You could get in trouble with the law for sharing your Netflix password with friends

You could get in trouble with the law for sharing your Netflix password with friends

If you're someone who leeches off a friend's Netflix account by using their login but not actually paying anything (no judgements here), you might want to think again about what you're doing. A recent poll found that 12 per cent of Netflix users do not pay for the service, which has been predicted could be costing the company over $500 million per year.

But before you feel bad about those statistics, remember that Netflix was the OG video streaming giant of the internet age, and their subscription numbers and profits are of such large numbers that they're almost impossible to keep track of.

One thing you should be worrying about, however, is that your password-sharing between friends might technically be illegal. Thanks to a little law called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in the US, you could be prosecuted for gaining access to a system you're not authorised to use. It's about permissions and data privacy, and while it was established to help control bigger issues than sharing Netflix accounts, the Act means you can't share passwords with other people so that they can use different log-in systems.

Oddly enough, the legislation is seemingly against what Netflix encourages users to do. In fact, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings doesn't mind you sharing your account with other people at all. "We love people sharing Netflix," he said at CES 2016. "That's a positive thing, not a negative thing."

Netflix is designed to enable sharing too, with the streaming service allowing you to set up different profiles inside your account so different people can have their own history, preferences and recommendations.

The obvious constraint to sharing is that on the basic pricing plan, only one person can stream something at a time. For a little bit extra per month, two people can stream something simultaneously, while the premium option allows four different people to watch something on their own devices at the same time, even if you're living in different cities.

So with the last option making it impossible not to share a password (you know, without physically logging into the account yourself on their device), it's no wonder the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act has been dubbed "the worst law in technology".

But while Netflix might ~say~ sharing an account is okay – the aforementioned law tells you otherwise. And those 'terms of service' things that you definitely never read say something different about it too. Netflix's terms of use document states that “the Account Owner should maintain control over the Netflix ready devices that are used to access the service and not reveal the password or details of the Payment Method associated with the account to anyone."

So yeah, technically you can't share an account unless you have control over the devices and log in using the password that only you know yourself. That's Netflix's official statement on the matter of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and you should keep that in mind.

I will add that the legislation is pretty vague and you're probably not very likely to be hunted down for sharing your password – but don't say I didn't warn you. You probably won't be able to watch Netflix in jail, after all.