from the company’s system. This means their account is deactivated and their access passwords removed. This is done to ensure that any sensitive information is not accessed by a disgruntled ex-employee. If that were to happen, who knows what kind of damage could be done.
When the court issued its verdict, many people took this too mean that sharing passwords with others was illegal. They took this to mean that anyone who decided to share their password to services, such as Netflix, was illegal under the CFAA. Understandably, this caused a lot of concern for people.
The Actual Ruling
However, despite the fact that Nosal was found guilty of gaining unauthorized access to the company’s database, this did not change things for everyday people. While many people took it to mean so, this ruling did not make it so that the sharing of passwords to websites and applications such as Netflix and Amazon is illegal. This is largely because of one key reason.
The key phrase here is “unauthorized access.” Nosal was found guilty under the CFAA because he gained access to the database when he was not authorized to do so. Even though his password still worked, his permission to use it had been revoked upon his termination. That is why he broke the law.
While this could possibly become a problem for people who like to share years down the road, the chances are pretty slim. The sharing of passwords for these kinds of sites is pretty common. In fact, companies such as Netflix are well aware of the practice, and as long as the person is not selling their password, don’t really mind. They do not feel it affects them negatively in any way.
There’s Nothing To Worry About
Anyone who may have been worried that they might be breaking the law by sharing their accounts with friends can rest easy. There is no such law preventing a user from sharing their passwords with friends and families so they can enjoy the membership benefits as well. Most companies are aware of this practice, and are fine with it. So long as the person accessing the account has permission to do so, no current laws have been broken.
A person is only breaking the law when they access someone’s account without that person’s permission. That is when people get into trouble for breaking CFAA laws.