Sharing passwords for online streaming services with friends and family is against the law, a government agency has warned.
Watching shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ without paying the relevant subscription breaks copyright law, the Intellectual Property Office said.
But it said it is down to the companies themselves to take action through the courts if required – and there is no suggestion yet that any would attempt to do so.
One in four of Netflix’s 14million UK subscribers are estimated to be sharing their login details, research found this year. The IPO published the advice online yesterday before quickly removing the reference to password sharing.
A spokesman however said the law and guidance remained the same, adding: ‘There are a range of provisions in criminal and civil law which may be applicable in the case of password sharing.’
The Crown Prosecution Service said charging someone for sharing logins would be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
Netflix said it wanted to ‘make it easy’ for people who borrow others’ accounts to set up their own.
New features, set to be rolled out in early 2023, will allow users to create ‘sub-accounts’ for people to pay extra for family and friends.
It has also introduced new pricing tiers to make it cheaper for some, such as the £4.99 service that includes adverts.
Though it is often against the streaming services’ terms and services, they rarely go after individuals who try to share passwords.
But the latest guidance is a significant toughening up of the rhetoric surrounding it, particularly in suggesting offenders could theoretically face prosecution.
A spokesperson from the Crown Prosecution Service said: ‘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.’