Netflix tests a clampdown on password sharing

[NEW YORK] Want to watch "The Queen's Gambit" or "Lupin"? If you have been borrowing a Netflix password from a family member or friend, you may now have to pay up.

Netflix has started testing a feature that could prod users who are borrowing a password from someone outside their household to buy a subscription.

The company said the feature was being tested with a limited number of users. It may signal a broader clampdown on the common practice of sharing passwords among relatives and friends to avoid paying for the popular streaming service.

"The test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorised to do so," the company said in a statement.

Some users began to notice the feature recently when they logged onto a shared Netflix account and saw a message on their screen that read, "If you don't live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching." To continue watching, these users were asked to either verify that it was their account by entering a code that was sent to them by text or email, or join with their own account to Netflix. They also had the option to complete the verification process later.

A basic Netflix subscription, which allows customers to watch on one screen at a time, costs US$8.99 a month. Customers who pay more can watch on additional screens simultaneously.

Netflix declined to discuss its new feature, previously reported by The Streamable, an industry news site, in detail. But industry analysts said it might be part of an effort to enforce Netflix's frequently overlooked terms of use, which state that its service and content "are for your personal and noncommercial use only and may not be shared with individuals beyond your household." The test also appears to be more of a nudge to buy a subscription than an iron-fisted crackdown. For example, someone who was borrowing a password from a friend or family member could ask for the verification code that had been sent by Netflix.

"I'm not convinced this is an all-out assault," said Michael D Smith, a professor of information technology and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "It could be a warning shot over the bow of some pirates." Michael Levenson.

NYTIMES

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