CATEGORIES Movies, Hot Topic

Are you used to handing out your Netflix passwords to friends? Might want to rethink that, Tennessee residents. That common practice has just been outlawed by state lawmakers.

The groundbreaking measure would make it a crime to use a friend's login - even with permission - to listen to songs or watch movies from services such as Netflix and Rhapsody.

The bill was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam and takes effect July 1. Apparently, downloading or streaming just one song or movie would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Any illegal downloads valued at over $500 would be considered a felony, with heavier penalties.

Tennessee is the first state to update its theft-of-cable laws to include web-based subscription, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, the group behind the new bill.

Mitch Glazier, executive vice president of public policy for the RIAA, said the bill is necessary to cope with new digital technology. The music industry has seen its domestic revenue plunge by more than half in 10 years, from $15 billion to $7 billion, he said. The RIAA hopes other states will follow Tennessee's example.

The legislation was aimed at hackers and thieves who sell passwords in bulk, but it could also be used against people who use a friend's or relative's subscription. That kind of sharing would be hard to detect, however, according to Bill Ramsey, a Nashville lawyer who practices entertainment law and criminal defense. But "when you start going north of 10 people, a prosecutor might look and say, 'Hey, you knew it was stealing,' " Ramsey said.

For the average person, the bottom line is this: Sharing your passwords with your mom or dad is probably okay. Sharing your password with your entire dorm: Not so good.

"What becomes not legal is if you send your username and password to all your friends so they can get free subscriptions," said the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Gerald McCormick.

[via The Tennessean]