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Kodi on Trial: A watershed moment for streamers everywhere

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(Update: 8 February 2017): Five people have been arrested as the crackdown on Kodi continues. The five unnamed individuals are accused of selling Kodi set-top boxes featuring software that allows the illegal streaming of movies, TV, and sport for free.

According to the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the suspects had turned over an impressive £250,000 through online sales of the devices. The five suspects were arrested in Bolton, Bootle, Cheadle, Manchester, and Rhyl.

"Set-top boxes loaded with apps and add-ons allowing access to copyright infringing material are very much illegal and anyone involved in selling these boxes should not be surprised to receive a knock on the door," said Kieron Sharp, Director General of FACT, as reported by the BBC.

All five suspects have been questioned and released on bail.

Original story:

Last September, we learned of an impending court case that could see selling 'fully loaded' Kodi boxes become illegal.

Brian Thompson of Middlesbrough is accused of selling equipment that "facilitated the circumvention" of copyright protection rules.

Now Thompson has pleaded not guilty in the landmark case which will set a precedent for other shopkeepers who sell the so-called 'fully loaded' boxes.

Related: MWC 2017

The trial is set to get underway in May and concerns boxes which use the increasingly popular Kodi open-source media centre software, which collects videos, music, games, and photos on one platform.

Formerly known as Xbox Media Centre (XBMC) the software was developed to be used on numerous devices, including the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Apple TV, without those companies' official support.

Pre-loading set-top boxes with the software allows some sellers to offer ready-to-use streaming devices, which customers can modify using third-party add-ons to gain access to pirated content or subscription-based services for free.

Mr Thompson has now denied two charges of selling equipment that facilitated the circumvention of copyright protection rules.

Kodi Fire TV

Responding to the case, brought by Middlesbrough Council, Thompson previously told the Gazette Live that he doesn't consider the boxes to be illegal and intends to challenge the charges, which follow an 18-month investigation.

He also told the Northern Echo: "These boxes are available from all over the place, not just me, but it's the downloading of software to watch channels that is apparently causing the problem."

"If I am found guilty and the court rules that I am breaking the law selling these boxes, I want to know what that means for people buying and selling mobile phones or laptops because the software is available for all of them."

Kodi developers have made clear on numerous occasions that they do not support piracy extensions or add-ons, and say they maintain a "neutral stance on what users do with their own software".

The impending court case will be the first time legal scrutiny will be applied to an application such as Kodi in the UK, and is likely to determine the availibility of fully-loaded Kodi boxes in the UK.

WATCH: MWC – What can we expect?

Let us know what you think of the case in the comments.

cheese king

January 28, 2017, 12:14 pm

this is just stupid, if he wants to sell the box legally just dont put the software on it, solved, he has no case here at all.

mode11

January 28, 2017, 1:25 pm

Presumably, the appeal of his boxes is that they are already set up to stream movies for free from the numerous websites out there offering them. Sure, anyone could buy a Fire TV etc., install Kodi on it, then install Exodus etc. on it, but that all involves a load of research.

Scott Higginbotham

January 28, 2017, 1:44 pm

The research only makes it an issue of scale as MANY will do the research, which for my money isnt much. Particularly with tools like Youtube that lay the whole process out in detail for 5 min effort. And BTW doesnt that make Youtube complicit in "facilitating"? I dont see them on trial. Plus there is the obvious legal problem that the guy on trial only supplied "LINKS" for which he has no responsibility for whats on the other end of them since links in and of themselves are NOT illegal.

mode11

January 28, 2017, 1:53 pm

Oh right, I assumed he'd made a turn-key solution for watching pirated material. From re-reading, it seems he's only installing Kodi. Can't see why that would be illegal.

Scott Higginbotham

January 28, 2017, 6:43 pm

Hello Mode11, I think you misread my meaning. I too was presuming he offered a turnkey solution. My point being huge numbers of people would still do the research even if he didnt offer a turn key solution with the help of Youtube. Your right theres no legal issue without that element for the box (unless perhaps your in youtube/member shoes). They are basically supplying the same info as the box seller. Youtube/member is just not doing the installation but their intent is the same as the guy selling the box and the basis for facilitating thats in common is intent. My other position was that its irrelevant since all thats being supplied is a link which unto itself isnt illegal. Intent for the link isnt established until someone decides to click on it for the purpose of enjoying the connected video (and thats not the guy installing it on the box or Youtube/member) In other words the prosecutions problem is they are arguing the crime takes place at the wrong point in time to get a conviction in my humble opinion. The box seller can also double his protection by leaving a notice that all provided links are for informational and or education use only.

mode11

January 28, 2017, 8:30 pm

Well, you have to draw the line somewhere. Sure, he's not clicking on the link to a web stream of a film himself, but he is making it as easy as possible to do so. Of course the information is out there for IT-literate people to use, but most people wouldn't feel confident even following a YouTube video to install Kodi. The small amount of research / technical confidence involved restricts pirate streaming to a relatively small amount of people.

