Kodi is never far from the headlines. Although its developers originally intended the software to be a home theater app, today the name is synonymous with illegal streaming. People use Kodi to stream live sports, movies, and TV shows. So, is Kodi legal in the US? Let’s take a look.
Yes, the Kodi App Itself Is Legal
We’re not going to make you read an entire article to find out the answer. The Kodi app—on all the platforms on which it is available—is entirely legal to download, install, and use.
Consider this: if the app were illegal, you almost certainly wouldn’t find it on Google Play and the App Store.
The illegality of Kodi arises not from the app itself, but from the way in which some people use the app. We’re going to look at both sides of the coin. We’ll explain which aspects of Kodi are legal and what uses of Kodi are illegal.
When Is Kodi Legal?
Let’s start by looking at a few Kodi use-cases which are entirely legal.
1. Installing the App on Your Device
When you install Kodi on your computer, set-top box, or mobile device for the first time, you won’t find any video content inside the app. Instead, Kodi is an empty shell, waiting for you to populate it.
Ergo, it is perfectly legal for you to install Kodi and leave it running on your machine.
2. Watching Content You Own
As mentioned earlier, Kodi was initially designed as an app which enabled you to view, manage, and watch your existing library of movies, TV shows, and other videos.
The legality of the use case is not in doubt. If you own a TV show or movie—either that you’ve bought online or ripped from an old VHS or DVD—you can watch it through Kodi without concerns.
3. Downloading Add-Ons From the Kodi Repo
Because Kodi is open-source, anyone can develop add-ons for the app. The availability of third-party add-ons is one of the things that makes Kodi so appealing.
The add-ons come in many forms. They can provide access to services, extra features, improved functionality, or even metadata about the videos in your library.
Unfortunately, many third-party add-ons fall into the illegal category. More on that shortly. So, if you want to make sure you stay on the right side of the law, stick to the add-ons in the official Kodi repo.
You won’t be short of choice, even for live TV and movie streaming. Some of the most popular legal TV add-ons for Kodi include CBC, Adult Swim, BBC iPlayer, Comet TV, Haystack TV, Newsy, Popcornflix, and Pluto. And for videos, check out the YouTube add-on for Kodi.
Note: The Kodi official repo is not an exhaustive list of legal Kodi add-ons. Some legitimate add-ons exist outside the store.
When Is Kodi Illegal?
Just like any computer app (think torrent clients, video downloaders, and even web browsers), Kodi can be used for illegal purposes even though the app itself is entirely legal.
Let’s look at some of the illegal ways in which people can use the Kodi app.
If you’ve read any of our Kodi content (or indeed, any Kodi content on other sites), you’ll be familiar with an oft-repeated mantra—connect to a VPN while using Kodi.
However, even such innocuous advice could land you in trouble with the law; VPNs themselves are illegal in countries such as China, Iran, and Russia.
Some of the things I have used – such as Kodi and various plugins, are in a grey area. Not technically illegal in Canada, but not legal either. So, for my own piece of mind, I am working at replacing my Kodi sever with something I know is 100% legit.
— ???? aDORKable ? (@carloclesse) March 5, 2019
Is Kodi Exodus legal? The answer is a resounding “no.” For the uninitiated, Exodus is a Kodi add-on that provides unlimited access to movies, TV series, documentaries, and more.
There are plenty of similar apps available—some supply on-demand streaming content; others focus on live TV.
All such add-ons have one thing in common: they are providing you with access to content which you do not have the legal right to watch.
It goes without saying that the illegal add-ons are not endorsed nor approved by anyone who’s connected with the Kodi Foundation in an official capacity.
Most worryingly from an end-user standpoint, you are not safe from prosecution if you use the add-ons. Sure, the add-on creators are most at risk, but authorities have repeatedly warned that home users could be caught in the crossfire.
Here’s what Kieron Sharp, chief executive of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), said to The Independent newspaper in June 2017:
“We’re looking at the people who are providing the apps and add-ons, 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.”
The maximum possible sentence for online copyright infringement in the UK recently increased from two to 10 years in prison. The average jail term in the US is 3-5 years.
3. Fully Loaded Kodi Boxes
The last few years have seen so-called “fully loaded” Kodi boxes become increasingly popular. You will often see them advertised on sites like Craigslist and Gumtree.
Although there are many iterations of a fully loaded Kodi box, their intention is the same—to let you watch illegal live TV streams and on-demand content by using preloaded add-ons and other customizations.
Buying and using fully loaded Kodi boxes is against the law in most western countries, though some legal gray areas remain.
It’s vital to differentiate fully loaded Kodi boxes from regular Kodi boxes, which are not in any way illegal. If you would like to learn more, read our article discussing the legality of Kodi boxes.
Kodi IS Legal, But Be Careful
So, to recap. The Kodi app is entirely legal. There is nothing about the software or the code that could land you in trouble with the law.
All the question marks concerning illegality arise from how you use the app once you’ve installed it on your machine. If you want to be certain you’re not crossing any boundaries, only use the app to watch media you already own and stick to add-ons from the official repo.