While we have discussed the Kodi app in detail previously, we haven’t spent much time discussing Kodi boxes. With Kodi boxes becoming increasingly popular, this article aims to remedy that.
As for Kodi boxes, they are becoming increasingly common as people look to slash their cable bill or cut the cord completely.
If you regularly follow the cord-cutting news, you might have seen some worrying stories about the legality of such boxes. In this article, we explain what Kodi boxes are and offer you a definitive answer on their lawfulness.
What Is Kodi?
Before explaining what a Kodi box is, it would be pertinent to first clarify what Kodi itself is.
Formerly known as XMBC, Kodi is a free-to-use open source media player. It acts as a single centralized hub for all your locally-saved entertainment. It also lets you watch live TV thanks to its support for most well-known back-ends, including MediaPortal, MythTV, NextPVR, Tvheadend, and VDR.
The Kodi software is cross-platform (available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS), it can play almost any media format you throw at it, and it can stream your content to other Kodi installations on your network or any device that supports UPnP.
However, for many users, the software’s biggest appeal lies in its add-ons. Given that the app is open source, there are thousands of add-ons to choose from. Some are entirely legal (such as YouTube, Hulu, and Spotify), while others are most definitely illegal.
Unfortunately, it’s the illegal ones that garner the most attention. They’ll often let you watch live sport from around the world, stream the latest episodes of your favorite TV shows, or watch the newest Hollywood blockbusters on the day they hit the movie theaters.
What Is a Kodi Box?
A Kodi box is a standalone device that runs the Kodi software and plugs directly into your TV or monitor. The boxes have 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.
Some boxes are specifically designed to only run the Kodi software, while others are modified versions of common set-top media players. Kodi can run on Amazon Fire TV, Chromebox, Google Nexus Player, NVIDIA SHIELD, any device that supports Android TV, Raspberry Pi, and a host of products from smaller independent manufacturers.
Is Kodi Illegal?
The answer is a resounding No. Kodi is not illegal now and will almost certainly never become illegal in the future.
In simple terms, Kodi is nothing more than a media app. When you install it on your device, it’s empty. It’s nothing more than a shell waiting for you, the user, to populate it with content. No add-ons come pre-packaged, and even if they did, there is no way the developers would release the app with the illegal ones baked in.
Kodi even has an official repository for add-ons. Every single one of the add-ons you will find in it are entirely legal to download and use in every jurisdiction.
Are Kodi Boxes Illegal?
Again, the answer is No. But this time, there’s a caveat.
Firstly, let’s be clear: if you buy a Kodi box and it comes with nothing more than a copy of the app installed, you’re safe. Your purchase is entirely legal, and you have nothing to worry about. What you do with it beyond that point is your choice, and you will bear the responsibility for your decisions.
If you’re shopping for a Kodi box, the key phrase that should set alarm bells ringing is “Fully Loaded.” Such offers are rife on sites like eBay and Craigslist. Typically, they’ll also profess the availability of free movies or live sports.
These boxes are illegal. The law in the majority of countries, including the United States, is very clear: accessing pirated content is prohibited. Therefore, buying them, selling them, and using them can land you in trouble. If you value your freedom you should avoid buying a fully loaded Kodi box.
Interestingly, there’s nothing particularly special about the fully loaded boxes. The seller has merely loaded them up with some of the most popular illegal add-ons. Which means that there’s nothing to stop you turning a barebones Kodi box into a fully loaded Kodi box by yourself.
Could the Authorities Kill Kodi Because of Kodi Boxes?
It’s very unlikely. Fully loaded Kodi boxes are attractive because they can act like a typical satellite or cable box: you get a remote control, you can channel surf, and you’ll often get an on-screen TV guide.
But content-wise, they are no different to using Windows, Chrome, or any other app to access pirated content. You don’t need any specialized technical knowledge, and if you know where to look, there is masses of illegal content you can watch for free.
If Windows is safe from the long arm of the law, Kodi is also safe.
Could the Authorities Prosecute You?
The answer to this question depends on where you live.
In the U.K., there is now a serious push to clamp down on the sellers of theses devices. A man from Middlesbrough could become the first person to be prosecuted for selling fully loaded Kodi boxes when he stands trial in May 2017. He will face a charge of “selling adapted devices for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of effective technological measures.”
Another man, Terry O’Reilly, is already serving a four-year term for the less serious “conspiracy to defraud,” after he allegedly sold more than 1,000 Kodi boxes to pubs around the country. It’s claimed the buyers used the boxes to show live Premier League soccer to their patrons for free.
“The courts have provided a clear message: this is against the law and selling systems which allow people to watch unauthorized Premier League broadcasts is a form of mass piracy and is sufficiently serious to warrant a custodial sentence. There can now be no doubt for consumers that these systems are illegal.”
— Kevin Plumb, Premier League Director of Legal Services, speaking after the conviction of Mr. O’Reilly (Quote via City of London Police).
Whether the courts could eventually prosecute end-users is unclear. There doesn’t seem to be much chance of it happening at the moment, but things can change quickly. It would be wise to heed the advice of Lord Toby Harris, the Chair of National Trading Standards in the U.K.:
“I would warn any person or business selling or operating such a device that they are in breach of copyright law. National Trading Standards will continue to protect legitimate business and pursue those who breach copyright in this way.” (Reported by The Express.)
In the U.S., it’s a similar story. Some users are already claiming they’ve received copyright infringement notices from their ISPs. Remember, your ISP knows exactly what you are watching online.
It’s fair to assume Kodi boxes will quickly go the same way as torrent clients in the United States. Subscribers to the country’s major ISPs face having their connections cut off if they repeatedly ignore the warnings.
In mainland Europe, the situation is slightly different. According to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), you’re not breaking the law if you use Kodi boxes (or the Kodi desktop app) to stream copyrighted material.
The law stems from a landmark case in 2014. Several media conglomerates sued media service company Meltwater. The CJEU backed Meltwater. It said viewing copyrighted content is not copyright infringement because users only have the data on their computers temporarily.
However, you shouldn’t be complacent. The CJEU is currently reconsidering the legality of streaming copyrighted content via Kodi. Media companies raised the case after complaining about a Dutch retailer renowned for selling Fully Loaded boxes. The ruling is expected in late-2017.
Do You Own a Kodi Box?
To summarize, the Kodi app is legal and Kodi boxes are legal. Kodi boxes loaded with add-ons that let you access copyrighted material are illegal. Of course, using Kodi to access pirated content on your desktop is also illegal, but this isn’t something the authorities are currently focused on.
Do you have a Kodi box? Is it a barebones Kodi box or is it fully loaded with apps? Does the intensifying debate over the legality of Kodi boxes worry you? Do you fear prosecution from using a Kodi box to watch copyrighted content? Please let us know in the comments below.