But if you can buy a stick for £40, preloaded with everything you need to watch free films on your TV, that's dangerously close to opening the floodgates. Hence why the industry are trying to prosecute him. I have no idea who'll win in court, but bear in mind this guy's livelihood is built around providing easy access to unlimited copyrighted content. So it is a service people are prepared to pay for, vs. DIY.

Unlike bittorrent, where you're uploading while you download, illegal streaming must be much harder to detect (presumably you'd have to subpoena IP address logs from a site's servers, if even possible) and the legal liability for the user must be much less (the value of an iTunes rental?). The industry are entitled to fight to protect their IP - they'd be crazy not to.

Scott Higginbotham

January 29, 2017, 5:28 am

Your correct the line has to be drawn "somewhere" and it is. But what your suggesting seems to be "everywhere".

I dont dispute that a turnkey solution makes it easier and sells more units, although I think your drastically underestimating the number of IT literate people out there. Im guessing you havent actually watched one of the Youtube How to's or you might have a better picture. Two step process, download file and then run it and reboot the box. No skill required. Even so, why the industry wants to prosecute is obvious. But they cant have the crime committed "everywhere" by everybody at every level. An actual theft does not occur when turnkey software/links are installed (or sold). However intent could be argued and thats basically what they are going for with "facilitating". Again if intent is the issue, then here is a list of people with potential intent, almost none of which are targeted here.

1. Box manufacturer who could be argued that modification was "forseeable" and failed to prevent it.
2. Guy who buys box and installs legal links who could "forsee" their illegal use.
3. People who supplied links to guy who bought box to modify and resell, again because it was forseeable such a link would be illegally used.
4 The buyer of the box who understood the links were illegal.
5 The buyer of the box who didnt understand and didnt have intent but none the less broke the law (Ignorence of the law is no excuse).
6,7,8,9,etc friends, neighbors and family of guy who buys box, with and without intent based on knowledge or lack there of.
10 Youtube and members who post such material and allow it to remain.

You see under the facilitating/conspiracy theory you and the prosecutor describe literally everyone every where is guilty and I cant see the judge buying into such a broad brush concept for links that are completely legal (until used).

That being said there are also left hand doesnt have to know what the right hand was doing laws on the books. It WILL be interesting. Hard to discuss further without further specifics.

(With regard to IP addresses and finding people using it. The same methods are used here as are used for bit torrent. An IP address is an IP address. I retired from Network Security). But, Its not the "IP" the industry is protecting, its their copy written content. As to their success, the devil is in the details LoL. Have enjoyed the discussion.

mode11

January 29, 2017, 2:20 pm

Look, I’ve been running Kodi since it was XMBC on a chipped Xbox, so I’m well aware of how to mod devices and install software, thanks. And I’ve watched plenty of downloaded content.

Regardless of the legal splitting hairs, though, what are you proposing? That the content creation industry has no right to defend itself?

Lawyers cost money. This is a practical issue - the industry concentrates their efforts on areas that have the perceived greatest reduction in piracy, for the least amount of expense, with the greatest chance of winning in court. To address your scenarios:

1. Box manufacturers (e.g. Amazon, Google) have lawyers themselves. Also, these are general purpose devices - the link to piracy is too tenuous. It would be like banning shovels because they could be used to bash someone over the head.

2. When you say “installs legal links”, what are you talking about? Installing a Kodi plugin that can retrieve pirate content from the web? Or clicking on a link such a plugin may find? In the former he’s done nothing illegal. In the latter, it’s a) very hard to detect, b) involves suing customers, which often backfires (turns out to be a ten year old girl, or mistaken identity etc.), c) how much can you sue someone for streaming a film anyway?

3. What does “supplies links” mean? The address of a page on a streaming website? Again, not illegal. Google does it all the time.

4. A box buyer hasn’t committed any crime, regardless of the capabilities of the box. Perhaps he’ll only ever use it for Netflix, and has no interest / understanding of the other features.

5. See no. 2

6 - 9. Have no idea what you’re talking about.

10. Annoyingly for the industry, this is perfectly legal. They are just providing information, not pirated content.

As I said before, I don’t know who will win in court, but going after people selling boxes that make it easy to watch pirate content has some practical logic to it. It’s a warning shot to the numerous eBay sellers who offer this sort of thing. Will it affect overall piracy much? Probably not. But they have to do something to keep a lid on it, and show they are still prosecuting people. I know plenty of people who are deterred from downloading content illegally in case they are sued.

