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Password sharing on streaming services now a criminal offence in the UK

While the cost of living crisis continues to escalate and UK households wonder whether to turn the oven or the heating on, while half the country appears to be striking, the UK government is making sure it’s getting its priorities in line – ensuring Brits who share streaming service passwords are now classified as criminals.

Torrent Freak spotted a change to the UK Intellectual Property Office’s piracy guidance, which now classes password-sharers as violators of copyright law.

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That’s despite streaming services having a somewhat relaxed attitude to password sharing until quite recently when it became apparent Netflix was seeking to arrest a fall in subscribers by ensuring sharers paid up.

The updated guidance now reads: “Piracy is a major issue for the entrainment and creative industries. Pasting internet images into your social media, password sharing on streaming services and accessing the latest films, tv series or live sports events through Kodi boxes, Fire Sticks or apps without paying a subscription all break copyright law. Not only are you breaking the law but stopping someone earning a living from their hard work.”

The addition of password sharing is new, and a concern for millions of people who share their passwords to streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime with family members.

Considering one person has to be paying for these services in order to access them in the first place, and streaming services do not strictly enforce logins on other devices in other homes, it’s a bit rich to put password sharing in the same category as Kodi boxes.

In a statement to Torrent Freak, the IPO said offenders could be liable for criminal fraud. It said in a statement: “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.”

In its terms of service, Netflix appears to be focused on ensuring users agree not to hold public performances of its content and ensuring users don’t access content from other geographic locations where libraries may vary. The company does say the password shouldn’t be shared with individuals beyond their household, but doesn’t strictly define household.

In the past, Netflix has even said “love is sharing a password”. How times change.

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