‘Netflix Bill’ Due for Rewrite

An online piracy measure passed into state law last year will be debated again this legislative session, in an effort to exclude a provision that made it unlawful for people to share passwords for accounts like Netflix and Pandora with their family.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, has indicated he plans to reintroduce the concept in committee in the next few weeks so that lawmakers can clean up the confusing language.

“The intent of it, and hopefully the final result, will be that people can share passwords if they’re family members and that type thing,” McCormick said. “But we can keep it illegal to get those passwords and just send it out to hundreds of people or thousands of people, either to make money off of it, or just to steal the work of the songwriters.”

That’s how the measure was pitched to state lawmakers last year by a lobbyist for the Recording Industry Association of America. McCormick said he was not presented evidence during those hearings of such widespread theft, but that the industry said its aim was to get ahead of any potential problem — as it had failed to do in the late 1990s when file-sharing sites like Napster surged.

McCormick said his aim was to protect Nashville’s recording industry from theft of its intellectual property.

“Actually it wasn’t a Netflix bill,” McCormick said. “It was for the recording industry. We’re trying to discourage people from stealing songwriter’s property.

“I never even thought about Netflix until I started getting e-mails from all over the world.”

McCormick said he realizes a bill to deal with subscription services may not be necessary because companies such as Netflix already have certain safeguards and contractual language in place to restrict use of the content.

“We mess up, too. Sometimes we have to go back and fix our mistakes, and that’s what we’re doing here,” McCormick said.