Government surveillance rules that sharing Netflix logins is illegal

Sharing passwords for online streaming services with friends and family is against the law, a government agency has warned.

The Intellectual Property Office said that watching shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ without paying the relevant subscription breaks copyright law.

But it said it was down to the companies to take action through the courts if necessary – and so far there is no suggestion that any would attempt to do so.

An estimated one in four of Netflix’s 14 million UK customers are sharing their login details, research found this year. The IPO published the advice online yesterday before quickly removing the reference to password sharing.

A spokeswoman, however, said the law and guidance remained the same, adding: ‘There are a number of provisions in criminal and civil law that may apply in the case of password sharing.’

The Crown Prosecution Service said charging someone for sharing a login would be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Netflix said it wants to ‘make it easier’ for people who borrow from others to set up their own account.

New features, to be launched in early 2023, will allow users to create ‘sub-accounts’ for people to make additional payments to family and friends.

It has also introduced new pricing tiers to make it affordable for some, such as the £4.99 service which includes adverts.

While this is often against the streaming services’ terms and services, they rarely go after individuals who try to share passwords.

But the latest guidance is a significant hardening of the rhetoric surrounding it, particularly in suggesting offenders could theoretically face prosecution.

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: ‘Any decision to charge someone for sharing passwords to streaming services will be looked at on a case-by-case basis, with due consideration of the individual context and facts of each case. ‘


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