Users of online streaming platforms such as Netflix 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 a widespread practice, despite Netflix’s terms stating that “people who do not live in your household will need to use their own account”.
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 had earlier included a reference to password sharing, but the agency quickly removed it.
However, an IPO spokesperson confirmed the law and its guidance remained unchanged.
“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.”
It is up to the streaming service provider to take action through the courts if required, the IPO said.
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 stiff competition and rising inflation, has started a crackdown in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru on people sharing passwords and is considering expanding the scheme.
The company has also introduced a new cheaper ad-supported tier costing £4.99 a month to attract customers.
Netflix has changed its tune since joking on Twitter that “Love is sharing a password” as it was rapidly 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.