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  • Philip Osadebay - Tech Journalist

Sharing of Netflix passwords may be illegal

In the UK, it is common for people who do not live together to share their email service passwords, although it is usually against service contracts. Sharing passwords to online streaming services like Netflix is ​​against the law, according to the government agency.

Netflix has never announced that it will take legal action in such cases. The IPO has since removed reference to password sharing from its guidelines on the government website. However, a spokesperson confirmed that the legal position on password sharing has not changed and neither have the IPO guidelines.

According to this, password sharing is both a criminal and a civil matter. These provisions may, depending on the circumstances, involve a breach of contract, fraud, or other copyright infringement. If these provisions are governed by civil law, it is the responsibility of the service provider to take legal action, if necessary.

There is no evidence that any of the major UK streaming video operators would do this. Netflix said it wants to make it easier for borrowers from other accounts to create their accounts, transfer their profile to a new account and create "sub-accounts" so people can pay additional for family or friends. It has announced that it will roll out these features more widely in early 2023.

The extent of the problem

Research firm Digital estimates that around a quarter of UK Netflix subscribers of around four million people share their passwords. The product manager Matt Ross at Netflix said that account sharing is a big challenge for Netflix and other streaming services.

After increasing the ad-supported level, Netflix has an opportunity to generate significant additional revenue by limiting accounts and making them their subscribers.

What motivates multiple households with premium accounts to share passwords?

As Netflix grew in the UK, the streaming service cracked a joke about the frequency of password sharing between friends and family. Since then, user growth has stalled and Netflix has tried to slow down the practice, which is against its terms of service but never went to court. Instead, it introduced new pricing tiers to make the service more attractive.

Criminal proceedings

One interesting part of the IPO's response is a reference to the Criminal Code which suggests that in theory people could be prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for sharing passwords.

A spokesperson told the BBC "Any decision to charge someone for sharing passwords to streaming services will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the individual context and facts of each case".

In other words, before the CPS can take action, it must first have sufficient evidence and prosecution is necessary for the public interest.


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