Password sharing for online streaming services like Netflix is prohibited by law, according to a government entity. On Tuesday, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) declared that the conduct was against copyright laws.
In spite of the fact that sharing passwords for streaming services is normally against the terms of service agreements, it is popular in the UK for people who do not live together to do so.
Never once has Netflix said it will take legal action in such circumstances.
Since then, the IPO has removed the mention of password sharing from its instructions on the official website. However, a spokeswoman insisted that neither the IPO’s advice nor the legal position on password sharing had changed.
It said that sharing passwords was illegal and unlawful.
When a password is shared with the intention of granting free access to copyright-protected works, a number of legal penalties, both criminal and civil, may apply, according to the statement.
“Depending on the situation, these clauses might cover secondary copyright infringement, fraud, or breach of contractual obligations.
Where these obligations are set forth in civil law, it is incumbent on the service provider to seek redress in court if necessary.
There is no proof that any of the main UK streaming video providers would act in this manner.
According to Netflix, it wants to “make it easy” for users who use other people’s accounts to set up their own, move their profile into a new account, and create “sub-accounts” where users can charge more for family or friends.
In early 2023, it promised to begin “more substantially” implementing these capabilities.
Amazon and Disney, who operate streaming services, have also been contacted by the BBC for comment.
Four million UK Netflix members, or about a quarter of all subscribers, according to research firm Digital I share passwords.
Account sharing “presents a huge hurdle” for Netflix and other streaming services, according to product manager Matt Ross to the BBC.
Following the launch of the ad-supported tier, there is unquestionably a chance for Netflix to increase income significantly by cracking down on account sharing and turning those who do it into paying customers.
What drives many homes to share a premium subscription, though, is still an open subject.
Nadine Dorries, who was the culture secretary at the time, admitted being one of those sharing an account in May.
“My mother and the kids have access to my account. I have Netflix, but my account can be used by four other people in four different cities across the nation, “She spoke to the Committee on Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.
When Netflix started expanding in the UK, the streaming service made light of the practice of friends and relatives sharing passwords in a tweet.
Since then, Netflix has attempted to stop the practice, which is against its terms of service, but it has never taken legal action. Since that time, customer growth has slowed.
Instead, it has added new price tiers to the service in an effort to make it look more enticing, including the £4.99 ad-supported price point that was launched in the UK in November.
The allusion to criminal law in the IPO’s statement, which implies that individuals may in theory face prosecution from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for password sharing, is an intriguing portion of the response.
This was not excluded by the CPS.
An official told the BBC: “Any choice to punish someone for disclosing their streaming service passwords would be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the particular circumstances and facts of each case.
“As in other cases, if they are referred to the CPS by an investigator for a charging decision, it is our duty to initiate charges where there is enough evidence to do so and when a prosecution is necessary for the public interest,” the CPS stated.
In other words, a police investigation would be required before the CPS could take any action.
No evidence exists to support the claim that any UK police force would launch an inquiry into someone for disclosing their password to a streaming provider.