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How Netflix’s Password-Sharing Rule Affects College Students On Their Parents’ Accounts

The days of using the Netflix login of that random hookup from two years ago are officially over — well, in some countries, anyway. Netflix caused a stir on Feb. 2 by announcing their plan to make their password-sharing policy much stricter by the end of March — only to walk back their statement just a day later and say the new rules were released in error. I don’t want to ring any alarm bells, but it might be time to start thinking about getting your own Netflix subscription if you don’t have one already…

To put it simply, the originally posted rules said that all users of a Netflix account will have to live in the same household, so if you’re not living with your parents at the moment, you wouldn’t be able to use their account anymore. The good news is, thanks to Netflix’s retraction, you’re now safe to keep using your parents’ account — but the threat of password-sharing isn’t totally gone. This policy was expected to mirror ones that Netflix already has in other countries, such as Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru. And on Feb. 9, Netflix extended the policy to other countries like Canada, New Zealand, Portugal, and Spain, according to The Washington Post. So basically, don’t count on Netflix leaving the U.S. alone forever; their password-sharing rules could eventually be implemented here.

According to a letter distributed to shareholders in January, this policy change is a result of how password sharing is hurting the company’s potential for future growth. “Today’s widespread account sharing (100M+ households) undermines our long term ability to invest in and improve Netflix, as well as build our business,” the letter states. “While our terms of use limit use of Netflix to a household, we recognize this is a change for members who share their account more broadly.” These motivations are similar to when Netflix introduced a plan with ads last year.

On their updated FAQs page, Netflix states, “People who do not live in your household will need to use their own account to watch Netflix.” In those countries that do have the policy enacted, Netflix account holders now have to identify their primary location and will decide which devices are regularly used at that location — and therefore will be allowed to have access to the Netflix account — using IP addresses, the IDs of devices, and Netflix account activity

If the password-sharing crackdown does eventually happen to Netflix account holders in the U.S. and you’re really dead set on using the account of someone that you don’t live with, that could backfire pretty dramatically. Their website states, “When someone signs into your account from a device that is not part of your primary location, or if your account is accessed persistently from another location, that device may be blocked from watching Netflix.” Netflix has also introduced a 31-day rule in countries with their new policy, which states that if you do not watch anything on Netflix from the account’s primary location for 31 days, you will be automatically locked out and will get emailed a code that will allow you to log in. The same goes for devices that try to log into your account outside of your primary location or while connected to a different Wi-Fi network — they will get locked out and a code will be emailed.

In theory, this shouldn’t stopping password-sharing entirely. If Netflix implements their new policy but you travel home every 31 days, your parents should be able to log you back into their account. However, that really only works if you’re able to visit them that often. Using a VPN might not work either, since Netflix will be focusing more on users’ IP addresses.

Despite Netflix walking back their rollout in the U.S., people aren’t taking the news well, with many of them pointing out how the new policy contradicts Netflix’s now-infamous tweet from 2017, “Love is sharing a password.”

It seems that their definition of love is different now — in some countries, anyway.

This article was originally published on 2/2/23. It was updated on 2/10/23.

Inica Kotasthane

Columbia Barnard '26

Inica Kotasthane is a student at Barnard College in New York City. She's a big fan of writing (duh!), making zines, and curating her Spotify playlists. Prior to becoming President of the Columbia/Barnard Her Campus chapter, she was a National Writer for Her Campus. She is passionate about journalism and politics, and is especially interested in uplifting minority and queer voices in these areas.