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As Netflix started losing money and subscribers this year, a magnifying glass was put on people sharing passwords. This essentially means giving your password to a friend or family so they can access your account and get Netflix for free. Well, the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) now says password sharing is illegal.

Until now, sharing passwords has been something of a grey area. Netflix has payment plans that allow users to watch on multiple devices. While the company hates password sharing, for years it never really did anything to stop it.

While Netflix and other streaming serves look to clamp down on the practice, the UK government’s IPO says password sharing violates copyright laws:

“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.

Where these provisions are provided in civil law, it would be up to the service provider to take action through the courts if required.”

What This Means

While the IPO has laid down the law, it is unlikely to be enforced. Netflix is probably not going to be taking legal action against you if you allow granny to access your account this Christmas. Although, the company is becoming increasingly aggressive and may just ban you instead.

In the UK, a quarter of all Netflix subscribers share their password. It is worth noting that the IPO’s clarification covers all streaming services not just Netflix.

In other regulatory action in tech, Facebook (Meta) agreed to pay $725 million to settle a class action lawsuit looking at its role in the Cambridge Analytics data privacy scandal. Elsewhere, French authorities argue Microsoft is not giving Bing users enough control over cookies and has fined the company €60 million.

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