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Netflix password sharing may be illegal as it breaks copyright law

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Netflix users could be breaking the law by sharing their account with other households, a Government agency has said. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) said password sharing may amount to “secondary copyright infringement”.

Sharing log-in details for streaming services with family and friends is widespread despite Netflix’s terms stating that “people who do not live in your household will need to use their own account”.

A quarter of Netflix’s 14 million subscribers in Britain are estimated to be sharing their login details, according to research published this year.

In guidance published this week, the IPO 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.”

The guidance previously included a reference to password sharing, but the agency quickly 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.”

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

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The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said decisions about charging would be looked at on a case by case basis.

A CPS spokesperson told MailOnline: “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.”

Netflix has started to clamp down on customers sharing their accounts with people they do not live with.

The streaming giant, which has lost subscribers amid stiffer competition and rising inflation, started a crackdown in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru on people sharing passwords. It has threatened to expand the scheme.

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The company has also introduced a new, cheaper, ad-supported tier costing £4.99 a month to attract customers.

Netflix has changed its approach since joking on Twitter that “Love is sharing a password” as it was quickly expanding in the UK in 2017.

Disney+ does not allow users to share their password with other households, while Amazon Prime customers can share their account with one other person.

Netflix will officially start charging for password sharing early next year.

In a letter to shareholders, quoted in Time magazine, the streaming service said it will take forward plans to “monetize account sharing”.

The company also said it would allow users borrowing someone else’s account to transfer their own viewing history and recommendations.

New features will also include allowing users to create “sub-accounts” so subscribers can pay extra for family and friends.

Shares in the streaming giant rose 3.39 percent on Wednesday to $297.96 (£246.95).

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