The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in the UK recently announced that sharing passwords for online streaming services such as Netflix is against the law and breaks copyright law. It is common in the UK for people who do not live together to share their streaming service passwords, despite this typically is against terms of service agreements. However, the IPO has since removed the reference to password sharing in its guidance on the government website but has confirmed that the legal position on password sharing has not changed and nor has the IPO’s guidance. It stated that password sharing is both a criminal and civil matter and may include breach of contractual terms, fraud, or secondary copyright infringement, depending on the circumstances.
Why Is Netflix Allowing Password Sharing?
Netflix has never indicated that it would take any legal action in cases of password sharing. Instead, the streaming service has tried to crack down on the practice by introducing new price tiers to make the service more appealing, such as the £4.99 ad-supported price point, which was introduced in the UK in November. Netflix has also said that it wants to make it easier for people borrowing others’ accounts to set up their own, transfer their profile into a new account, and create “sub-accounts” for people to pay extra for family or friends. These features are set to roll out more broadly in early 2023.
Could You Face Prosecution for Password Sharing on Netflix?
The IPO’s response to password sharing on Netflix included a reference to criminal law, suggesting that people could theoretically face prosecution from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for password sharing. However, the CPS has stated that any decision to charge someone for sharing passwords for streaming services would be looked at on a case-by-case basis, with due consideration of the individual context and facts of each case. In other words, before the CPS could take any action, it would need to be referred to a case by an investigator and there must be sufficient evidence to do so, as well as prosecution is required in the public interest.
What Are the Consequences of Password Sharing on Netflix?
While it may be unlikely that anyone will face prosecution for password sharing on Netflix, there are still consequences to consider. Firstly, sharing passwords for streaming services is against the terms of service agreements and could result in account suspension or termination. Secondly, password sharing could potentially lead to financial losses for the streaming service, as they are not receiving payment for the additional users accessing their content. Research firm Digital I estimates that around a quarter of UK Netflix subscribers, around four million people, are sharing their passwords. This presents a major challenge to Netflix and other streaming services, as they could potentially generate significant additional revenue by cracking down on account sharing and converting those users into subscribers in their own right.
What Are the Alternatives to Password Sharing on Netflix?
If you are concerned about the legal implications of password sharing on Netflix or simply want to avoid the potential consequences, there are alternatives to consider. One option is to set up your own Netflix account and pay for it yourself. The streaming service offers a range of price tiers to suit different budgets, including an ad-supported option for £4.99 per month in the UK. Another option is to set up a joint account with someone you live with, such as a partner or family member, and share the cost of the subscription. This way, you can both legally access the content on Netflix without breaking any terms of service agreements.
Sharing passwords for streaming services such as Netflix may be against the law in the UK, according to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). While it is unlikely that anyone will face prosecution for password sharing,