It’s also disingenuous to pretend that the box seller is doing nothing. If everyone were truly so confident in DIYing, he wouldn’t have a business. There are also plenty of people who are perfectly able to follow instructions, but simply don’t have the time to spend figuring things out. If you’ve done lots of modding, you’ll know that things are frequently not as straightforward as they are made out to be - guides go out of date, new versions of software can have bugs etc. You can easily waste a day messing with something, so the option to buy ready-modded is well worth it to many.

How can the same methods be used to find people streaming from websites as using bittorrent? With the latter, the user’s client has to connect to others, which may include clients run by companies working for the industry. You can literally see the IP addresses of other users. With streaming, it’s just between the site and the user. Presumably, the only way to find out who they’re streaming to is to subpoena their server logs, if they keep them, and if they are in a country you have jurisdiction in. And even with this information, uploading to 100’s of others is one thing; downloading one copy for yourself is another. The maximum penalties are surely lower.

Btw, are you confusing Intellectual Property with Internet Protocol? Protecting intellectual property is the same thing as protecting copyright content; the latter is just a subset of the former.

Scott Higginbotham

January 29, 2017, 3:15 pm

When someone begins a sentence with "Look" then you have probably offended them. Not my intent! I was guessing at your experience based on what I read. Sorry if I was wrong.

I too have been with it since XBMC. Actually my fraud, theft of services/content, piracy experience goes back to 1979. So ive had plenty of courtroom time on behalf of one of the industries affected. You? (Rhetorical)

However hair splitting or not the law is the law. It provides facility for the industry to defend itself. It also provides the barriers as to how that must be accomplished so that everyone everywhere cant be accused. The specifics and details in those split hairs are simply how law works. Giving them a negative label and verbally brushing them aside changes nothing. An understanding of technology doesnt provide understanding of the law. Frankly most lawyers dont have full understanding, the topic is simply to expansive.

As I said in the last msg Ive enjoyed the debate but you seem to be at a point where you are taking things personally which as I said I never intended so Im gonna leave you to have the last word, if you must, and call it a day. Not sure the readers are being served any longer. Good day

Magic

January 30, 2017, 8:15 am

Thank both of you for your information. I am 26 years olny been useing kodi for 2 years .

It took me only about 4 hrs to have kodi installed on a firestick with top apps, sports , tv, movies even a library with specto. I belive it is made very easy for anyone to just hack there own box. I know very little law Or computers. But i feel if there was a way to just stop the plp they hack then re sell on ebay. Maybe they can just sell the educational instruction video how to install kodi and the best build setup. Then it's more about who has the best how to guide . Then they are selling them self as a service'-again I don't know law.

My point Is its easy to learn how to install/setup with just a little info from someone. I think the plp selling the box's Andre taking away something for real kodi users .and plp taking the time to build and update apps and they ask no money from us. Sorry iam high right now so I may be a little of topic... ♡specto♡

jimmy

January 30, 2017, 9:43 am

If sky didn't rip people off for such extortionate amounts, only to pump it into overpaid footballers pockets, then there probably wouldn't be such a high demand for Kodi and other streaming solutions. Similar for movie studios, paying an actor £50m+ for one film meaning the cinema's have to push ticket prices up to recover the costs. If the greed stopped, the prices would come back to a level that average users would tolerate. I used to go to the cinema a lot, but at £30-40 for a family of 4, it is a very rare occasion these days.
In my office at work, around 10 out of the 20 guys that I know of use Kodi, so it is starting to become seriously widespread. It is no longer an underground solution that only tech savvy forum goers know about. It is discussed openly in every day conversation in my office and elsewhere. This presumably is having a material impact on the income of Sky/movie studios etc
And I agree with the conversation below, lots of good discussion. it will be very hard to prove in this case, it will be a closely observed case! if anything the youtubers are more at fault as they describe the whole process in great detail and even suggest the best links for the specific shows. The box seller purely sells a box with no instructions on how to actually use the software. It is only installed, it is still up to the user to work it and find the best links.
I'm amazed they haven't gone after youtube, as surely in their terms there should be something about posting illegal content? not just the users posting, but surely youtube has a legal responsibility to take down the videos? If anything I think youtube is encouraging the growth far far more than any box seller, as people just email the youtube links to their friends to spread the word.

Alex Walsh

January 30, 2017, 4:41 pm

I thought the point of the case was that "fully loaded" directly equated to "pre-installed with all the addons to illegally stream copyrighted stuff"? A fully loaded box enables piracy straight out of the, erm, box...

Kodi in itself is no different to any media manager front end/player- even itunes allows you to rip/import your CDs to its library.

Alex Walsh

January 30, 2017, 4:49 pm

Are you sure? The Gazette Live link says:

"It’s when the box is ‘loaded’ with apps and add-ons to access copyright-protected material like football when issues arise.

