This weekend, New York Times tech journalist Jenna Wortham made a confession that could be used to send her to prison for a year or more. What was the startling criminal admission? She uses someone else’s HBO Go password to sign into the cable-subscriber-only app to watch ‘Game of Thrones.’
In the piece headlined, “No TV? No Subscription? No Problem,” Wortham wrote:
"[Some friends and I] all had the same plan: to watch the season premiere of “Game of Thrones.” But only one person in our group had a cable television subscription to HBO, where it is shown. The rest of us had a crafty workaround."
She says “crafty.” A federal prosecutor might substitute “illegal” there.
"We were each going to use HBO Go, the network’s video Web site, to stream the show online — but not our own accounts. Our behavior — sharing password information to HBO Go, Netflix, Hulu and other streaming sites and services — appears increasingly prevalent among Web-savvy people who don’t own televisions or subscribe to cable."
While Wortham was aware that the companies she contacted for comment about this might not be happy about her accessing their services for free, she seems wholly unaware that the activity was potentially illegal. Just like the many BitTorrenters who have made Game of Thrones the most pirated show on the Internet, Wortham is getting her content in a way that could put her on the wrong side of the law.
After the New York Times got a flood of complaints about Wortham committing piracy by jumping over entertainment providers’ pay walls, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan addressed the issue in a column. Strangely Sullivan only addressed the ethics of password-sharing not the legality of the practice, concluding by saying that Wortham might write another column “exploring the ethical issues” and might now instead watch ‘Game of Thrones’ at a bar.
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