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It turns out that sharing your Netflix password is a crime

But don’t panic, the streaming platform has other plans for its clamp-down

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

Remember those old ‘You wouldn’t steal a car’ ads that came before the trailers on DVDs? You know, the ones that made you feel like you’d actually stolen a car and completely forgotten about it. Well, if you’re sharing a Netflix password, you may be stealing yet more metaphorical cars.

Because according to a BBC report, password sharing is illegal under the letter of the law. And not just a civil crime, but a criminal one too.

This week the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the UK government body responsible for patents, designs and trademarks, said that password sharing is a breach of copyright law.

‘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,’ noted the IPO.

Don’t panic, though. It’s up to the streaming company itself to enforce those laws and Netflix isn’t about to start hauling anyone through the courts. Not least because password sharing is incredibly widespread – research company Digital i estimates that quarter of Netflix subscribers in the UK do it – and there, well, there probably aren’t enough lawyers.

More likely is a continued and gradual move towards monetising password sharing, combined with new, cheaper subscription models that it’s already starting using to entice more people to subscribe.

In October, Netflix announced plans to charge for sharers for access to their friends’ accounts. ‘We are going to offer the ability for borrowers to transfer their Netflix profile into their own account,’ read its statement, ‘and for sharers to manage their devices more easily and to create sub-accounts, if they want to pay for family or friends.’

These are planned to come into effect in early 2023. 

In other words, password sharers are more likely to have to cough up than have their collar felt for bingeing Netflix shows. Even Girlboss.

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