One could be jailed in the United Kingdom for sharing a password for a streaming service such as Netflix.
The country’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) issued guidance on December 19 that said “accessing… apps without paying a subscription is an infringement of copyright and you may be committing a crime.”
The IPO made the statement in an announcement about its joint campaign with Meta—formerly known as Facebook— to give guidance to people to avoid pirated and counterfeit goods online, Newsweek reports. “Piracy is a major issue for the entertainment and creative industries,” it wrote on its website.
“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 law applies to Netflix password sharing, but also to other streaming services, including Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Apple TV+.
But despite its recently published guidance, a spokeswoman for the IPO told Newsweek that the “copyright law remains unchanged,” and 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,” the IPO spokeswoman added.
In the case of Netflix, it is the responsibility of “the member who created the Netflix account and whose payment method is charged” for any activity that occurs through the account.
“To maintain control over the account and to prevent anyone from accessing the account, the account owner should maintain control over the Netflix ready devices… and not reveal the password or details of the payment method associated with the account to anyone,” the Terms of Service read.
“We can terminate your account or place your account on hold in order to protect you, Netflix or our partners from identity theft or other fraudulent activity.”
In October, Netflix revealed it would take a tougher stance on password sharers as it fights a decline in subscribers. Netflix claimed of the 222 million households around the world with subscriptions, there were “100 million additional households” getting access to the service through password sharing.
According to the IPO, people who “password share” are also opening themselves to criminal charges for breaching “secondary copyright infringement.”
In U.K. law, primary copyright infringement refers to the illegal reproduction of intellectual property, but the secondary kind requires knowledge of the infringement, such as knowingly sharing or using someone’s Netflix password.