This story has been updated. It was originally published on June 22, 2019.
If you’ve got access to a Netflix or Spotify account—or any other subscription streaming service—you might be using a friend or relative’s login details rather than your own. Or maybe you’re the one doing the login lending.
It’s common practice, but should you be doing it? Might you run into technical or even legal problems down the line? We’ve taken a detailed look at the major streaming services to help you figure out those answers.
Each of the three Netflix plans gives you access to a different number of concurrent streams. The cheapest Basic plan lets you watch on one screen at a time, the Standard plan ups that to two, and the most expensive, 4K-ready Premium plan lets you watch on four screens at once.
You can set up multiple profiles (perhaps for you and your kids) inside a single account, and Netflix even mentions sharing accounts with friends and family on its support pages. That all suggests you’re fine to pass on your details to a handful of people, as long as you stick to the simultaneous streaming limits.
Like Netflix, Hulu lets you set up multiple profiles within a single account for all the members of your family. It’s more restrictive, however, when it comes to simultaneous streams, as it only allows concurrent viewing on a maximum of two screens under the standard plans.
If you’re paying extra for Hulu Live TV, you can pay another $10 a month for the Unlimited Screens Add-On, which lets you watch simultaneously on as many devices as you like. But even with this service, you’re limited to five screens at once for the HBO, Cinemax, Starz, and Showtime channels.
YouTube TV just has the one $65-per-month plan, and that gives you the ability to stream content to three different devices at once. Theoretically, that could be three people logged into your YouTube TV account, but those people would also have access to the rest of your Google apps and services, so it’s much riskier than sharing a Netflix or Hulu login.
You are officially allowed to share YouTube TV with up to five other family members at no extra charge. This is part of the same family group sharing you get with Google Drive and other Google services: everyone logs in with a different Gmail address, but can access some of the same shared services.
Set up a family group, and all six members can access up to three streams at once. But whether you have a family group or not, YouTube TV asks that you and any family members sign in at your designated home address at least once every three months to keep your subscription active.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video is, as the name suggests, part of the Amazon Prime package. It can be shared with one other adult in your household and up to four teenagers and four children at the same address. Only one of the adults can use the offline device sync feature though—everyone else has to stick to streaming only.
As with YouTube TV, sharing your Prime Video login credentials with someone else gives them access to much more than TV shows and movies. They’ll also be able to shop for stuff on Amazon, get at files in your Amazon cloud storage, read your e-books, and so on. If you are going to share your Amazon credentials, you need to be very picky about whom you do it with.
Amazon has put a three-stream limit on simultaneous streams with Prime Video, and you can’t watch the same title on more than two devices at once. Unless you’re setting up an Amazon Household, it’s probably not worth the risk to share your Prime Video password.
If you’re still sharing HBO logins after the end of Game of Thrones, you need to know it’s something HBO doesn’t encourage. Your HBO password “should not be shared with anyone outside your household,” as per the official decree.
HBO also says simultaneous streams are “limited,” without specifying what the maximum number of streams actually is—perhaps you could try to find out by loading up additional streams on your account until you get an error message.
Spotify accounts are clearly designed to be used by one person and one person only. You can register as many devices as you like, but you can only listen to your streaming tunes on one at a time. That might cause problems if you’ve passed your login credentials on to friends and family.
The family plan Spotify offers for $16 a month lets you connect five additional people to your account, and you each get your own login. However, you all need to live at the same address, so it’s not a great option for anyone living somewhere else.
Naturally, Spotify lets you and members of your family plan listen to your music wherever you go, but it’s presumably applying some background checks to make sure most logins happen at the address you’ve specified. Considering sharing your password is specifically prohibited in the Spotify user agreement, a family plan is your best bet for getting other people on your account.
Because an Apple Music subscription is so tightly tied to an Apple ID on specific devices, and that ID gives access to everything else Apple offers (from email to iCloud), we suspect not many people are trying to share their Apple Music login. Plus, you can only stream Apple Music tracks to one device at a time.
Like Spotify though, Apple Music offers a family plan: up to six people on the same account for $15 a month. Everyone needs their own Apple ID, but only one person pays for purchases. If you’re a parent, you can restrict what your kids can and can’t do after you’ve added them.
Each family member gets one Apple Music stream, plus their own recommendations, playlists, and more. Apple seems to be less strict than Spotify when it comes to having everyone at the same address, as long as you’re all in the same country, but bear in mind that anyone in your Apple family will only be able to make purchases with your registered card.