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Is It Legal to Show Netflix at Your Business?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on
Netflix now boasts 31 million subscribers in the United States, more than HBO. But can you legally show Netflix at your place of business? Probably not. While it may be feasibly legal to share your Netflix account with six other family members or friends, commercial use of a Netflix account is most likely illegal. Let's examine why it isn't legal to show Netflix movies in your office lobby.

Commercial Use Violates Terms of Use

As reported in some Yelp reviews and even on some businesses' own websites, some proprietors have taken to showing Netflix to their customers, either in their waiting rooms or lobbies. While patients waiting on a root canal might enjoy watching "House of Cards" or "Orange Is the New Black," Netflix's terms of use apparently do not allow for any commercial use of any account. Don't believe us? Take it straight from the digital horse's mouth: "[t]he Netflix service, and any content viewed through our service, are for your personal and non-commercial use only." Providing entertainment for your patrons, whether you're a bar, restaurant, or even medical provider, is a commercial use, and constitutes a breach of contract with Netflix.

Repercussions for Netflix at Work

Unlike businesses that use personal cable TV boxes at work, you probably won't be slapped with any violation of federal law for streaming Netflix at work. A Netflix-equipped business will most likely receive a cease-and-desist letter -- like this one from Jack Daniel's -- from Netflix's counsel, informing it of the unauthorized use of the account and that the account will be terminated if this use continues. If that business chooses to flout the letter and continue to show Netflix to customers or clients, Netflix may choose to sue for breach of contract. Or worse, Netflix can inform the various copyright holders that you are broadcasting copyrighted material without their permission, since your Netflix license is only valid for personal use. And being sued for copyright infringement by Viacom or Turner Broadcasting is not something your small business needs. Until Netflix chooses to start selling commercial licenses like cable and satellite TV companies do, your business will have to leave your streaming TV and movies at home. If you haven't started your business yet, you can complete business formation documents from home with simple, DIY options customized for your state.

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