MONEY

Learning to share streaming media

Know the limits of sharing members-only streaming media. Photo: Shutterstock

When it comes to members-only streaming video and music suites, letting friends and family in on the fun can get a little tricky.

Here are your options:

Netflix — Stream movies and TV shows

How to share. For $8 a month, you can stream to two devices at once, letting you relax in front of the TV while the kids watch upstairs on a tablet. Or pay an extra $4 to add two more devices.

Sharing is intended for families but isn’t formally limited to relatives.

Hit the limit? Try to log in from one device too many, and you get a message saying the action is not permitted.

Amazon Prime — Get free shipping, ebook loans, and streaming video

How to share. Watch up to two videos at once, borrow an ebook a month, and get free two-day shipping for $79 a year. You can share shipping benefits with up to four “household” members — though Amazon will not disclose how it determines who qualifies.

Hit the limit? If you try to pull up a third free video, you’re asked to log out of one of the others first.

HBO Go — Watch HBO original programming, plus movies

How to share. So far, HBO has been relatively laissez faire about password sharing. If you subscribe to the channel (rates vary by cable provider), you get one “household” login. The company doesn’t specify how many people may share the account.

Hit the limit? Device limits vary by provider. In our test Comcast allowed three; Time Warner Cable, only two, locking us out of a third.

Spotify — Stream millions of songs on your computer and mobile devices

How to share. The company’s free service includes ads, but for $10 a month, you can go commercial-free and use it on mobile devices. The downside: You can play music on only one gadget at a time, so sharing is impractical as well as banned by the company.

Hit the limit? Attempt to play songs from more than one device per login and the system will stop play on the original device.

Rdio — Stream some 20 million songs, or cache them for offline listening

How to share. This Spotify competitor allows web streaming for $5 a month, mobile access for another $5. A two-person account is $18; add up to three people for $5 each. Each user on the account gets his own login and set of songs, playlists, and stations.

Hit the limit? Attempt to play songs from more than one device per login and the system will stop play on the original device.

KNOW THE RULES

Tempted to skirt companies’ sharing limits? Read this before you try it:

You signed on the virtual line. When you created your account, you agreed to Terms of Use, which typically restrict password sharing. These agreements are legally binding, says intellectual-property attorney Tim Bukher.

Will you get sued? Probably not, says Bukher. But while most companies aren’t actively searching for illegal password sharers, they may install tracking software (which you agreed to in the Terms) to monitor your use of the service.

You could be banned. Get caught violating the Terms and a firm may cancel your account or restrict you from using its services — though there are no data on how often that happens.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45,334 other followers