back to article US state bans Netflix, Napster password sharing

It's now illegal in Tennessee to share passwords for online content-subscription services such as Netflix, Napster, and SuperPass. Senate Bill 1659, sponsored by Senator Jim Tracy and signed by governor Bill Haslam, adds "entertainment subscription service" to a long list of items subject to theft-of-services law. It's now …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    As a citizen of Tennessee, this comes as no surprise whatsoever. Laws here are easily bought -- all one needs is to visit Nashville with a suitcase full of cash and you can have pretty much whatever law you want to. The "Tennessee Waltz" was a joke -- one of my relatives still brags about doing so and none of the people they "donated" to have ever been challenged, much less truly investigated.

    And all this from a state which bans pornography, Bingo, etc. for "morality", requires that you carry identification at all times and show it on demand (where are your papers?), considers a BIC lighter "drug paraphernalia", and thinks refusing to consent to a search is "probable cause." It's nuts -- if I didn't have aging parents to think of, I'd move.

    Oh, and, yes, I do have a Netflix account and have never even considered sharing the password with anyone outside of my household. I don't share any passwords for anything with anybody. But that still doesn't mean that this law isn't way out of line -- whatever happened to the concept of "punishment to fit the crime?"

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick

      Same old, same old

      Monkeys won the Scopes Trial after all.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not all Yanks are Crazy

      Experience hath shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.

      Thomas Jefferson

  2. User McUser

    I have some questions...

    So what if two people split the subscription cost?

    What if they do the above, but don't use it simultaneously?

    What if someone gives it to their spouse or children?

    What if *I* type the password in but someone else actually watches the video?

    What if I do the above and the other person's Browser remembers the password?

    Does it matter if I didn't know it would/could store the password?

    What if someone outside of Tennessee's jurisdiction gives their password someone *in* Tennessee's jurisdiction?

    What if you choose a weak password and someone guesses it?

    My Prediction:

    Not a single person will ever be convicted under this law. Eventually it will end up in a list of "Crazy Old Laws" alongside turn-of the last century laws forbidding baths on Tuesdays or what-not.

    1. McBeese


      All excellent points. When are we Americans going to stop electing sh**-for-brains politicians and start demanding better?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        It'll be when

        ... Americans quit being shit-for-brains themselves.

        For the record, this Yank is looking to immigrate elsewhere, before the theocracy locks us in or the creditors foreclose and lock us in.

        1. Paul_Murphy


          Sounds like a plan, aside from 'immigrate' refers to people going into a country - 'emigrate' would be leaving one.

          So you would be 'emigrating elsewhere'.

          Sorry to be pedantic, but I have just finished filling in a stupid form and need to take some frustration out on someone.

          I wonder why both the UK and the USA, having 'successfully' gone through the cold war, now feel it necessary to become the more like the former USSR? Is it the politicians trying to leave a legacy, or just plain human nature?

          As for 'better' countries I am looking at e New Zealand, Canada or China (apparantly they want english-speaking people) but I suspect I don't have the willpower to do anything about it.


  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Welcome return of el reg vocab

    In particular the shortening of 'association' to 'ass'.

    And for the organisation in question, never in the history of man has such an abbreviation been so deserved.

  4. Number6

    Common email account

    So you share an email account with your friend and use it to register with the on-line service. You set it up, choose a password and enjoy your subscription. Meanwhile, if your friend wants to watch something, he goes to the site, runs through the 'forgot my password' routine, picks up the reset password from the common email account and downloads his fix. When you're next on, you find that your old password didn't work and you in turn go through the 'forgot my password' routine. At no time have either of you shared a password.

    Of course, they probably monitor for customers who reset their passwords a lot so perhaps it already won't work for very long. Or the wording of the Bill is good enough already to catch it.

    1. Mme.Mynkoff

      @Number 6

      "So you share an email account with your friend "

      That's a pretty dumb thing to do.

      Darwin at work: the dumbest perish.

      1. Renato


        Probably the OP refers to an account created just for the purpose of recovering Netflix' password...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did I miss something the music non-industry did???

    "As the music industry continues its transition from selling CDs to providing fans convenient access to a breadth of legal music online, laws that provide effective enforcement against new and developing forms of content theft are essential to the health of our business."

