So, there was an adjudication in a case at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a couple weeks ago involving a man who stole key information from his former employer and it created a huge frenzy. The short version, according to the L.A. Times, involved a man by the name of David Nosal. Nosal left a firm as a regional director at an executive search firm. Upon leaving, he took it upon himself to start up a competitor business of his own. He got someone to do his dirty work of logging into his old work station and download "extremely valuable proprietary information" about said company.
Now, any normal person would understand that this should be a crime and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It's one that I'd imagine could be determined to be a felony, depending on the value of the information, and one would hope that someone who would conduct such a scheme would go away for a good amount of time. However, I'm not a prosecutor, defense attorney or a judge and I have no real say in the matter.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision in early July in the case of United States vs. David Nosal affirming that he knowingly stole trade secrets by accessing a protected computer “without authorization” in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and in violation of the Economic Espionage Act. (L.A. Times)
Now, what has everyone and their mother up in arms about this decision is because one of the judges overseeing this case had an interesting perspective in his dissent. Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt argued that HYPOTHETICALLY that "the ruling could hypothetically lead to a precedent where anyone who shared a password could be construed to be violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act." I'm not a rocket scientist, but I didn't know that lawyers, judges and others associated with our judicial dealt with the hypothetical world. I could've sworn that evidence, alibis and history were some, but not limited to the, factors used in determining if a person was guilty or not.
This dissent from Judge Reinhardt has caused grave concern for a bunch of streaming-video-on-demand (SVOD) users. These would those who are like you and me who love watching shows and movies via HBO GO, Hulu, Netflix, and through many other outlets. You're probably wondering if it's absolutely true that using passwords from your friends or family members is going to be a federal crime after this verdict. Have a drink, breathe and watch Netflix and chill. This is not going to affect you, at least for now. Most decisions that come out of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have been overturned and it wouldn't surprise the average person who follows cases out of that circuit if that happens again.
What one must understand about this whole Netflix-type freak-out is that Netflix has been a strong supporter of customers sharing their passwords with friends and family, mainly in hopes of increasing their membership rather than their viewership. Even if you were to share your password with 15 other people, only two different devices can be watching material/content from the same member's account. There's an option for four devices, but you're going to have to pay a little extra. From a technical standpoint, the bandwidth and strength of the signal needed to watch your Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, Amazon Prime Video, and others are going to shrink and make your pictures and audio more choppy with more people watching from the same account.
Certainly, an easy way to avoid bandwidth and wireless issues is to sign up for your own account. If you're the sole owner of the membership, you could always throw a curveball to those with whom you've shared your password. Change the credentials. It's that simple. You might lose friends in the process, but that could be a "them" problem and not a "you" problem. Then again, in the end, if our judicial and criminal justice system are going to come after us for binge-watching "Mr. Robot," "Orange is the New Black," and "Game of Thrones" just because our friends were nice enough to do such a thing, then we must not have our priorities straight. I'm not saying there are completely in line as we speak, but it'd further be an indication of such.