The more-than-common practice of sharing passwords with those who do not have a subscription to streaming services is breaking copyright law. That’s the admission that the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) made this week as Netflix in particular looks to halt many users allowing access to their accounts, costing the company millions in revenue.
The IPO issued a statement saying password sharing was a criminal and civil offence and those doing it could theoretically face prosecution. This would also extend to services such as Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and, to an extent, Spotify. “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,” the government body said.
Their initial statement included the phrase “password sharing” when the guidance, in conjunction with Facebook and Instagram, was originally published on Monday however that changed to “accessing without a subscription” later during the week. The guidance also mentioned other forms of copyright infringement including sharing images on social media without the correct licence and “accessing films, TV series or live sports events through Kodi boxes [and] hacked Fire Sticks.”
“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,” an IPO spokesperson 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”
Netflix has already looked at ways to crack down on password sharing, a practice that at one stage the company actively joked about on social media. These methods have included the possibility of a cheaper subscription model based around advertisements played during streams or a “password sharing” subscription service where users could pay a certain amount to allow for their password to be used elsewhere (similar to a family plan.)