    Because I can't recall a single service that I would prefer to use for what they claim to be music...

  6. poohbear

    quid pro quo

    Perhaps it's time I started charging musicians for viewing my websites. Quid pro quo, Clarice, quid pro quo.

  7. kissingthecarpet

    Not much piracy going on in my experience

    Just a lot of sharing. But "sharing" isn't a word the RIAA like to use, is it? Apparently if I buy a portion of chips & let a mate eat some, he's "pirated" my chips, I haven't shared them with him.

    At least its not yet a felony (!) in the US to share a movie twice. Yet.

    1. Brian 6


      The stuff being "shared" was not legally acquired. If u were to buy 2 CD's from a store and give one to your mate then no one would have a problem with that.

      1. Paul_Murphy


        The RIAA etc get upset when you buy just the one CD and then copy it for someone else.

        The funny thing is that the artists themselves are more likely to want you to copy their work and hand it out far and wide - that way they get more people listening to their music, and more people turn up at their concerts.

        I say that we should be able to support artists directly - the music industry just isn't fit for purpose anymore and needs to either change or get out of the way of standing between the artists and their fans.

        (look for Jonathon Coulton and/or Cory Doctorow)


        1. The Fuzzy Wotnot

          Not as hard as it sounds

          "I say that we should be able to support artists directly"

          Get out and about to the music clubs and get involved. I rarely buy music from big labels, preferring where possible to find a band I like, playing live. I can buy their merch direct from the stall the band is running themselves at the gig and I KNOW the money is going straight to band as I handed it to them myself. You can't always do that but often bands will happily communicate via email through their websites to sell you their wares.

          It's not as easy as simply clicking in Amazon and involves an effort, but you feel good helping support music genres you love and you know that every penny you paid over is in the artist's hand not filling the bank account of some fat scumbag record company exec hell-bent on wrecking the music biz by promoting the latest talentless shite.

    2. Daniel 4

      Actually, in this metaphor you'd be clear

      "Just a lot of sharing. But "sharing" isn't a word the RIAA like to use, is it? Apparently if I buy a portion of chips & let a mate eat some, he's "pirated" my chips, I haven't shared them with him."

      No, you wouldn't, you would have shared them with him. And if you invite your mate over and let him watch a movie /with/ you on your netflix account, even this batch of rabid weasels isn't going to try to nail you for it. On the other hand, if your mate loved the movie so much he wants to go home and watch it one more time (say to show to his wife - the reason doesn't matter), and you gave him your netflix password, they want to be able to metaphorically draw and quarter you.

      Making it a class A misdemeanor, and debating turning it into a felony, is still a GROSS overreaction. Hell, unless you're somehow minting netflix accounts illicitly en masse I don't think it should be a criminal matter at all. But let's not accuse them of more than what it really is.


  8. Tony Paulazzo


    The Recording Industry Ass. of America right in the ass!

  9. Ceiling Cat


    "These studies, the RIAA claims, help explain why US music sales have sunk 47 per cent since the dawn of Napster in 1999, from $14.6bn to $7.7bn."

    Nice try guys, although they'll never admit the truth - It's not piracy costing them sales, it's the price of CDs/DVDs and the quality of modern music that's killing CD sales.

    I like buying concert DVDs and retrospectives, and will buy a regular CD if and only if it contains supplemental material such as a DVD of promo vids or live footage. However, purchases are becoming exceedingly rare, as I already have most of what I want (the stuff that's not permanently out of print that is).

    Can we pleaz has cieling-cat icon, El Reg?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Are the TN (and ony other state's) jails big enough?

    Can the US Legal system cope with the sudden influx of cases due to this law?

    IMHO, this will (if enforced) lead to the lass jailing of a section of the population.

    This effectively makes sharing ANY password illegal. This would really mess up a lot of companies.

    Anothe nail in the US Coffin of freedom.

    1. Dan Beshear

      The US ...

      ... itself will be the prison. It's the real reason why the wall is going up on the Mexican border, not to keep the Mexicans out but to keep the Americans in.

      When they start building a Canadian wall, you better already be out of here.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Bigger jails

      are all that will be needed; after all the US jail system is the biggest source of very cheap (and non-unionised) labour in the country.

