Court rules sharing your Netflix password is a federal crime

FILE - This March 20, 2012 file photo shows Netfilx headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. Netflix on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015 announced it is letting new parents on its payroll to take up to a year's paid leave in a move that could pressure other technology employers to improve their baby benefits as they vie for talent. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (WCMH) —  A federal court in California has ruled that sharing your password for your Netflix, HBO Go and other streaming accounts is a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

According to, the opinion was rendered during the United States V. Nosal trial; a case where a former-employee of a firm was using the password of another employee who was still working the company to download information for use at his new job.

Nosal was charged with hacking in 2008 under the CFAA act.

The decision means that Americans are violating federal when they share their Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu or any other account’s password, according to

Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in dissent of the verdict “It loses sight of the anti-hacking purpose of the CFAA, and despite our warning, threatens to criminalize all sorts of innocuous conduct engaged in daily ordinary citizens.”

However, Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown says the verdict was more about authorization, more in line with Nosal’s case rather than American’s sharing passwords. “But the circumstance here—former employees whose computer access was categorically revoked and who surreptitiously accessed data owned by their former employer—bears little resemblance to asking a spouse to log in to an email account to print a boarding pass,” the judge wrote in majority opinion.

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