The Kodi crackdown appears to be working, but pirates are moving with the times

Kodi is in “steep decline” as a result of recent piracy crackdown efforts, according to a new report.

By now, most of us are familiar with the story. Kodi is legal, open-source software developed by the not-for-profit organisation XBMC Foundation. However, one of the reasons it’s become so popular over recent years is the fact that you can use it to stream TV shows, films and live sports for free, with the help of third-party-created Kodi addons.

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According to a new analysis published by Comparitech, Google search volume for the term ‘Kodi’ fell by more than 80% between August 2017 and August 2018 (based on Google Trends data), and June 2017 appears to have been the big turning point. And though Google search trends certainly won’t align perfectly with actual Kodi user trends, they’re a strong indicator of interest in Kodi.

In the UK, between 2014 and 2017, search volume for ‘Kodi’ increased by more than 360%. As the report points out: “While some of this jump in interest could be attributed to the overall usefulness of Kodi as a free and legal media player, piracy associated with Kodi was the single largest driver of that search volume increase.”

From 2017 to 2018, however, search volume dropped by around 50%. And similar trends have been recorded in countries all over the world.

So what could have caused this shift? Numerous high-profile efforts have been made over the past couple of years, to discourage people from using Kodi for piracy.

In April 2017, for instance, the European Court of Justice ruled that the sale of Kodi boxes was illegal, as was the use of a media player to stream copyrighted content without the consent of the copyright holder. Major online platforms including Amazon, Facebook and eBay also banned the sale of “fully loaded” boxes on their websites last year.

Popular addon library site TVAddons became embroiled in a lawsuit in the US too, where it was accused of copyright infringement. That prompted the site to delist a multitude of popular piracy-configured addons.

However, June 2017 also happens to be when the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) launched. Since its formation, the anti-piracy organisation has set about targeting the developers of various illicit Kodi addons and people behind popular Kodi repositories, and in numerous cases, this action has led to big players shutting down their operations.

Comparitech’s report suggests that ACE’s efforts have been the most effective of all, and says “it’s possible that those who turned to piracy through third-party Kodi addons were scared away from it”.

However, it’s also likely that pirates are moving with the times, rather than making the switch to legitimate content providers.

“ACE’s strategy has not killed the third-party development scene, however. Instead, it appears to have driven many developers underground,” the report says.

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“Where some used to turn to Twitter, many now rely more heavily on more secure messaging options such as Telegram. And where new addons used to get promoted heavily on social media and YouTube, most are now more regularly talked about in smaller, less-well-known third-party forums, such as the subreddit /r/Addons4Kodi.”

Indeed, though Google search volume for ‘Kodi’ is on the wane, search volume for ‘IPTV’ and specific Kodi addons, such as Placenta, Incursion, Gaia, Exodus Redux and Masterani Redux, are on the rise.

“Many pirates these days turn to secure methods, such as hiding their activity behind VPNs, to evade detection. As such, many likely instead reverted back to more commonly-used piracy sources, such as torrenting from sites like ThePirateBay,” the report adds.

“Some pirates are still using Kodi for piracy, but are doing so more under-the-radar and gathering information via smaller piracy-focused forums and private, encrypted channels.”

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