Ethical Or Not-So-Ethical: Using A Secondary User Name To Give Free HBO Go Access To Friends?

chinese_food_boxWhether you approve of it or not, a lot of people out there share usernames and passwords for services like Netflix and HBO Go so that their friends, families and loved ones can share without having to pay for their own subscription. And some say there is a way you can do this for HBO Go (and presumably other services that use your cable login) without having to actually share your info.

In this Reddit discussion on how to watch ESPN without a cable subscription, one reader suggests creating a separate user name on your cable company’s website and later adds that he does this with Verizon and seems to imply it can be done via the Time Warner Cable site.

For those that aren’t familiar with how the HBO Go login works, here’s a quick lesson. When you log on, it asks you which cable company you subscribe to, then you provide your login info using the same username/password you would when you go online to pay your bill or check out your account. This allows HBO to verify that you are indeed an HBO subscriber without having to keep its own database, while also checking that your cable provider has made the HBO Go deal (not all of them have, believe it or not).

Now I personally don’t give out my HBO Go info, and not just because of the ethical issues. My concern is that whoever I give it to then has the password to my entire cable account. Not that I expect my friends or family will start adding pay-per-view movies or signing me up for NHL Center Ice, but it just seems like I’d be asking for trouble if one of my precocious nieces then shared the info with someone else, and so on down the line…

The suggestion from the Reddit user seemingly gets around that concern — provided your cable provider allows for multiple user names — by allowing you to create a sub account that would have login access to HBO Go but would not have permission to run up your bill or cancel your service.

Okay, so you’ve reduced the level of stranger danger associated with giving out your account, so that leaves the question of ethics.

Some will argue that any giving away of the HBO Go password is tantamount to theft, as you have no legal right to share access to that service. Furthermore, one could claim that HBO Go-sharing may result in higher prices for those who continue to pay for the channel, as customers cut cords but still put a demand on HBO and broadband providers.

On the other side of that argument is that this is all a well-deserved backlash against spiraling cable prices and HBO’s refusal to sell a standalone HBO Go or to make its streaming videos accessible through other services. Much of the HBO Go password-sharing would end if the network’s biggest shows were available on Netflix or some other service that didn’t require a basic cable subscription and the additional cost of HBO.

Since we don’t have the answer, you tell us: