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Tennessee bill broadens scope of 'theft,' wide enough to include web-based subscription services?

Joe Pollicino

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This week, Tennessee signed a bill that made waves across the web, with many sites claiming that sharing your log-in credentials for services such as Netflix could soon land you in the slammer. The actual story isn't that simple. The bill essentially adds onto laws pertaining to the theft of 'services' in the legal sense by covering more things that can be defined under the title. For instance, the original list included cable services, to keep folks from jacking free HBO -- now, stealing "entertainment subscription services" can make you a felon as well.

Tennessee has always been a hotspot for the recording industry, so there's almost no question about what this bill was meant to fight; during a senate hearing for the bill, the RIAA itself explained that online music services could be pirated via password sharing. It also added, though, that users who share passwords "en-masse" are the focus, rather than individual cases like it had pursued in the past.

However, this bill covers more than online services and could even extend to physical media such as magazines, another example vulnerable to this type of theft. Furthermore, while sharing passwords to these "entertainment services" may be illegal after its enactment on July 1st, that's not what this legislation is technically about; the RIAA would still need to prove that password sharing equates to theft in a court of law. You can check the links down below for more details.

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