Tenn. passes Web entertainment theft bill

June 1, 2011 By SHEILA BURKE and LUCAS L. JOHNSON II , Associated Press

(AP) -- State lawmakers in country music's capital have passed a groundbreaking measure that 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 or Rhapsody.

The bill, now awaiting the governor's signature, was pushed by officials to try to stop the loss of billions of dollars to illegal music sharing. They hope other states will follow.

The legislation was aimed at hackers and thieves who sell passwords in bulk, but its sponsors acknowledge it could be employed against people who use a friend's or relative's subscription.

While those who share their subscriptions with a spouse or other family members under the same roof almost certainly have nothing to fear, blatant offenders - say, college students who give their logins to everyone on their dormitory floor - could get in trouble.

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

Under the measure, download services that believe they are getting ripped off can go to law enforcement authorities and press charges.

The bill expands an existing law used to prosecute people who steal or leave restaurants without paying for their meals. It adds "entertainment " to the list of services protected by the law.

Tennessee would become the first state to update its theft-of-cable laws for the 21st century and address the new trend toward Internet delivery of entertainment, according to the .

"I think it's stupid," college student Josh Merbitz said of the law. The 20-year-old music education major at Middle Tennessee State University said he watches Netflix movies online using the password of his friend's father, with the father's permission.

Stealing $500 or less of entertainment would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Theft with a higher price tag would be a felony, with heavier penalties.

Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that he hasn't yet reviewed the bill but expressed support for steps to reduce music piracy, citing the large record industry presence in Nashville.

"I don't know enough about that legislation, but if it's combating that issue, I would be in favor of it," Haslam said.

The recording industry, a major taxpayer in Tennessee, loses money when users share accounts for music services instead of paying separately.

Mitch Glazier, executive vice president of public policy for the RIAA, said the bill is a necessary protective measure as digital technology evolves. The music industry has seen its domestic revenue plunge by more than half in 10 years, from $15 billion to $7 billion, he said.

Bill Ramsey, a Nashville lawyer who practices both entertainment law and criminal defense, said that he doubts the law would be used to ban people in the same household from sharing subscriptions, and that small-scale violations involving a few people would, in any case, be difficult to detect. But "when you start going north of 10 people, a prosecutor might look and say, `Hey, you knew it was stealing,'" Ramsey said.

Music industry officials said they usually catch people who steal and resell logins in large quantities because they advertise.

Among the measure's critics is public defender David Doyle, who said the wording is too vague and overly broad. He said an "entertainment subscription" could be interpreted to mean a magazine subscription or a health club membership.

Kelly Kruger, an 18-year-old aerospace major at Middle Tennessee State University, said she likes to watch movies online in her dorm by logging in with her mother's account information. Kruger said she hands out the login information to friends who don't live with her.

Even with a law against it, "I think people will keep doing it, like illegal downloading," Kruger said.

Explore further: French lawmakers reject Internet piracy bill


Related Stories

French lawmakers reject Internet piracy bill

April 9, 2009

(AP) -- French lawmakers unexpectedly rejected a bill Thursday that would have cut off the Internet connections of people who repeatedly download music or films illegally.

Lawmakers adopt bill to punish Internet piracy

May 12, 2009

(AP) -- French lawmakers in the lower house on Tuesday passed a bill that would cut the Internet connections of those who repeatedly download music and films illegally, creating what may be the first government agency to ...

Virgin Media and Universal launch music service

June 15, 2009

(AP) -- Virgin Media, the cable TV operator owned by entrepreneur Richard Branson, launched a new kind of music download subscription service Monday with Universal, the world's largest music company.

Debate starting on new French Internet piracy bill

July 21, 2009

(AP) -- Lawmakers in France's lower house of parliament are to start debate Tuesday on a new version of a bill aimed at cracking down on online piracy by cutting the Internet connections of those who illegally download movies ...

US Senate committee approves online piracy bill

November 18, 2010

The US Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill on Thursday that would give US law enforcement more tools to crack down on websites abroad engaged in piracy of movies, television shows and music.

Recommended for you

AI and 5G in focus at top mobile fair

February 24, 2018

Phone makers will seek to entice new buyers with better cameras and bigger screens at the world's biggest mobile fair starting Monday in Spain after a year of flat smartphone sales.

Google Assistant adds more languages in global push

February 23, 2018

Google said Friday its digital assistant software would be available in more than 30 languages by the end of the years as it steps up its artificial intelligence efforts against Amazon and others.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jun 01, 2011
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 02, 2011
Americons seem to have every freedom that corporations are willing to permit them to have, and not one drop more.

Good luck with that.
5 / 5 (2) Jun 02, 2011
I think this law is a good idea. It manufactures criminals who then pay fines. This is good right? But now that these people have felony records, they'll make less income and therefore pay less taxes. Total win-win legislation!
not rated yet Jun 02, 2011
Or... a service has terms and conditions saying how an account can be used. There are numerous ways to track this, and none of them require creating a law. Someone breaks your rules, ban their account. Problem solved.
not rated yet Jun 02, 2011
JBee, the problem is that from the recording industry's point of view it's not their responsibility to ensure their Terms of Service contracts are not voilated. It is the responsibility of the Government.

This shifts the costs of enforcement from the Companies to the Tax Payers.

It also seems to elevate the crime of listening to unpurchased music to that beyond physical violence. (Misdemeanor Battery vs stealing 501$ in music)

Also it makes me wonder
Stealing $500 or less of entertainment would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Theft with a higher price tag would be a felony, with heavier penalties.

The cost of the entertainment, is this the cost that it would have been if legally purchased (1$ per song, 17 per cd, 10$/month for netflix etc) or the price that the RIAA is regularly suing people for (150,000$ per song, less or more depending on the state you are in)?

not rated yet Jun 03, 2011
"Someone breaks your rules, ban their account. Problem solved." - JBee

You don't understand. If they make it illegal, then society is obliged to establish and maintain the enforcement of the law.

Once they have established the law, they have externalized the cost of enforcement to society at large.

So the people get screwed twice. First by having their freedom's limited even further by Corporations, and second for actually having to pay to enforce the laws that limit their own freedoms.

Not one word of outrage from the Ignorant American Apes who are bread to be consumers.

Imagine a corporate group lobbying for and getting a Conservative Government to pass a law that prohibits people from having rent or loan their homes when on vacation because doing so limits the manufacture of new homes and hurts the construction industry.

Ahahahaha... Americans just keep taking it up the backside from their Corporate Masters.

The funny thing is that they aren't even aware enough to feel it
5 / 5 (1) Jun 03, 2011
Not one word of outrage from the Ignorant American Apes who are bread to be consumers.

While I agree with your argument, your insults that you hurl at Americans are inappropriate and false. Please notice the reply before yours where i state my outrage. I am an American.

What nation are you from? I am SURE there have been times in your nations history (probably also currently) where similar, if not worse, laws were passed.

Remember that insults will only turn people away from listening to your point of view.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.