Kodi is a free and open-source media streaming software that of late is getting embroiled in many tricky legal questions. In this article, we’ll be going through some of these questions to see if using Kodi is legal.
First off, let’s understand this software a little before moving on. If you’re not particularly interested in the legalities behind Kodi and just want to enjoy watching your favorite shows, check out our guide on how to use Kodi. We also have a guide on how to install Fusion on Kodi.
What Is Kodi?
This award winning software media player allows you to play any video, podcast, music or any other digital media file from your local hard-drive, cloud storage or the Internet. It works on all platforms including TVs, so you can view all kinds of content on any screen. Managed by XBMC, a non-profit consortium, Kodi has a worldwide following.
So, why is this cool entertainment center software mired in legal issues? Is Kodi legal or illegal? Before answering this question, let’s look at an interesting court case that happened in the UK.
Malcolm Mayes from Hartlepool was fined £250,000 ($300,000) for selling pre-loaded Kodi boxes to clubs and pubs in Teesside borough. He sold these Kodi boxes for £1,000 each, so these clubs can screen Premier League games and other pay per view events illegally.
A Teesside Crown Court judge ruled against Mayes. He was ordered to pay £170,000 to the Council and a Proceeds of Crime Order asked him to pay another £80,000 as fine.
The judge, while delivering the verdict, said it is illegal to sell a device that allows free viewing of pay-to-view television programs. He even added that this is common sense as it breaches copyright laws.
In another case, Brian Thompson, a shopkeeper from Middlesborough, is accused of selling “fully loaded” Kodi boxes that allow users to watch pirated content. The trial for this case will begin in May and is expected to determine the boundaries for selling Kodi devices in the UK.
This brings us back to the central question — is Kodi legal?
In its basic form, Kodi is a streaming software that’s used to play media content on different devices. This makes it a perfectly legal tool.
That said, what you download and see through Kodi is what brings up legal questions. In general, if you pay a subscription fee for paid services like Netflix, you’re absolutely fine. However, if you use Kodi to watch illegally downloaded content, you’re in trouble.
To complicate things, Kodi’s open-source feature allows you to download a range of add-ons, some of which enter into ambiguous legal territory.
Though many anti-piracy enthusiasts frown upon the idea of using add-ons to watch different content, it’s equally important to remember that the same content can be accessed via a web browser like Chrome.
This is because add-ons don’t store pirated content, rather they only link to websites that host pirated content. Remember, these websites can be accessed through the browser as well, so technically, add-ons are not the issue either.
Kodi and Piracy Issues
As a user, how can you know if you’re accessing pirated content?
In general, if an add-on gives you access to content that seems too good to be true, then it probably is. This add-on is giving you access to pirated content, and this makes it illegal. However, Kodi is not really the problem here, rather it’s the content.
Sounds confusing? Well, let me clear it up for you.
It is perfectly legal to download and install Kodi. The legal issues come from Kodi’s many plugins and add-ons that source content from pirated sources. For example, add-ons like Exodus and Sportsdevil allow you to watch paid TV for free and this is what brings up legal questions around it.
Again, these add-ons are not the problem too because they’re only sourcing pirated content from other sites, most of which can be accessed outside of Kodi too. All this makes Kodi and its add-ons perfectly legal, yet many big names in the movie industry are opposing it because it encourages pirated content.
Kodi’s developers and the XBMC consortium want to distance themselves from this controversy. They claim that Kodi by itself is legal in its original form and they have no control over the many add-ons that are developed for it.
Where does this leave you as a customer? Already, many customers in Canada, the U.S. and the UK have received copyright infringement notices. Is this valid? Let’s look at what the law says.
UK is taking an active lead in establishing the legality of Kodi. On February 28 2017, the UK Intellectual Property office has launched a consultation team to look into the legality of using Kodi. It looks like this team may soon tighten controls around Kodi’s sellers and end users.
Also, the Open Rights Group has proposed the Digital Economy Bill. Under one of its provisions, Kodi users and torrent file sharers can be imprisoned for 10 years.
In the U.S., laws are not so clear-cut as the UK. In general, streaming licensed content breaks the law on two fronts. First, when you download some or all parts of a copyrighted content, it is illegal. Second, if you show this copyrighted content to a large gathering, outside of your close family circle, it’s illegal.
Other than these two cases, accessing copyrighted content is legal. This means, it’s perfectly legal to watch copyrighted content online, without downloading or sharing it with anyone. On the other side though, it’s illegal to upload or post licensed content anywhere.
Essentially this means, you can watch content through online websites, but can’t upload or download them. This explains why online streaming sites don’t host content on their servers, but merely act as search engines to give you content from other sites. This makes accountability tough, so it’s hard to enforce punishments.
Likewise, Kodi’s add-ons are just big collections of links to sites that contain copyrighted content. So, these add-ons by themselves are not illegal in the U.S. and Canada.
There is also no strong legislation in this regard. A bill called S 978 attempted to make copyright infringement a felony in the U.S., but that bill died in 2011.
You may wonder why some users then have got infringement notices? In the U.S., the Motion Pictures Association of America keeps track of IPs from which you download copyrighted content.They hire copyright lawyers to send notices and demand hefty payment as fines.
Though there’s the argument that Kodi encourages piracy, from a legal standpoint, it doesn’t hold good. So, Kodi is perfectly legal in the U.S., Canada, the European Union and even in India. As long as you don’t download or share copyrighted content with the public, you’re out of trouble.
The nice thing with Kodi is you don’t download content, you just stream it. Even the add-ons don’t store content, they merely tap into repositories and stream the content.
So, is Kodi legal to watch? Overwhelmingly yes.
But remember, this may change in the future. Already, corporations that own copyright to movies and TV shows are putting pressure on the government to enact laws. This can cause the Congress to pass laws or the Justice department to act like it did in Kickass Torrents.
To stay away from all this trouble, it’s best to use a VPN with Kodi. Here are some ways how a VPN can protect you.
Why use a VPN with Kodi?
A virtual private network, or VPN for short, greatly enhances your user experience and protects your privacy and security. You should read our ExpressVPN review, since it’s our top recommended privacy service.
Even if there are currently no laws against Kodi, corporations that hold copyrights constantly monitor your IP and this can lead them to issue a copyright notice against you.
If you’re unaware, a new law in the U.S. allows your ISP to collect, store and share your browsing data with third parties. Since VPNs reroute your connection through a neutral server, it helps you stay anonymous, so no one can trace your IP.
Protection from Hackers
VPNs keep your IP anonymous, so you’re protected from hackers and scammers who want to download viruses and other malware through the content you view. Have a look at some our favorites in this handy VPN comparion chart.
Access to More Content
Many Kodi add-ons block access to certain shows based on your geographical location. Since a VPN encrypts your location and identity, you’re immune to these geo-restrictions.
Overall, you get better protection, anonymity and access to content when you use VPNs, and that’s why at Cloudwards.net, we highly recommend them.
Kodi is a device like your computer. By itself, it is perfectly a legal tool. It’s the add-ons that enter into murky legal waters at times because some groups believe that it encourages piracy.
The UK is looking to bring in legislation that will crack down on Kodi’s use, but there’s no such bill in sight in the U.S. So, for now, you can continue to use Kodi and it’s add-ons to stream content. You won’t get into trouble as long as you don’t download or upload any copyrighted file.
However, just to keep yourself safe, it’s a good idea to use VPNs with Kodi, especially when you’re streaming content through add-ons. This way, you can stream safely and privately, even if laws change in the future.
What do you think about services like Kodi being challenged in court? Let us know in the comments below, thank you for reading.