Sharing passwords for streaming sites like Netflix may be illegal, a UK government agency has said, warning that it could even land people in court.
We all know that borrowing accounts for TV and film sites is something that’s incredibly common among many friends, families and let's face it... exes.
But in recent months, Netflix has announced it’s considering monetising password sharing as part of a new ‘thoughtful approach’, following a successful pilot scheme in a number of regions.
While the streamer has never suggested it plans to take legal action in such incidents, the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has now said sharing log-ins may actually be against the law.
According to the Guardian, the IPO published the advice on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ in a statement on Monday 19 December.
It had originally explicitly referred to ‘password sharing on streaming devices’, but later changed the phrase to ‘accessing... without paying a subscription’.
However, a spokesperson confirmed the agency’s legal position on the matter has not changed, nor had its guidance.
The spokesperson said: "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."
Advice now published on the official UK government website reads: “Piracy is a major issue for the entertainment and creative industries.
“Pasting internet images into your social media without permission, or accessing films, tv series or live sports events through Kodi boxes, hacked Fire Sticks or apps without paying a subscription is an infringement of copyright and you may be committing a crime.”
In the wake of the IPO’s guidance, the Crown Prosecution has not ruled out potentially prosecuting users for password sharing.
A spokesperson told the BBC: "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.
"As with all cases, if they are referred to the CPS by an investigator for a charging decision, our duty is to bring prosecutions where there is sufficient evidence to do so and when a prosecution is required in the public interest."
Matt Ross, Product Manager at research firm Digital i also told the outlet that account sharing ‘presents a major challenge’ to sites like Netflix.
"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," he said.
"The question, however remains: what is motivating multiple households who share a premium account to do so?"
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Topics: TV and Film, Netflix, UK News