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Disney’s Cracking Down, But Is It Actually ILLEGAL to Share Your Disney+ Password?

password sharing on disney plus illegal
Credit: Disney+/Canva

It’s about to get real at the House of Mouse–and at your house and my house–as Disney has announced that it’s moving forward with plans that were first shared with fans in August 2023.

As is its prowess, The Walt Disney Company has made good this week on yet another promise to its fans and consumers.

cinderella castle dark black clouds

Credit: Disney/Canva

Disney Adults: Generous to a Fault, Per Disney

In recent years, Disney Adults have really gotten a bad rap. The obnoxious irritating wrong extremely loud consensus among non-Disney Adults is that because it is inconceivable that a person over the age of 17 could relish the thought of a multi-day vacation at the Most Magical Place on Earth or the thought of a rainy day binge of classic Disney films or the thought of proudly donning an over-the-top pair of Mickey ears, that such exhibitions and behaviors on the part of any adult are egregious and could even signal the presence of mental illness (or be part of some strange religious compulsion).

It’s just too darn bad for them that the American Psychiatric Association reportedly already cleared up that misconception about Disney fandom and mental illness. 

disney fans at cinderella castle

Credit: Becky Burkett/DisneyDining/Canva

There are always exceptions to any rule, it seems, and that’s true even of Disney fans. Let that serve as a disclaimer to the following observation on the part of this writer: the majority of Disney Adults are generally kind, agreeable, imaginative, and fun-loving people who can usually handle even the peak crowds at Disney World because, at the very least, it means that they, too, are in the parks and experiencing the magic, which is at the heart of their fandom in many cases.

Disney fans who enjoy the parks often embrace that “the more, the merrier” mindset. It’s why they can stomach the long lines, the heat, and even the poor moods of other guests. It’s also why they enjoy every facet of sharing Disney magic with others.

wdw crowds

Credit: Amy Humphries on Unsplash

By and large, Disney fans tend to be some of the friendliest beings on earth, but at least part of that friendliness is being frowned upon by The Walt Disney Company, so the company is taking action.

Disney Is Done With All of the “Sharing”

It would seem that The Walt Disney Company has grown weary of all the “sharing” among fans.

While the company is all for fans sharing the magic, sharing the experiences, and sharing their favorite travel agent’s email address so that friends, family members, and co-workers can book their respective Disney World trips too, there’s one thing that Disney wishes fans would stop sharing, and that’s their Disney+ passwords.

In late 2023, Disney+ announced a Netflix copycat move: Disney would begin to crack down on password sharing among Disney+ subscribers. Canadian Disney+ subscribers were the first to feel the heat from Disney as they were the first group affected by the new initiative to stop subscribers from giving out their streaming passwords so that their best friend, their neighbor three doors down, the PTA president, and their favorite dog groomer didn’t have to pay for the service.

disney plus content

Credit: Disney

Then, in early 2024, Disney began emailing current Disney+ subscribers so they were aware that changes were coming, and password sharing would soon be specifically addressed–and prohibited.

The company adopted new language in its user agreements that come free of charge with a Disney+ subscription. The amended user agreement. The agreement was immediately effective for new subscribers and became effective for existing subscribers on March 14, 2024. But this week, Disney Company leadership announced that this summer, things will begin to change drastically for subscribers who continue to share their Disney+ passwords.

Disney Makes Good on Its Promise

“Beginning this summer, Disney+ accounts suspected of improper sharing will be presented with new capabilities to allow their borrowers to start their own subscriptions,” Disney CFO Hugh Johnston said during the annual Disney Company shareholders meeting on Wednesday.

disney shareholders meeting

Credit: Disney

Johnston continued, saying, “Later this calendar year, account holders who want to allow access to individuals from outside their household will be able to add them to their accounts for an additional fee.”

Disney’s Mention of Subscription “Tiers” is Problematic

Disney says it will allow the sharing of passwords for subscribers at certain tiers of membership, though, at this time, there are no such tiers that allow for this. It remains to be seen when those tiers will roll out and whether there will be a significant difference in monthly subscription costs when they do.

As such, new language that involves “tiers” seems problematic at best.

Legally, Password Sharing is a Gray Area

Aside from Disney understandably wanting new subscribers in the place of freeloading password sharers, are there legal ramifications to come when subscribers choose to give away free access to the streaming service for which they are paying?

According to U.S. News & World Report, “When it comes to legality, password sharing is a gray area.”

Some experts have pointed out verbiage in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which went into effect in 1986 (waaaaaaay before streaming was a thing). It’s a cybersecurity law that was created to counter computer hacking as it applies to the sharing of passwords and addresses different types of offenses, including unauthorized access to computers and networks. Thirty years later, in 2016–when streaming was in its infancy–a U.S. Appeals court ruled that password sharing does qualify under the law, making the action a federal crime.

In fact, Section 1030 of the CFAA details penalties for such an offense, and they include fines and imprisonment. The only problem is that no one’s ever been sued for sharing passwords.

“I don’t think it’s ever been actually brought to court,” said Michael D. Smith, a professor of information technology and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.

Statutes and Laws That Apply to Password Sharing

But the CFAA isn’t the only piece of legislation that addresses password sharing.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 addresses various aspects of copyright law in the digital age, including provisions related to circumvention of technological protection measures and online copyright infringement.

The law focuses on infringement by content creators, as well as service providers, but its provisions do have implications for those users who choose to share passwords in an effort to access copyrighted content without the appropriate authorization. Section 1201 of the DMCA prohibits such actions.

A 2012 court case, The United States v. Nosal, served to shed some light on the legalities of password sharing under the CFAA. In this case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said that sharing passwords to access a computer system without authorization could, indeed, be a violation of the CFAA. Such an interpretation by the court set a precedent that has since been cited in other cases involving restricted or unauthorized access to online accounts–some of which included streaming services.

Netflix

Credit: Netflix

Four years later, in the case Netflix, Inc. v. McQueen, Netflix sought legal action against a user who was accused of sharing login credentials in violation of Netflix’s terms of service. The outcome of the case wasn’t widely publicized, but it serves as a cautionary tale for those who share their streaming service passwords with others.

So, It’s Technically Is Illegal to Share Your Streaming Password

Per the statutes and court cases cited above, it is actually illegal to share your Disney+ (or Peacock, Netflix, HBO Max, etc.) password with someone outside of your household. But will that change anything about the way subscribers conduct themselves? That remains to be seen.

illegal

Credit: Canva

Disney’s crackdown will formally roll out to subscribers in June 2024, and until that time, subscribers may have questions about what Disney’s new policy means for them.

Per Disney’s newest user agreement, password sharing is prohibited “unless otherwise permitted by your Service Plan [or “tier”].” The agreement further instructs subscribers that “you may not share your subscription outside of your Household,” and Disney defines Household as the “collection of devices associated with your primary personal residence that is used by the individuals who reside therein.”

mickey mouse in front of disney plus

Credit: Disney/Canva

The new agreement further states that “additional usage rules may apply for certain Service Plans,” but as of the time of this publication, the Disney+ pricing page doesn’t include information about pricing for extra users who access the service outside the household (i.e., those to whom a subscriber’s password is given for their use).

What do you say? Do you share your streaming passwords with others, and if so, do you feel that sharing should be illegal? Let us know in the comments section below.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

One comment

  1. What is the problem with sharing my Disney+ with my grandchildren? They don’t have money to do it themselves

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