For many years at this point, it has been pretty commonplace for people to share their Netflix passwords with family members, love interests, and friends. Sometimes, these passwords get passed on, and there could be four or five people all on the same account. While Netflix has turned a blind eye to this for years, and even made tongue in cheek jokes on Twitter about it, things could be changing soon.
According to the UK government, sharing a Netflix password is actually illegal, with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) saying that it is in fact a breach of copyright law. It has not been an issue since Netflix has not shown that it will take any legal action against people who share passwords.
However, since making an announcement about this, the IPO office actually took out its reference to the password sharing guidance from its website. However, despite this, a spokesperson still confirmed that the law has not changed and neither has the office’s guidance on it.
According to the IPO: “There are a range of provisions in criminal and civil law which may be applicable in the case of password sharing where the intent is to allow a user to access copyright-protected works without payment. These provisions may include breach of contractual terms, fraud or secondary copyright infringement, depending on the circumstances. Where these provisions are provided in civil law, it would be up to the service provider to take action through the courts if required.”
To be clear, there’s no evidence that any of the streaming platforms having any plans to actually do this. Previously, Netflix has said that they have made it “easy” for people using each others’ accounts to migrate over to their own accounts and also create “sub-accounts” for family members or friends to pay for more people using one account.
According to research firm Digital, about 25% of UK Netflix users, which comes out to about 4 million subscribers, are actually sharing passwords. The company’s product manager Matt Ross shared that password sharing “presents a major challenge” to streaming platforms.
He also said: “Following on from the addition of the ad-supported tier, there is clearly an opportunity for Netflix to generate significant additional revenue by cracking down on account sharing and converting those who do into subscribers in their own right. The question, however remains: what is motivating multiple households who share a premium account to do so?”
Since password sharing has become so commonplace, it caused growth to stagnate, and thus Netflix began to try to stop this from happening, but has never actually taken any legal action against subscribers from doing so. The company introduced price tiers to try to make up for this instead, with a less-expensive ad supported option.
Netflix has said that in 2023, they will become more strict while dealing with this issue, and in addition to its ad-supported tier it will also test out logging in with validation codes. It’s unclear just how the company will accomplish its goal, and it is yet to be seen if customers will have their own backlash against these changes.