      Getting a bit more variety into the work force will let them expand into newer markets.

  11. Asgard
    Big Brother

    @Now illegal to share passwords

    One more act of control, turn the screw, tighten the control a bit more.

    While you're at it, turn the heat up on that boiling frog, it should be almost cooked by now.

    Now a password has a legal status binding to us (because we cannot share them), how long before more passwords are made legally binding. How long before we get consolidated digital identities on many websites enforced by law using systems like for example OpenID.

    So one more step toward Totalitarian control, all in the name of the media distributors. :(

  12. K. Adams

    With the proliferation of subscription-media-enabled mobile devices...

    ... how will they know that I've given my password to someone else?

    If I have a NetFlix client on both my phone and laptop, then it is entirely possible that I can have multiple NetFlix sessions open at the same time, and from different external (outside-the-home) subnet addresses. For example, my laptop could be hooked into NetFlix through my broadband ISP, while my phone could be connected to NetFlix through my mobile provider's network.

    So, if I have my laptop at a friend's house, and we're watching a movie over there, and my wife/husband/child/significant other is watching a movie at home through a set-top box, is that Theft of Service?

    From a technological perspective, the solution to the problem is simple: allow only one active session per account. Period. There's no reason to enact yet another "clap 'em in irons" law.

    Great Diety, what a political football the Internet has become...

    1. multipharious

      That is it

      This is a Technical not legal problem. Software frequently is allowed for multiple installations for single users. Sharing a login is bad policy, but the penalty cannot be more than holding the theater door open or even shoplifting. A felony? Did they miss that people actually want to buy their products if they would just make it easy and DRM free?

  13. Inachu


    Better get a family pack plan then!


  14. Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile, several million years ago...

    "As the dinosaur nation continues its transition from selling... Wait! What's that? Some kind of fireball in the sky!"

  15. Zippy the Pinhead

    So if I am on a laptop and I am at a friends house...

    Can anyone else see how unenforceable this is?

    What is my friend's network is open?

  16. Gannon (J.) Dick
    Thumb Up

    Recording Industry Ass. of America

    "Ass. of America" is a bigger club, I should think. Do they have a trademark ?

  17. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Asinine Embiggment of Law

    So who's going to police this, exactly? Cops be popping up in your bog or what?

    I can't wait for the Nevermore A Zero Income act, where people are forced to undergo brain surgery at the end of the week so that they forget any media "consumed" during the week, and can stream them happily again (legally of course) for low, low per-stream fee.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To protect and serve... and act as digital rights management.

    It's really funny because both the right wing and the let wing are supposed to hate this kind of thing. It's something they agree on. Yet this still happens.

    Most of these services can't be used simutaniously, or there are limits. Sharing an account really only works between a few people. The companys providing these services are more than capable of making sure people don't share accounts. All to often they do too good a job and make DRM that's horrible for the cosumer.

    We don't need a LAW against this.

  19. asdf

    what will they do next?

    Long live Disney for pushing to make copyright eternal. May the unwashed masses never have access to steamboat willy without paying.

  20. David 45

    Get your priorities right.

    Looking at this from across the pond; "illegal" music sharing and the like is obviously MUCH more important than finding and convicting murderers, rapists and burglars. Real crimes will have to take second place now, I suppose. Police all over the world these days seem to take the easy option.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    RIAA members to be arrested ?

    There are a number of cases of RIAA member companies illegally streaming music to which they do not have the appropriate rights. Apparently the thinking goes something like: "well if any rights holder complains we'll mess them around for a couple of years and then if they haven't given up we'll offer them some fraction of what they should have earned and see if they take it or threaten court action - if we do have to settle then we'll ensure there is a 'no publicity' clause."

    It seems this is a lot cheaper for them than actually checking the agreements they have signed.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Mitch Glazier?

    Sounds like a shill from Microsoft.

    Either that, or a poor man's Willie Nelson.

  23. Peter Murphy
    Thumb Down

    Nashville, eh?

    Sounds like this law is being spruiked by the music establishment of that town. I'll let Johnny Cash (may he rest in peace) speak for me on the subject:

  24. Anonymous Coward

    One small step

    Wonder how long until it's illegal to loan a friend your DVD/Blu Ray to watch? Because it seems like exactly the same thing.

