Though it’s something many teens might do without thinking, logging into someone else’s online streaming service is actually a crime under Tennessee law. As of 2011,Tennessee legislators came together and passed an entertainment theft bill which would make it illegal to use a friend’s login, even with their permission, to access songs or watch movies from services like Netflix or Spotify.
The bill was pushed through the state legislature by the recording industry, a powerful lobby in Nashville. Though the intent of the bill was to punish hackers and thieves who steal passwords and then sell them in bulk to others, the sponsors of the legislation admitted that it can also be used against people who access a friend’s or relative’s online entertainment streaming services.
Though people who share passwords within their immediate family have nothing to worry about, experts say that college students who decide to share their login information with everyone in their dorm might be looking at hefty fines. The bill clearly states that it is illegal for someone to send their user name and password to a bunch of friends so that those friends can then get free subscriptions.
The bill says that streaming services that believe they are being ripped off can go to authorities and press charges against the freeloaders. The legislation appears in a section of Tennessee code devoted to punishing cable thieves and those who leave a restaurant without paying. The measure adds “entertainment subscription service” to the existing list of services that are protected by state law.
The law says that anyone found to have stolen $500 or less of entertainment services would be punished with a misdemeanor which could include up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Higher price thefts could result in stiffer penalties and could even include felony criminal charges.