Sharing password for services like Netflix could be a crime

Appeals court opines sharing passwords is crime

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion on July 5 that included sharing passwords can be considered a crime and prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.


The opinion was issued in response to a case involving David Nosal, an employee at the executive search firm Korn/Ferry International.


While the case with Nosal is specific, some reports wondered if the opinion could apply to cases such as sharing Neflix or HBO Go passwords.


Nosal was serving as Korn/Ferry International as contactor while preparing to launch a competing search firm. Nosal's database access was revoked but he was still able to access the information using the login credentials of his former assistant, who was still with Korn/Ferry International.


While the court's opinion declared sharing passwords can be punishable under the CFAA, Judge Stephen Reinhardt offered a dissenting opinion that closely aligns with those who might share passwords for sites such as Netflix and HBO Go.


Reinhardt determined that "the CFAA does not make the millions of people who engage in this ubiquitous, useful, and generally harmless conduct into unwitting federal criminals," according to the court's written opinion.