Is it illegal to share a Netflix login? Can you give out your account password - what the IPO has said

The streaming service has long attempted to crack down on members sharing accounts with users outside of their household

Over the past few years, Netflix users have been struck with warnings that the streaming service is clamping down on password sharing. Although these warnings have usually passed by unheeded, a government agency has now suggested that Netflix users could actually be breaking the law by sharing their account with other households.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has said password sharing may amount to “secondary copyright infringement”. Sharing log-in details for streaming services with family and friends is a widespread practice, despite Netflix’s terms stating that “people who do not live in your household will need to use their own account”.

This is what you need to know.

Is it illegal to share Netflix accounts?

It is against Netflix’s rules to share your streaming account with users outside of your household. The ability to create profiles on a single account is supposed to be limited to other members of your home.

In guidance published this week, the IPO indicated that accessing Netflix without paying for a subscription could actually be illegal.

It said: “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.”

Netflix users could be breaking the law by sharing their account passwords (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Initially, the guidance had included a reference to password sharing, but the agency has since removed it. However, an IPO spokesperson confirmed the law and its guidance remained unchanged.

They 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.”

It is up to the streaming service provider to take action through the courts if required, the IPO said.

How is Netflix cracking down on password sharing?

Earlier this year, Netflix revealed the ways in which it was dealing with password sharing, stating that while the company has “always made it easy for people who live together to share their Netflix account” there has been “some confusion about when and how Netflix can be shared”, resulting in accounts being shared between households.

Netflix stated that it had been working on ways to enable members who share accounts outside of their household “to do so easily and securely, while also paying a bit more”. Two features were thus tested for Netflix users in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru:

  • Add an extra member: users on standard and premium accounts would be able to add sub accounts for up to two people they don’t live with, each with their own profile, personalised recommendations, login and password, for 2,380 CLP in Chile, 2.99 USD in Costa Rica, and 7.9 PEN in Peru, which is roughly £2.47 in the UK
  • Transfer profile to a new account: members on basic, standard and premium plans could enable people who share their account to transfer profile information either to a new account or an Extra Member sub account

Other streaming services have their own ways of dealing with users who share passwords. While Disney+ does not allow users to share their accounts with other households, Amazon Prime customers are able to share their account with one other person.