Kodi and the Amazon Fire TV Stick are two of the most popular ways to consume content at home. Kodi is a home theater app that acts as a library management tool for all your media, while the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a streaming device that provides access to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, etc.
To give you an idea of the numbers, at the time of writing roughly 40 million people use Kodi, and Amazon has sold more than 65 million Fire TV Sticks to date.
However, although Kodi and the Amazon Fire are both great for their flexibility, users could easily find themselves in hot water if they use these tools for the wrong purposes. In this article, we’re going to explain what content is legal, what content is illegal, and what falls into the ever-murky “gray area.”
The Piracy Problem
It’s human nature to want something for nothing. As a species, we typically wish to gain maximum reward for minimal effort. And with regard to free entertainment, apps like Kodi and hardware like the Amazon Fire TV encourage the behavior further.
Both ecosystems have developed a reputation for themselves as piracy strongholds. More significantly, both have been happy to let the reputation fester. In the case of Kodi, it’s helped download numbers tremendously. And in the case of the Amazon Fire TV Stick, it’s helped sell units.
Now the problem is reaching pandemic proportions.
In November 2017, the Copyright Alliance hosted a panel discussion. One of the speakers was the Senior Vice President of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Neil Fried. According to TorrentFreak, he claimed that 26 million of Kodi’s 38 million users regularly used piracy addons. That’s almost 70 percent.
As for the Amazon Fire TV Stick, the device’s brand name has now become part of the world’s vernacular. In the same way as “Netflix and Chill” has taken on its own special meaning, “Firestick that sh*t” now means “download an illegal copy of a movie or TV show and take advantage of the Fire Stick’s impressive flexibility to watch it on your TV.”
Seriously, we’re reaching Popcorn Time levels of illegality.
Even famous entertainment stars are openly advocating the process. Jamie Foxx recently told chat show host Joe Rogan he might “Firestick that sh*t” if a new movie had poor reviews, while 50 Cent said the Tupac biopic was so bad people should “Catch that sh*t on a firestick [sic].”
The User Trap
From a user perspective, it’s easy to fall into a trap. If even Hollywood actors and famous rappers are condoning piracy of their contemporaries’ work, can it really be that bad?
If you start searching for more information, you’ll quickly enter a world of seemingly legal and widely-used add-ons and apps.
For example, an eBay search for Kodi boxes will reveal an almost endless stream of “Fully Loaded” hardware. Sellers will promise everything from the latest Hollywood movies to top sporting events.
Similarly, there are countless subreddits about getting “free” content onto your Kodi app and Amazon Fire Stick. IPTV-related forums promise thousands of TV channels for as little as $5/month. Kodi repos provide addons for every type of content you can think of. The list goes on.
The piracy issue is now so pervasive that it’s become normalized. But much like the file-sharing apps of the 2000s and the illegal streaming websites of the early-2010s, it’s not here to stay. The authorities are starting to clamp down.
If you want to make sure you stay on the right side of the law, you need to know what’s legal and what’s not.
What’s Legal on Kodi and Amazon Fire TV?
Let’s take a closer look at what content is legal on the two platforms.
Firstly, let’s dispel the myth that Kodi is inherently illegal. It isn’t. There is nothing illegal about using the Kodi app or owning a Kodi box. Similarly, there’s nothing illegal about sideloading Kodi onto your Amazon Fire TV Stick.
Secondly, any add-on that’s part of Kodi’s official repo is entirely legal. The official repo includes apps such as PlayStation Vue, BBC iPlayer, ESPN, ABC Family, Bravo, Crunchyroll, and many more.
Likewise, on an Amazon Fire TV stick, you can be confident that any app in the Amazon Appstore is entirely legal to download and use.
An app’s presence in the Kodi repo or Amazon Appstore doesn’t necessarily mean the addon is created by the content creator (for example, the BBC iPlayer Kodi app is not made by the BBC). However, it does mean that the content within it is legal to watch — assuming you have the correct credentials and live in the appropriate geographic location.
And therein lies the most significant gray area: geo-blocking. If you use a VPN or DNS proxy service, it’s possible to watch the BBC iPlayer app from outside the U.K. The same situation applies to countless other video-on-demand providers.
Finally, an addon or app doesn’t need to be in the Kodi official repo or Amazon Appstore for it to be legal. There are lots of third-party apps that will do everything from playing videos on YouTube to streaming content from Twitch. In the eyes of the courts, they are all safe.
What’s Illegal on Kodi and Amazon Fire TV?
All the illegal content on Kodi and Amazon Fire TV stems from third-party apps and addons.
For example, the “Fully Loaded” Kodi boxes we mentioned earlier pull all their content from third-party addons. There is nothing special about the boxes — they are relying on addons that are available to anyone through one of the many Kodi repos.
Clearly, most people should instantly know that a box advertising Hollywood movies and sports events for a one-off fee of a few bucks is never going to be legal. Whether the user sees a moral issue with it is a different topic, but the illegality of the content is not in question.
Users also need to be alert to the dangers of IPTV providers. As mentioned earlier, illegal IPTV is a booming sector. Some “providers” issue their own apps for Kodi and Amazon, while others issue M3U playlists.
There are lots of legal M3U playlist apps on both Kodi and in the Amazon Appstore. As with the Kodi app itself, there is nothing illegal about the apps themselves. The legal issues arise from what you (the user) chooses to populate the apps with.
Ultimately, it all boils down to copyright law. If the app you’re watching doesn’t have the permission to use the content it offers, either by using an API or by paying distribution fees to the rights holders, it is breaking the law.
At the moment, the people who use illegal apps have got off lightly. Copyright-holders are pursuing the creators of the Kodi and Amazon apps that provide access to the content and the people who sell the “Fully Loaded” Kodi boxes.
But, just as some regular users were dragged through the courts for using Napster at the turn of the century, so too will some people end up having their lives ruined by losing court battles over the use of such addons.
Don’t believe us? We’ll leave you with the words of Kieron Sharp, the Chief Executive of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT). Here’s what he told the Independent newspaper:
“There’s the manufacture and importation of devices, and then the distribution and selling of those. We’re also looking at the people who are providing the apps and addons, the developers.”
“And then we’ll also be looking at, at some point, the end user. The reason for end users to come into this is that they are committing criminal offenses.”
Do You Watch Illegal Apps and Addons?
As you can see, several legal issues surround Kodi and Amazon Fire TV Sticks.
In the purest sense, what’s legal and what’s illegal is black and white. But in practice, the way legal content is so intertwined with illegal content in repos, app stores, and across the web makes it difficult for an untrained eye to establish the boundaries.
If in doubt, don’t take risks. It’s more sensible to be a smart Kodi and Amazon Fire TV Stick user. Exercise extreme caution and only use your device/app to watch content you are 100 percent sure is legal. If you want to know more, check out our Kodi setup guide for beginners.
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