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No more free love: Netflix expands account sharing restrictions

A 31-day limit on how long you can be away from your home IP address is included too

The age of freely sharing Netflix passwords is drawing to a close as the streaming service announced the expansion of account restrictions in four more countries alongside plans to roll restrictions out "more broadly in the coming months."

While a date hasn't been set for wider rollout, Netflix said in a blog post yesterday that it had flipped the switch in Canada, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain to turn on features it claimed aren't really detrimental to users, and will give them "greater control over who can access their account."

But make no mistake why Netflix is doing this: of the more than 200 million Netflix subscribers, "over 100 million households are sharing accounts – impacting our ability to invest in great new TV and films," Chengyi Long, Netflix's Director of Product Innovation, wrote.

Live yesterday in those four countries were requirements for Netflix users to set a primary location for their account "ensuring that anyone who lives in their household can use their Netflix account," device management features that let account holders manage usability in different locations and devices, account transfer features, and the ability to buy sub-memberships for up to two people in the household that don't live at the primary location.

Sharing feature availability differs based on the Netflix account tier one subscribes to, naturally.

The fees for additional users in the four newly restricted countries run CAD$7.99, NZD$7.99, €‎3.99 in Portugal and €‎5.99 in Spain – notably more expensive than similar sub-membership plans launched last year in South America, where Netflix tested the new features. 

That 31-day login threat wasn't a lie either

Netflix has been talking about restricting account sharing for some time – a complete 180-degree shift from its earlier position that "love is sharing a password."

A recent sign that things were changing came earlier this month when a now-removed Help Center intended for share-restricted users in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru went live for other countries that indicated users had to log into their accounts from their primary location once every 31 days to ensure they're able to maintain access. 

With so many different policies in so many different countries now, it's easy to see how Netflix might make such a mistake, but fears over wider rollout of the 31-day restriction appear justified based on Canada's newest help pages for setting a primary location and accessing an account while traveling.

On the traveling page, Netflix states that those who travel frequently or own a second home should open the Netflix app on a mobile device "while connected to the Wi-Fi network at your primary location once a month and then when you arrive at the second location."

There's no mention on the page, unfortunately, of what happens if one can't login to their home location inside that 31-day period, and Netflix hasn't responded to our requests for comment.

Of course, such restrictions raise questions of who gets to define what a household is, or how it's distributed across different physical locations, and Netflix's restrictions may very well impact customers in ways the company hasn't considered.

For those worried about the headache that Netflix subscriptions are sure to bring in the coming months, we would suggest you do not use this old-fashioned alternative for making naughty copies, although you might want to investigate its legal uses. Many local libraries also carry streaming offers and will loan out movies and series. ®

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