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Is Kodi legal? And what is Kodi to begin with? Streaming through the hype

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Is Kodi legal? And what is Kodi to begin with? From the EU and UK government to the likes of Amazon, eBay and the Premier League, it seems that everybody is weighing in on the debate surrounding so-called 'fully loaded' Kodi boxes these days. What's above board and what falls foul of the law? Here's what you need to know, including all the latest news.

Rewind to April 2016 and Kodi was still a relatively niche media streaming platform, loved by HTPC (Home Theatre PC) enthusiasts and cord cutters, but still largely a mystery to the masses.

Jump to 2017 and the Software Formerly Known as XBMC is hitting the headlines virtually every day – and it hasn't always been good news for streamers.

Here, we'll breakdown the current legal landscape, translate the latest rulings, and explain how it all affects you.

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What is Kodi? All you really need to know

We most commonly hear about a “Kodi box”, but Kodi isn’t actually a physical device. It’s actually a piece of open-source software, specifically a media player developed by the XBMC Foundation – a not-for-profit.

The Kodi software isn’t naughty in its own right, but it can be abused. Some enterprising pirates have been creating set-top boxes with Kodi installed, and loading copyright-infringing software onto them. This allows users who own a so-called “fully-loaded Kodi box” to stream content for free that would otherwise require payment.

This has led to widespread use of Kodi boxes to illegally stream movies, TV, and premium live sports – all without payment. Thus, the recent legal crackdown began.

Kodi on Trial: What's the latest news?

On May 3, the maximum prison sentence for illegally streaming copyrighted media soared from two years to 10, after the UK government passed the controversial Digital Economy Act into law.

Many are sceptical that end users will feel the full force of the law in this regard, but at this stage, we wouldn't care to risk it. Frankly, watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on the cheap just isn't worth a decade in chokey.

The ruling has already claimed one major scalp, with popular Kodi add-on Navi-X – first released in 2007 – shuttering its operation.

"After ten years of successful operation, Navi-X has sadly being discontinued. Navi-X was first released in April 2007, and is the oldest Kodi addon of its kind," the Navi-X team explain on TV ADDONS.

They continue:

The main reason why the decision was made to discontinue the Navi-X service is the current legal climate surrounding Kodi. In case you aren’t aware, the abundance of preloaded Kodi box sellers has resulted in a lot of heat on Kodi in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

“Hosting Navi-X playlists is no longer something we feel comfortable doing due to the potential liability that comes with it.”

The EU has also joined the growing list of influential Kodi critics.

On Wednesday April 26, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) appears to have hammered another nail in the platform's coffin, effectively banning the sale of 'fully loaded' Kodi boxes by way of a lengthy ruling.

In a detailed statement (H/T TorrentFreak), the ECJ deemed that copyright law, "must be interpreted as covering the sale of a multimedia player, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, on which there are pre-installed add-ons, available on the internet, containing hyperlinks to websites — that are freely accessible to the public — on which copyright-protected works have been made available to the public without the consent of the right holders."

In plain English, that means that Android TV boxes shipping with with both Kodi and pre-installed third-party add-ons that provide easy access to pirated content fall foul of the law.

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Furthermore, it adds that previous exemptions to EU copyright law covering "acts of temporary reproduction, on a multimedia player" fail to "satisfy the conditions set out in those provisions."

This is a key point, as it means that the fact streaming doesn't result in the creation of physical copies of rights protected content is no longer a legitimate defence against charges of copyright infringement.

On the retail side, Amazon and eBay have both announced plans to ban the sale of 'fully loaded' Android TV boxes on their marketplaces, while the Premier League has thrown is considerable financial clout behind legal efforts to thwart pirate sport streams.

What does Kodi have to say?

Kodi appeared to have welcomed the EU ruling on Twitter, and has since issued a statement regarding the recent rulings on its blog.

The non-profit organisation (for that is what Kodi is) has sought to clarify how the rulings affect end users, though it's keen to clarify that its post reflects "opinions and not facts."

Still, it helps shed additional light on a couple of the important issues we've mentioned and cuts through a load of Brussels jargon.

On the sale of so-called 'fully loaded' boxes, Kodi said:

"The [EU] court said that yes, this was a communication to the public, so selling a box with links to copyrighted content is illegal."

The debate surrounding streaming pirated content, however, is more complex in light of the EU ruling.

Kodi summarises it like this:

"Even though a stream is a VERY temporary and very transient copy to RAM, it doesn't get an exemption from the copyright holder's 'right of reproduction', because such streams are not authorized by copyright holder and because they likely will result in reduced sales by the copyright holder.

"To put it simply, pirate streaming appears to be illegal in the EU."

Is Kodi legal or illegal, and what's its future?

The situation surrounding Kodi is a minefield at present.