According to court papers, it is claimed that Brian was selling the boxes ‘pre-loaded’ - with those apps already installed - when council officials raided him last March."

It's really not terribly clear one way or the other, but that reads more like a turnkey solution.

lee

January 30, 2017, 6:08 pm

Why get a box when you can put it on your laptop, use a HDMI lead and off you go

Scott Higginbotham

January 31, 2017, 12:24 am

If I tell someone (or sell someone) information that says joe blow told me the back door at the bank is unlocked, did I commit a crime while having no control over what you do with that information and you have no control over my truthfulness.

Yes defendant is selling the box preloaded with apps that contain many web LINKS (via those apps) to illegal copies of movies on the net which defendant did not supply. Legally prosecutors equate this to me sending you a list of illegal movies I found on the net. The question then becomes, does the crime happen when the link is clicked and the movie watched or when I send you the list (with or without a box and whether sold or free). Prosecutors will claim the former for theft and the latter for facilitating. In this case defendant is selling the box but that's not what creates the facilitation, its the information (apps/links) he installs on it. In a nutshell Person A telling person B the wrong thing is illegal according to prosecutors. This so called illegal information is of the same type you see caveats for by the trillions all day every day that say "This information is for informational and or educational purposes)" In other words the defendant will likely claim ultimate legality is establish or not established by the buyer not the seller.

Might want to ask yourself if two phone company customers can discuss HYPOTHETICAL ways to rob a bank and if they can be imprisoned for that conversation or whether you would prefer the thought police just arrest and prosecute everyone everywhere for "INFORMATION" that isnt really a problem until used... What if one of those two telco customers was going to write a book about a bank robbery? Wouldnt the issue then include "intent"? Well the defendent/seller of this box is likely going to claim his only intent was to sell more of his boxes and he is not responsible for buyers stupidity or intent..

kibje

February 5, 2017, 10:48 am

Nonsense clickbait article header. Kodi is not on trial, it is sellers of (trademark-infringing !) boxes with Kodi pre-installed with bootleg video add-ons that are at trial. These sellers have absolutely nothing to do with Kodi and are just stealing the name to further their own agenda.

Graham Taylor

February 5, 2017, 9:52 pm

it's the kodi "fully loaded" bit that they investigated, it's fully loaded with all the "apps" to watch films, tv shows etc..
if he'd have advertised it as just a kodi streaming box, then I assume they wouldn't have had a case.

Bugblatter

February 8, 2017, 7:45 pm

Well I don't know why they're bothering with a court case when Kieron Sharp has already ruled that they're "very much illegal".

DH

February 26, 2017, 4:06 pm

Most if not all LOADED boxes are not loaded, they may have some apps on them but as you say it takes research on how to use them. I program boxes for people and 99% of the loaded ones are full of outdated useless apps with 0 to no dependencies installed making them in fact useless. It's not plug it in and boom...you get Sky sports, BeIn Sports, every tv channel in the world, every special channel etc... Research is the only way to make them work.

DH

February 26, 2017, 4:15 pm

8 out of 10 people that come to me to get their boxes programmed believe that this is 100% legal not that their ignorant of the law but so many people have them that it's the norm to do it. Have you heard of boxxee box, media streamer as well...it can be done to this box as well.

DH

February 26, 2017, 4:19 pm

I wouldn't advertise it either. Just sell the boxes and claim he didn't know what was on them.

DH

February 26, 2017, 4:36 pm

I think you are right...without youtubers videos very few people would own these as they would have no idea how to set them up. I'm a programmer that's how I learned to program them. It seems like anything nowadays is spread like wild fire over twitter, YouTube, Facebook etc..when in fact if people just shut up about it then no law enforcement or court would know about it. I learned about them from word of mouth and that's how it should be treated. You don't see a drug dealer advertising do you?

DH

February 26, 2017, 4:40 pm

Dead right..but then they might say your laptop is illegal.

DH

February 26, 2017, 4:43 pm

Kodi is a cool media manager...I use it for all my legal music, home videos, movies and photos and there is some legal free apps that can be put on. But that's all kodi is is a media manager.

DH

February 26, 2017, 4:54 pm

I ran into a guy at a flea market who sells a box similar to this but he says he will put all the good stuff on. When you ask him what the good stuff is...he says you'll see. But you won't see him in court because he doesn't point blank say what it is and what's on them before he gets it is not his concern. He just sells a media box, what you do with it is your business. I agree with him. If he listed everything that points to illegal copyright material...then I would find him guilty but he doesn't say that. He says people come to him not the other way around.
I seen this media box and wow it's got everything on it and I mean everything. When I went back to the flea market I said "wow you put some good stuff on". He replied with "yeh them free legal apps are cool aren't they". Moral of this is...stop advertising and you won't get caught.

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