    Oh? It's already illegal. Damn. Erm. Right. *stops loaning people old Star Trek series*

  25. Tom Kelsall


    If they are successful in stopping unlawfully obtained content altogether, I don't think they realise that a large proportion of the "pirates" will STILL not pay - they will simply cease consuming that content.

    The music industry needs to re-examine their approach of flooding the world with low quality but easily marketed shit, and start promoting original acts with great talent indiscriminately. Take your eye off the end-of-day dollar, and instead focus on delivering quality content to the world. The end-of-week TEN dollars will come naturally and without spending billions on unnecessary litigation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nail-head !

      Now there's an idea for a new icon !

      The RIAA would love every illegal download to translate to a sale. But it ain't gonna happen. And as others have pointed out, there's a certain incentive for bands to tolerate illegal distribution of their music, if it leads (as I suspect) to bums on seats at (mainly) LIVE concerts, where they can get a cut of T-Shirt, Programme, Lapel Badge and other merchandising sales.

      Hang on - money from merchandising doesn't go to the record company/RIAA ... what a shame.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I wonder how many people simply don't care about the ethics of nicking/sharing this so-called content precisely because of the nasty little Holy War being waged by the RIAA, BPI etc? They're not precisely characters it's easy to have sympathy with, plus they are getting increasingly anal over increasingly terrible "product".

    Some of the biggest laughs from the ACS:Law and chums debacles was the crap people were supposed to have gone out of their way to "steal". I forget which ministry of sound track was the highlight of the case involved in Crossley's downfall, but frankly you'd have been nuts to be caught owning it unless you were the CIA road testing new torture regimes. Must be hard to try and push in court for the "toughest penalties" for "stealing" some garbage from the latest 10-minute-wonder pop Diva du jour while keeping a straight face and some sense of self worth.

    It's tough call between estate agents and music biz types for the top of the hate parade.

  27. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
    Big Brother

    Ah! now I uderstand....

    Aaaahhhhh….. (lets out sigh of satisfaction), the merkin legal system, the best legal system money can but.

    now I uderstand why;

    1) Why closely related cousins shouldn't be allowed to marry.

    2) Why crApple have taken out a patent that reduces the viewing angle on "hand held devices"

    It’s so people won't be able to read books that they have not paid for.

    Science fiction becomes science fact, have a read of Richard Stallmans article that appeared in the February 1997 issue of Communications of the ACM (Volume 40, Number 2). (from “The Road To Tycho”)

    FFS, password sharing, a class E Felony, the penalty is a fine of up to $50,000, or imprisonment of up to 15 years, or both; however, for a repeat offender, the term of imprisonment may increase up to 2 years with prior misdemeanour convictions, and up to 6 years with a prior felony conviction, usually associated with Battery (Great Bodily Harm), burglary and robbery.

    The next class of felony is class D which includes such crimes as Drunk Driving (Fifth or subsequent offence), Felony Vehicular Homicide (killing somebody), Vehicular Homicide While Intoxicated, and please note: Child Enticement or Solicitation Of A Child.

    So password sharing is only slighy worse than child abuse.

    I can see the legal case now:

    "Hello judge Spuckler, I'm Mr Cletus Spuckler, and I'll be representing my client, Mr Cletus Delroy Spuckler, I'd like the case to be reduced to a misdemeanour as the victim, miss Brittany Incest International Harvester Spuckler, had no income of her own at the time of the <insert details of some horrendous crime> as she was only 8 years old and therefore her <insert details of some horrendous crime> does not represent any material loss to the RIAss"

    Mizz Bee, can we have a Snake Plissken icon please.

  28. Twilight

    same old RIAA rhetoric

    Even if we assume the RIAA backed study numbers are correct, they completely fail (again) to address what percent of those "pirates" would have actually paid for the content or just done without. Every study that's looked at that in the past has concluded that very very few people would have paid for the content if the pirate material was unavailable (and also that the piracy may actually boost sales because potential buyers are exposed to music they would not have been otherwise).

  29. mark 63 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    do we need record companies anymore?

    now that anyone can produce and distribute music, what's the point of a "record company"?

    marketing? leave that to the reviewers, give the little guy a chance

    touring? get a travel agent

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