Q. I have Netflix and I want to give it to some of my girlfriends around the country so they can try it. They are older like myself so they’ve never tried it. Can I just give them my password and name so they can type that in and watch it like me? I have the most expensive plan so it seems ok to share it, right? — Valerie, Tulsa.
Valerie, I can see your question is an innocent one, but the answer is far from simple and morally pure. Let me explain.
As you know, Netflix requires a monthly payment. In your case, that’s $15.99 a month, which gives you four simultaneous streams as well as access to the service’s entire library including 4K programming.
Before we tackle the moral issues here, there’s a practical one. If you share your login with multiple people, there’s a chance you won’t be able to use it when you want to. For example, if four of your girlfriends decide to use Netflix at the same time, using your login information, you won’t be able to because your plan only permits four streams. That means only four people can use it at the same time.
This becomes a greater likelihood if you have one of Netflix’s less expensive plans that only permits two streams at a time.
Now as to the ethical question:
Netflix is a business with employees who have families who depend on their paychecks. If you give a free subscription to someone, that person will not have to subscribe, thereby denying a monthly fee to Netflix. You might say it’s not a big deal because you are only sharing your subscription with a handful of people, but what if millions decided to do it. (And there’s evidence that millions do. Magid Research has estimated that 10 percent of Netflix users don’t actually pay the monthly subscription.) That would cost Netflix, and their employees, a lot of money.
Before you crawl into a hole in shame, let me add that this morality tale is not that simple, as I suggested at the top.
Many analysts over the years have noted that Netflix gets some benefit from password sharing because it leads to more people becoming aware of what the service offers. And some of these folks will eventually get their own subscriptions, the analysts say.
This is one reason why Netflix has not taken any serious measures to stop password sharing. The company realizes that password sharing has some long-term advantages. And considering that Netflix has nearly 170 million subscribers worldwide, it’s quite possible that its current policy is a plus, not a negative.
But with the streaming business becoming more competitive, there have been recent hints from Netflix that it might start cracking down on password sharing. The company needs more revenue now as it attempts to thwart streaming newcomers such as Disney Plus and Apple Plus as well as oldtime rivals, HBO Now, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Greg Peters, Netflix’s chief product officer, said in January that the company will examine some ways to limit it without adding any significant restrictions. That might sound a bit vague, but Netflix is obviously still conflicted over what to do with password sharing.
So, Valerie, sharing your Netflix login remains a relatively easy thing to do, but the practical and ethical issues that come with it require considerable thought before doing it.
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