While we're confident we understand what the latest legal rulings mean and how they are likely to be applied in practice, we're not lawyers – nor are we able to predict how individual judges might now interpret the law.

But nevertheless, there is a simple answer – at least for the time being.

Is Kodi legal? Yes, and that's unlikely to change.

While the sale of so-called 'fully loaded' Kodi boxes is clearly in the dock, and streamers of pirated content now also face the (ridiculous) wrath of the law, Kodi's core open-source media streaming software has not been indicted in any way.

Moreover, Kodi has finally started to fight back, saying it will maintain its "neutral" stance and not attempt to police its considerable user base.

"The court seems to have made it quite clear in its ruling that they view Kodi itself as something akin to Firefox or the internet, perfectly legal, while the links/add-ons specifically are the illegal IP.

"Even though pirate streaming appears to be illegal in Europe, we still stand by our neutral policy. We are developers and not the police, and we have no interest in acting as police for our own software. Kodi will remain as free and as open as it always has.

"Feel free to continue using Kodi however you want."

For what it's worth, we don't condone using Kodi for anything other than legal streaming, but the platform itself?

As legal as a Curly Wurly.

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Is it last orders for Kodi, or will the platform survive the brouhaha surrounding the sale of 'fully loaded' boxes? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Quid pro Quo

April 27, 2017, 11:02 pm

[…] a relatively niche piece of media streaming software […]

Errrm... nope... Kodi (formerly XBMC, as noted) was never intended to be a media streamer, at least in the way the masses perceive streaming. Kodi was conceived as a full featured multimedia presentation and playback solution, a media center for *local* media files (either from a HDD or a network share/NAS), *not* as an internet media streamer. Plus, it was never a relatively 'niche' piece of software (at least in terms of insinuated obscurity). Unless a PC/Mac/Linux user has been living under the proverbial rock for the past decade or so, that is...

Richard Martin

April 28, 2017, 7:35 am

Kodi is good; why pay for adverts and left-wing dogma?

kwacka

April 28, 2017, 5:01 pm

Shirley 'right-wing dogma'?

Wake Up

May 4, 2017, 9:22 am

The most irritating thing about this is that over the years, multiple technologies have been made illegal or blocked in regards to piracy ... they just see their profits fall and then bully everyone into submitting. The fact of the matter is simple, IF an alternative "paid" solution was made available which offered the same services as Kodi (for example), there would be less piracy. I'm thinking back to the days of Napster (Spotify, Deezer, etc have filled this gap), torrenting/newsgroups (Netflix, Amazon to a degree have partially filled this) ... my rant is that something is broken, people will break the law instead of shelling out potentially £100's a month ... fix it!

toboev

May 4, 2017, 9:44 am

Which aspect (other than "free") of Kodi's 'fully loaded' illegal streaming experience is not catered for by legal alternatives?

toboev

May 4, 2017, 9:48 am

and I wish they would stop pinning all this on "Kodi", which is rapidly becoming shorthand for "illegal activity", much like Tor. I use Kodi on my PC as a replacement for the late departed Windows Media Player, but reading the headlines made me think I guilty was of copyright theft.

toboev

May 4, 2017, 9:53 am

"However, while these so-called 'fully loaded' Kodi boxes are clearly in
the dock, it's important to note that Kodi's core open-source media
streaming software has yet to be indicted."

'yet to be'...: Why the heavy implication that there is anything whatsoever illegal, louche or nefarious about Kodi itself? Is it not incumbent upon you, as responsible and serious journalists (?), to shine a light on the difference between right and wrong in this case, instead of simply (deliberately) muddying the waters and sowing FUD?

Matt Geeson

May 4, 2017, 10:41 am

Where can you currently go to one place to watch any film or TV show you like no mater how old. The answer know where. Netflix and amazon's quality content is slim at best and sky is just overly expensive. Until there is a true Spotify of video content, people will continue to find free sources.

cheese king

May 5, 2017, 4:01 pm

Is Kodi legal? - more click bait, you know full well this issue has nothing whatsoever to do with KODI, should we ban windows because its used to facilitate access to torrents??? NO ofcourse not. These are plugins, essentially apps that run on the platform and the KODI team can nothing about this at all.

Your articles are becoming more trashy every day, your reviews are bland and often plain wrong, have you changed management or is it just that you cant be bothered to be proper journalists these days?

John Cunningham

May 5, 2017, 5:33 pm

Yep, click-bait and highly irresponsible as a headline, as you lot must realise! Shame on Trustedreviews for this misleading way of presenting a very tired discussion.

Richard G. Holland

May 6, 2017, 12:22 am

It just goes to show the priorities of the EU: You stand to be potentially given a longer prison sentence for watching a pirated stream of a movie than for being caught dealing firearms, violent disorder, or even molesting a child! Utter madness!

Theanyealator

June 10, 2017, 11:42 am

This makes no sense, is it still legal to use

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