It is illegal to share passwords for TV streaming, says UK copyright watchdog | The Media Act
Millions of UK viewers are breaking the law by sharing their passwords for services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, according to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).
The IPO, which has published the new guidance in partnership with Facebook and Instagram owner Meta, said sharing passwords violates copyright laws.
“Piracy is a major problem for the entertainment and creative industries,” the IPO said. “Pasting internet images on social media without permission, or accessing movies, TV shows or live sporting events through Kodi boxes, hacked Fire Sticks or apps without paying a subscription is a copyright violation and you could be committing a crime .”
The IPO had initially explicitly used the phrase “password sharing on streaming services” in its guidance published on Monday, but then changed the phrase to “accessing … without paying a subscription”.
Netflix estimates that more than 100 million households access its services for free globally via password sharing, including as many as 4 million subscribers in the UK, which it has tolerated despite breaching its terms and conditions.
Earlier this year, the company announced plans to crack down on the practice by offering subscribers the ability to add additional “sub-accounts” or “extra members” for a small additional monthly fee.
This plan, which Netflix is introducing as one of a number of moves to boost revenue as the global streaming boom stalls, is expected to be introduced in the UK next year.
The IPO said the practice of password sharing was a criminal and civil offense and those doing it could theoretically be prosecuted.
“There are a number of provisions in criminal and civil law that may apply in the event of password sharing where the intent is to allow a user to access copyrighted works without payment,” an IPO spokesperson said.
“These provisions may include breach of contract, fraud or secondary copyright infringement, as the case may be. Where these provisions are provided in civil law, it will be up to the service provider to take action through the courts if necessary.”
Pay-TV operators such as Sky have been aggressive in cracking down on businesses and consumers who take illegal feeds of entertainment and sports programs by taking legal action, but it’s not a route streaming companies have shown any inclination to go down .