Ethical Questions for Your Inner Couch Potato

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"High Maintenance" co-creator and star Ben Sinclair, "The Streamstress" Arwa Gunja, Manoush Zomorodi, and "High Maintenance" co-creator, writer and director  Katja Blichfeld hanging out at WNYC.

Watching TV  especially when it isn’t, strictly speaking, on TV  has gotten complicated. It’s not just “should I be staring at a screen for this many hours of the day?” or "I am having 'House of Cards' nightmares." It’s that there are so many choices, content-related and otherwise. Sometimes it’s hard to sort through them. 

We want to help you watch online TV better: better shows to watch, better ways to watch, and, to offer up a little guidance on the thorny questions of what to pay for. Hopefully, this week's podcast lightens the conscience of your inner couch potato. 

Our conversation with Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld, the creators of "High Maintenance," points the way. They've chosen to put their show exclusively online in a bargain that bestows artistic freedom but leaves them kinda broke. We also talk to our friend, Arwa Gunja, otherwise known as "The Streamstress."  

One of the questions that came up: Is it OK to share log-in information with people outside of your household?

If you're like 46 percent of HBO Go/Netflix/Hulu Plus/WatchESPN/Amazon Prime Instant Video watchers, you have too. The CEO of HBO Go may or may not care. There's a shakycomplicated, really, really big debate out there. 
After we wrapped the taping of our show craving even more certainty, we posed the question to a whole bunch of people who think about the bright lines of acceptable behavior  a priest, an imam, a Supreme Court justice (she very politely declined), and more...

Matt Kilmer, Music Coordinator and composer for ‘Louie’:

"...If you live with two roommates, it's fine to have one account between you all, and likewise with family living under one roof. However, if you are sharing a password with your old best friend from high school who lives on the opposite coast as you, then that's crossing the line IMO...$7.99/mo isn't breaking the bank for anyone who owns a device capable of streaming from any of these services."

Marci Auld Glass, pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho:

"I personally share my Netflix and HBO account with my son who is at college. If any other family asked me, I would likely share with them too. I haven’t had friends ask me, but I would be less likely to do that, I think... I am not sure I have an objection to sharing digital media. I purchase my digital music and video, and am happy to do so. I understand why companies would put limits on how many “devices” can be used by one account. They need to make money." 

Mitra Kaboli, senior producer of 'The Heart':

"For the last few years, honestly more than I can remember, I've been using an old lover of mine's Netflix account... Ethically, I have no problem with this. It's such a small sum of money and I feel like Netflix acknowledges that accounts are shared so I don't feel any moral qualms. The larger issue was if he got a new credit card, so I could no longer continue my 'Orange is the New Black' binge... Sometimes I got paranoid that these were passive aggressive messages aimed at me. Although, I'm certain they are not. He shared that account with seven or so people."

Mustafa Umar, Director of Education and Outreach at the Islamic Institute of Orange County, California:

"Sharing a password to copyrighted material is a gray area because it violates the intellectual property and copyright laws which you agreed to in the terms of service when signing up for the service. However, at the same time, it is not always directly harming anyone since that property is not transferred from one owner to the next. Given this circumstance, it comes down to the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law. I would only share a password if the person wanted to view the movie with the intention of buying it or renting it, since there would be potential benefit for the copyright holder." 

We're collecting more. What do you think? Where do you draw your moral lines in the digital sand?

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