We’ve all experienced it:
“Dude! You never saw the finale of Breaking Bad?! Here’s my Netflix password — get on it!”; “Well, as long as I’m not using it, you’re welcome to borrow my Spotify account, I guess.”; “Game of Thrones? Yeah, you should watch it. Write down my HBOGo info — it’s cool.”
But take a long hard look at how you watch your shows and listen to your music — are you paying for any of your own services?
Before any of you bring up the “I pirate” statement, let’s be clear: this article has nothing to do with piracy. We’re not having that discussion right now. We’re talking about services that are paid for and you happen to be borrowing. However, we’ll discuss the legalities towards the end of this piece.
The question is this: can you go too far?
Below are five signs you may very well be a Media Moocher! Let’s see if you are one.
#5. You Don’t Pay For Anything — Nada, Nothin’
The first sign that you’re a Media Moocher is the brutal fact that you pay for absolutely no entertainment services. Yes, you have access to Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, HBOGo, etc. and etc. — you just are borrowing all of it. Things may be a little different if, hypothetically, you have a Netflix account that you let a friend use in exchange for access to their Amazon Prime account. That’s not too bad, but we’re talking about absolutely no money leaving your bank account in order to watch movies, listen to music, and follow TV shows.
#4. You KNOW You Could Be A Valuable Asset To The NSA
Let’s be real — how many passwords do you know, bro? Could you access all of your friends’ Facebook accounts if you wanted them? Their email accounts? HAVE you accessed them before? You dirty rotten scoundrel — contact the U.S. government for a job right away!
#3. You’ve Had To Ask For Your Friend’s Password… More Than Once
Have you ever sat down in front of your Xbox and started to login with your buddy’s Live account… only to discover that you’ve been logged out because they have been playing on their home system? Of course you have. Now, while we all may be wondering who on earth would share their Live account, this is a normal event for you. We understand a Gold account is costly, and as long as this system works for you and your friend, so what? But surely you feel some kind of shame…
#2. You’ve Maintained Relationships Solely For The Reason Of Having Access To Netflix
Um. Not saying the author of this post has ever done this — at all — but things may be a little problematic if breaking up with your significant other means breaking up with their Netflix account… that you borrow. What makes it worse is if you stay in that relationship just so that you may continue to watch shows on Netflix. We know it happens. We also know it’s possible more of an emotional attachment to Netflix than your girlfriend. And that’s wrong.
#1. Your Friends Have To Ask You For Permission To Use Their Accounts
Some services — like Spotify — will log you out of one machine if you’re using the same service on another. If you get to a point where the people you are borrowing such services from have to ask you to log out of their accounts so that they may use them… you may have gone a little too far. In fact, with Netflix there’s even a limit, so if you’re letting other people borrow the account which you are borrowing, you may run into this! (Don’t run into this.)
Now Let’s Talk About The Legalities
So media mooching is common, but here’s a question for you: is it legal?
Much like the events leading up to the file sharing scandal with Napster and the RIAA around the early 2000s, this is a bit of a gray area. Since most everything is cloud-based, what’s the difference between a customer using different devices on their own and a customer giving someone permission to do so? The media is being paid for, isn’t it?
It doesn’t feel wrong, by any means. In fact, Netflix’s user profiles feature makes it seem like that they embrace it. However, the company is actually strategizing to combat this by offering a $11.99 “family plan” which allows for 4 devices to simultaneously stream (while the basic plan allows for 2 streams only).
On the other hand, companies like HBO are temporarily embracing the password-sharing phenomenon as a marketing strategy with the hope that those borrowing will eventually subscribe on their own. This BuzzFeed interview with HBO’s CEO dives into a bit more detail:
As you can tell, the companies recognize that there is an issue, but they aren’t necessarily taking a legal approach towards things. However, some government entities are taking action. Tennessee recently passed this law:
This past June, the state of Tennessee declared it illegal to share your personal account information for subscription-based entertainment services. Those that steal media of $500 or less would be charged with a misdemeanor that could land them in prison for one year and $2,500. Any higher than $500 is considered a felony and comes with heftier fines and jail sentences. (My Bank Tracker)
Now, it’s apparent that this is likely targeted at large-scale sharing of certain accounts. Say, for instance, you’re making a profit by providing hundreds of people access to your Netflix account at a $1 a piece (they just all hypothetically use it at different times). However, based on the wording of the law, even small-scale sharing can technically be an offense.
All that said, we’re in a bit of a transition phase. The cultural norm is to embrace password sharing, but naturally, companies are looking for ways to make a profit on it (and some governments are looking to criminalize it).
Are you borrowing too many media subscription services? What do you think about the legalities involved? Let us know what you have to say in the comments below!