When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I shared a lot of music, movies, and television. I regularly made mix tapes to share with my friends and they with me. We recorded movies and television onto VHS tapes and shared them. We also loaned our copies of various media to each other. This is how we discovered new things and what we liked and didn’t like. It is how I discovered most of the bands and musicians that I still enjoy today.
As time went on, the ways in which you could share media changed, but the principals remained the same. With it came my ever increasing media catalog. I listened or watched and discarded what I didn’t like while keeping what I liked. I then purchased what I did like. A prime example of this is Bebel Gilberto. A friend sent me the mp3s of her first album. It was not available locally in stores because she isn’t considered mainstream, so I special ordered the album. I have since collected all her albums.
This is how people have always shared what they liked, it’s just faster than it was in the past. The state of Tennessee, however, has now passed a law that makes it illegal to share your passwords and login details with anyone. The law will take effect on July 1st.
Once the law takes effect, those who share log-in information with friends or even family from any subscription service, including Netflix and Rhapsody, could be charged with theft.
Infringers who are deemed to have stolen up to $500 entertainment content, including movies or music, could be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Imprisonment terms and fines go up for those who steal more than $500 worth of content.
Who determines what was stolen? How will it be determined? They can’t even make accurate estimates of copyright infringement. How will they determine these newly invented forms of infringement? The fines are outrageous, of course, but that doesn’t matter.
Although the law targets those who steal log-in information of unsuspecting people for access to content, it still has the potential to apply to families with a single account for an entertainment service, such as Netflix.
Under Tennessee’s law, only service providers can press charges against allegedly infringing customers.
Netflix itself has already started considering ways to combat username-sharing. In April, Netflix posted a question-and-answer page to its investors site, discussing plans for encouraging families to pay for multiple plans, rather than consume content from a single account.
This last sentence is reason enough to cancel your Netflix account. If you have small children, particularly under 18, they are not allowed to enter into any type of contract. They are not old enough to make a rational decision and they do not have the money for such things either. How is a five year old supposed to remember what a login is and the consequences of having mommy log in for him? By “encouraging” families to pay for multiple plans, Netflix will be forcing families to pay more for the same content they already receive.
The Tennessee law contradicts fair use and will only turn those who are following the rules into criminals. It eliminates the need for civil courts because, by making sharing a felony, you no longer need a civil court, a collections department, or even a lawyer. Municipal law enforcement and district attorneys will now do all that work for the entertainment industry.
The way in which the law was passed should also shock most people.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters earlier this week that he wasn’t familiar with the details of the legislation, but given the large recording industry presence in Nashville, he favors “anything we can do to cut back” on music piracy.
Governor Haslam isn’t concerned with how it will affect the citizens of his state. He is concerned with how much money he will lose if he ticks off the RIAA. This is a prime example of the entertainment industry pushing things too far. The government and the entertainment industry do not care about what is right and wrong, they only care about how much money will line their pockets at the end of the day.
With this attitude, there will be little customers left who can actually afford the entertainment industry’s products because they will be paying off a lifetime of fines or sitting in prison for a law that should, essentially, not even exist.