Here is what you do not want to happen this Sunday, June 16, at 9 p.m.: You go to log in to your HBO Go or HBO Now account, totally pumped for the return of dragons, attractive men in furs, and the sight of Daenerys at her fiercest, only to be told that you can't log in. Sorry, you've "exceeded the number of simultaneous streams." Game Of Thrones season seven will need to wait.
Sharing passwords for streaming services — such as HBO, Netflix, and Hulu — bends the rules, but happens often and it isn't often legally enforced. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that one-fifth of young adults use a log-in that does not belong to someone in their home. Streaming services know this is happening, but as of now, the restrictions they put in place to prevent it are still relatively lax. According to The New York Times, some, such as HBO, say that the percentage of people sharing passwords is not high enough to warrant more extreme action. Plus, some of these sharers may convert to customers.
However, the main way that HBO and others limit sharing is by restricting how many people can be logged in and streaming from a single account at any one time. For both HBO Go and HBO Now, this max is three viewers. If you are sharing your password with some lucky friends who want in on all the "Winter is Coming" action, keep it to two others, for your own viewing's sake.
If you're streaming HBO through another service such as Hulu or your Amazon Prime account, you'll face similar restrictions. Three devices outside of your home can view Hulu Live while only one other adult in your home can watch Amazon.
While the ethics of sharing your password have been much debated, and even compared to that of illegal music downloads, there are also some important security factors to consider. Since your payment information is linked to your account, sharing log-in information with too many people could pose a serious risk, especially for a site like Amazon where someone with your password would gain access to far more than just streaming shows.
Above all, approach sharing passwords with caution. You want to worry about the drama that's taking place onscreen, not off of it. If anything, tell your friends that can share your Game Of Thrones access, so long as they show up to your apartment (with snacks) promptly at 9 p.m. for a viewing party.