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Sharing your Netflix password is now a federal crime, court rules

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Posted at 8:42 AM, Jul 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-11 12:38:06-04

Sharing your Netflix password, or any password for that matter, is now considered a federal crime after three judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling last week.

The case doesn't directly involve Netflix, but does criminalize password sharing in general.

United States v. Nosal involves David Nosal, a headhunter who worked for a company called Korn/Ferry before leaving in 2004, according to Fusion.

When he left, Nosal "recruited former colleagues who used the password of a person still with the company to download information from Korn/Ferry’s database for use at the new firm," Fusion reports.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who was the dissenting judge in a 2-1 decision, said in his opinion that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act at the center of the case "does not make the millions of people who  engage in this ubiquitous, useful, and generally harmless conduct into unwitting federal criminals," according to Fusion.

While companies like Netflix and HBO could technically go after individual users for password sharing under the ruling, it's unlikely they would have the time or inclination to do so. It's also likely that the United States v. Nosal case isn't done working its way through the court system.