More and more, people are turning to the internet and digitally streaming their favorite TV shows right onto their laptops, tablets, and even their smartphones. Services offered by Hulu, Netflix, and HBO make this all possible.
Sometimes, those who subscribe to these services share their log-in information, like their passwords and email addresses, with friends and family members in order to share the service for which they subscribe. Most suspect that this practice is against the terms of service that they agree to when they sign up for the service, but few realize how much trouble they can get into.
Netflix’s Terms of Service stipulates that while you can run the subscription on up to 6 separate, pre-approved devices at a time, these devices should be under the direct control of the account user. The Terms of Service goes on to explain that the company actively tracks the IP addresses from the devices that log-in to the accounts.
If Netflix suspects that the account is being accessed by multiple parties, then the company reserves the right to terminate the service at-will. HBO Go and ESPN have similar, and sometimes harsher, provisions in their Terms of Service Agreements. It is very important to read the Terms of Service and Terms of Agreement for any online service that you subscribe to so that you do not get blind-sided in the event you accidentally violate the terms.
If you do violate the Terms of Service for a digital telecommunications service, like Netflix, it’s up to the Service Provider to determine whether the violation is worth pursuing in a criminal court.
The North Carolina Criminal Code § 14-113.20 explains that a person who knowingly uses identifying information of another person, living or dead, with the intent to obtain anything of value or advantage is guilty of violating the statute. The code includes electronic mail names/addresses, internet account numbers, or internet identification names in its list of identifying information that someone could use to commit fraud.
An individual found guilty of violating this statute may be charged as a felon and be subject to pay restitution for financial loss caused by the violation.
While it may seem like an innocent act, lending out your Netflix password to friends and family, it can result in severe consequences. If you find you’re in hot water for your generosity, contact a criminal attorney for a consultation.