A US appeals court hearing has ruled that password sharing is actually illegal.

So could Netflix users find themselves up in court now? Probably not. Probably….

How to Create a Secure Password

The verdict was handed down in a case involving a former employee of a business who had used a former colleague’s login details to access his ex-workplace’s network and database.

In the final response to the case, one of the presiding judges ruled that nearly all access to protected computers without proper authorisation or permission, was an activity that in theory at least, could actually now be considered a criminal act.

The wider implications could have a real effect on the wider sharing of passwords outside of confidential and/or business environments, said one of the judges who disagreed with the ruling.

Some tech industry commentators have also shared concerns that the ruling could set a precedent for the results in future cases, including disputes about the sharing of Netflix passwords.

Judge Reinhardt, who was against the specifics of the ruling argued that the verdict called into question that fact that password sharing was not the same as hacking, could not be considered the same thing, and was concerned how the outcome of the case would affect the literally millions of people who shared passwords for email, social media, and other sites such as Netflix, citing the fact that the act of doing so was ‘generally harmless conduct.’

Reinhardt speculated that ordinary people could in certain innocent cases find themselves jailed as a result of the ruling.

Judge McKeown however, another of the appeals court judges, disagreed, and wrote in her summation that the specifics of the case bore little or no ‘resemblance to asking a spouse to log in to an email account to print a boarding pass.’

Only time will tell how other similar cases fare in criminal and civil prosecutions, and whether the case in question will be referred to in a specific sense, or if a blanket precedent has been set that could negatively affect people who like House of Cards.