Sharing passwords for online streaming services such as Netflix can likely be regarded as illegal, according to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), a government agency of the UK that claimed today that the practice breaks copyright law.
According to coverage from the BBC, the IPO has since removed its reference to password sharing on its website, but its thoughts on the matter haven’t changed, with a spokesperson having confirmed to the broadcaster that it thinks password sharing is “criminal.”
“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,” they said.
“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.”
Research firm Digital i, an outfit that describes itself as a technology and insight company that specializes in TV and media industry analysis, has estimated that around a quarter of UK Netflix subscribers (around 4 million) are sharing their passwords.
Netflix has never indicated that it would take legal action against password sharing, but the streamer has responded in other ways, including paid sharing options that allow subscribers to pay an additional fee to allow their accounts to be used in additional homes.
This experiment was sunset earlier this year, according to a Netflix article with an update date of October 18, 2022, that explains how it would now be focusing on helping borrowers transfer their Netflix profile into their own accounts.
Netflix’s current plans range from $6.99/month to $19.99/month, the most expensive of which supports streaming for up to four devices simultaneously and Ultra HD quality for movies and TV shows that are available to stream in that resolution.
“One interesting part of the IPO’s response is the reference to criminal law – suggesting that people could theoretically face prosecution from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for password sharing,” the BBC noted in its coverage.