If you are sharing your Netflix password with your friends and family, you are probably committing a federal crime according to this Time.com report. It might be illegal to share your Netflix password. The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals says that sharing your Netflix password can be a federal crime. It issued a ruling recently declaring that sharing a password for a service like Netflix without authorization is a crime that can be prosecuted under the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Before you get alarmed the ruling isn’t specifically about sharing Netflix passwords or whether sharing Netflix passwords is a federal crime and hence illegal or not. So you are not going to be arrested if you are using your brother’s family’s Netflix account to watch Drop Dead Diva neither is someone going to accuse you of committing a federal crime for engaging yourself in an illegal act. This is implied just by reference.
According to the Time.com link above, the prospect of sharing a Netflix password being a federal crime came into light in the case of David Nosal who was an employee of a firm called Korn/Ferry International. Even after leaving the firm due to some differences, he kept working there as a contractor and while he was working there as a contractor, he was also setting up his own, competing, search form, along with a few other conspirators.
Using David Nosal’s former assistant’s login credentials, who was still at Korn/Ferry International, Nosal and his co-conspirators repeatedly accessed the company’s candidate database.
Nosal conviction has been based on a clause that criminalises anyone who “knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization.”
The conviction, couple with the contents of the CFAA, makes it a federal crime and hence an illegal act to share your Netflix password.
Although it isn’t very clear how seriously an illegal act it is to share your Netflix password because you can create multiple profiles in your Netflix account and which means multiple people can use your Netflix password as and when they want, provided you have created their profile using your master account.
This link on Salon.com says the matter could be in fact, very serious and people in the US could be arrested for sharing Netflix password with each other.
Long time ago people in India used to “share” VSNL usernames and passwords.. Those days we used to have dial-up Internet connections. So each time you needed to log onto the Internet, you needed to double click the dialer app on your PC desktop and it would ask for a VSNL-assigned username and password. That was pretty illegal because if you used someone’s username and password you were actually stealing someone’s money because every minute that you spent surfing the Internet, you were using access which was being paid by the actual owner of the connection. I have used “share” within quotations because most of these usernames and passwords were stolen and then shared through various online forums.
In the case of Netflix it isn’t clear whether you are actually causing someone monetary loss (maybe Netflix itself because of the bandwidth being used) by using someone’s login and password.