If someone gives me the credentials to login to a streaming site they have an account for, would it be illegal for me to share the credentials with someone else?

For example, if Joe tells me the username and password so I can watch Netflix on his account, would it be illegal for me to share it with Bob? Would it make a difference if I created a separate account for Bob (but still under Joe's subscription)?

Assume there is nothing in the terms of service prohibiting accounts from being shared. To my understanding, this comes down to if the license Joe granted me is sub-licensable or transferable. I heard it often depends on if the license was paid for or free. I'm asking this question to learn about the law, obviously the best course of action would be to ask the owner if it's ok to share.

  • Sharing Netflix accounts is much more of a relationship question than a legal question. If you share the credentials, the owner will change the password and kick you out, I guarantee it. – amon Mar 28 '20 at 6:50
  • 1
    "Assume there is nothing in the terms of service prohibiting accounts from being shared" But there is... How can we accurately answer a question that starts off with a false premise? – Ron Beyer Mar 28 '20 at 16:42
  • 1
    @RonBeyer Netflix was just an example. What about CraveTV or something else? – justasking111 Mar 28 '20 at 17:06
  • 1
    Netflix is clearly an example of the service, not the focus of the question. Comments that pick on a "false premise" are irrelevant, and posts that only discuss Netflix are not answers to the question. – Nij Mar 28 '20 at 22:29

It isn't necessarily "illegal" (in the sense you are committing a crime) but you may be in violation of a verbal contract (which would fall under tort law).

Let's take this a bit further. Perhaps Joe Schmoe gave you his debit card information so that you could make deposits for him and he said you could take $5 out for yourself for the trouble. This is a contract between you and Joe for a service. You can't extend Joe's offer to Jane Doe by saying "here is some debit card information, take $2.50 out for yourself". You have no right to extend your contract with Joe to somebody else.

Now specifically for passwords it basically boils down to the same thing. Unless Joe gives you explicit permission to give that to somebody else, you can't just decide to unilaterally give what Joe gave you to somebody else.

This may be different if Joe said "here, I'm buying you a subscription to service XYZ because you are a nice guy", this may be construed as a gift which transfers ownership. At that point you have control over what is or isn't done with the account.

As another example let's say Joe let you borrow his car. You can't turn around and say to Jane, "here's a car you can use", Joe did not extend the offer to Jane, nor did Joe give you the right to extend the offer to another person.

It's a moot point though, in the original context of this question, Netflix does restrict you from sharing your passwords "outside your household". Almost every paid service has some restriction against sharing with others.

In the end Netflix may shut off Joe's account and Joe may sue you for damages, but you aren't going to be thrown in jail for this. This would be a civil case (tort) which you may be liable for monetary damages.


According to their terms of service, which were accepted when the original account holder signed up, password must not be shared outside of that person's household. If we assume there is nothing in the terms of service preventing you from sharing the password, then the assumption is wrong, so nothing changed.

Joe hasn't given you a license to do anything. Joe has given you a password, that's all. You have no license that could be sublicensed. Asking Joe for permission would be polite, but he cannot give you any permission. Only Netflix can, and Netflix doesn't.

So you are definitely not allowed to share the password with anyone outside the original person's household. But you only have a password, you don't have a contract with Netflix, so most likely you are not allowed to share the password at all - the sharing must be done by the original account holder.

And as a amon's comment said, outside legal considerations, Netflix only allows simultaneous playing on 1, 2 or 4 devices simultaneously, depending on how much the account holder is paying every month. If the account holder ever finds they cannot watch Netflix because you gave the password to someone using it a lot, the account holder will change the password and you are both stuck. The account holder will also likely not be pleased about paying the bill for people they may not even know, and the same thing may happen.

  • This post fixates on a particular example instead of answering the question. – Nij Mar 28 '20 at 19:54
  • @Nij: I'm answering the question. The question was about Netflix. – gnasher729 Mar 28 '20 at 22:10
  • The question asks about any such service, and is clear that Netflix only composed one example of the type of service, not the actual focus. It has been updated to further clarify that the generic service under question does not have TOS disallowing sharing, therefore cannot be about Netflix. – Nij Mar 28 '20 at 22:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.