What are Kodi boxes and are they illegal?
Kodi boxes are the most popular streaming devices around the world, but are they really illegal?
In the last couple years, that question has commonly been posed in forums, in direct emails to the set-top box manufacturers, and even to the Team Kodi directly. Let’s get to the point and explain, first, what Kodi and a Kodi box is, and secondly if they are illegal.
What is Kodi Media Centre?
Formerly known as XBMC (Xbox Media Center), Kodi is a free and open-source media player software application. Developed by XBMC/Kodi Foundation, a non-profit technology consortium, the Kodi media centre lets you play videos, music, pictures, games and other content on multiple operating systems and hardware platforms.
Kodi started as an independent media player application (XBMC) created for the first-generation Xbox game console. Only later was XBMC released as a native application for Android, Linux, BSD, macOS, iOS/tvOS and Microsoft Windows-based operating systems.
A TV Kodi box is, basically, a steaming device or set-top box with Kodi installed which makes any TV into a smart TV. The hardware has a full version of the app, pre-installed and ready to use. All you need is the box itself, a power cord, and an HDMI cable.
The problem is that some boxes are sold with dubious third-party add-ons pre-loaded, turning a legit software and business into something illegal.
Is a TV box Kodi illegal?
Let’s be honest! Kodi is a media app. When you install it on your device, it’s an “empty box”. A case that you can fill with content. So, from this point of view, Kodi isn’t illegal and, most certainly, never will be.
A Kodi box is legal too. If you buy a Kodi box, and if it’s nothing more than a copy of the app installed, your purchase is legal and you don’t have to worry about it. What you do with it afterwards is your responsibility, such as when you buy a new smartphone.
If you buy a “fully loaded” TV box Kodi, you should be careful, because the probability of it being illegal is very high; especially if it says that you can watch free movies and live sports. You must remember one thing: accessing and streaming pirated content is prohibited in most countries in the world, including the UK, European Union and United States.
Team Kodi statements
On May 5th, Team Kodi used their official dev journal to announce a judgment by the EU Court of Justice regarding piracy boxes. In this press release, they state clearly that Team Kodi is pleased with the decision that selling a box with links to copyrighted content is illegal.
According to the blog post, Team Kodi considers that ‘‘(…) pirate box sellers are a real problem for users, because they provide users with constantly breaking messes, vanish, and then expect Team Kodi to provide support to users who are confused about what Kodi is, where their ’free movies’ are coming from, and all of the issues related to this problem.’’
However, the reaction wasn’t the same with the second issue addressed by the court. Because they found some ambiguity in relation to pirate streams being a copyright violation by the user: ‘’There is a situation where a temporary copy of a work is exempt from the copyright holder's ‘right of reproduction’. Certain conditions must be satisfied, such as the act being transient and temporary. Unfortunately, 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 the copyright holder and because they are likely to result in reduced sales by the copyright holder’’.
Team Kodi reacted to this statement by reaffirming their neutrality on what users do with their own software. They refer to a previous statement, in which they say: ‘‘Kodi is open source software, and as long as the GPL is followed, you are welcome to do with it as you like. So, while we don’t love this use of Kodi, as long as you know what illegal and potentially dangerous things you are getting yourself into and accept the fact that the Team will not be providing you with any support, then you are welcome to do what you like.’’