What Are Kodi Boxes and Is It Legal to Own One?
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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.

With those unfamiliar with Kodi, you can run it on your desktop How to Set Up Your XBMC Media Center How to Set Up Your XBMC Media Center XBMC may have evolved into Kodi, but if you have an old version installed this guide will help you set it up and get started. Read More , install the Android version from the Play Store, or even follow a workaround to get it running on your iOS gadget How to Install Kodi for iOS Without Jailbreaking Your iPad or iPhone How to Install Kodi for iOS Without Jailbreaking Your iPad or iPhone Kodi is one of the best ways to access live TV, and you don't need to jailbreak your device to enjoy free streaming content on your iPhone or iPad. Read More .

As for Kodi boxes, they are becoming increasingly common as people look to slash their cable bill How to Cut Your Cable Bill in 5 Simple Steps How to Cut Your Cable Bill in 5 Simple Steps Cable TV can be expensive. So if you want to shave some dollars off your monthly expenditure, keep reading, as we share the five simple steps to cutting your cable bill. Read More 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 How to Watch Live Broadcast TV Using Kodi and NextPVR How to Watch Live Broadcast TV Using Kodi and NextPVR Watch and record broadcast TV, free of charge, using your PC. It's perfectly legal, and a free Windows program called NextPVR makes the process (relatively) simple. Read More 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.

kodi download

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 7 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Digital Media Player 7 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Digital Media Player If you're thinking about buying your first digital media player (also known as streaming device), these questions will help you to avoid making any grave mistakes. Read More . 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.

kodi box fully loaded

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 Confused About Copyright Law? These Online Resources Can Help Confused About Copyright Law? These Online Resources Can Help It's a confusing subject, yes, but it's important that you wrap your head around it. If you're involved in any sort of creative work, these resources will help you do just that. Read More 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.

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  1. Mr.V.
    August 19, 2018 at 12:09 am

    Just wondering if this would be a good replacement for my WD-TV box. Western Digital doesn't support it so I'm looking for a replacement. KODI seems like it's a winner. I hope it is.

  2. Ron
    October 13, 2017 at 6:40 am

    I understand the legal situation. However I strongly oppose the media giants who have somehow managed to control the airways and the distribution of information to the public and have the nerve to now charge for this....and somehow got the law on their side....by lobbying I presume. There are many people who cannot afford to pay for this and the elite media people are now gouging the unsuspecting public. I have no problem if their rates were reasonable but come on now, hundreds of dollars monthly to watch TV??? Years ago it used to be FREE.
    This has got to be illegal in itself. Information in the airways should be free to everyone, supported by advertisement, funding, endowments, contributions, or other means. Kodi is a way to level the playing field, but the powers that be don't like competition. This is going to be a fight.

  3. Larry
    April 21, 2017 at 10:15 am

    But why the need to have a separate 'Box' to run this system on? as opposed to running it on your main PC? what are the Benefits is any?

    • Bon
      April 21, 2017 at 11:11 pm

      This is so people can plug it into their television and watch in their lounge room. Believe it or not but people still do this.

  4. clayton lavalley
    April 17, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    what is the cost for one of these little jewels, in american currancy,and where can i get one?

  5. Doc
    April 17, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    "Is it legal to own one (a Kodi Box)"? Of course it's legal to own one. It's what you do with it that is the legal gray area. Clickbait article has clickbait lede.

  6. likefunbutnot
    April 15, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    As I understand the relevant legal standing, at least in the USA, viewing copyrighted content without the owner's consent is not, strictly speaking, illegal. The crime is being committed by the person distributing the illegal content. As long as you're purely a passive consumer, you're OK, just as if you were in a nightclub that isn't playing its music licensing to RIAA.

    Some Kodi Add-ons use delivery mechanisms that cause a device to send data back (e.g. torrents) or retain a copy of that data, in which case your device is acting as a distributor and acting in an illegal fashion.

    The most current release of Kodi as of this writing requires users to confirm that they want to install Add-ons from outside Kodi's official repository and to assume responsibility for what those Add-Ons might be doing. The Questionably-legal streaming services are in the process of moving to secured (HTTPS) connections that can't be negotiated with older releases of Kodi. I suspect this will absolve Kodi in this one area, so there's no danger of Kodi in and of itself going away.

    I'll set up Kodi for people and even install Indigo, a tool that allows users to install third-party add-ons. I won't actually install other add-ons for anyone else, because I can't be bothered to figure out which ones involve pure streaming functions and which do something else. I don't care about Kodi's potentially illegal streaming capabilities. I like it just fine for accessing the media I've already stored locally. I tell people that. They can figure it out for themselves or read one of approximately ten thousand articles on how to modify Kodi on their own. It's not my problem what they do, either.

    Kodi boxes? I have Shield TV, Matricom, Pivos and Amazon STBs. I have Pi and Pi-derived hardware. They're not created equal, with the biggest issue being how well their UI works and what media codecs they actually support. There's a big reason the Shield TV costs $200 and I don't even have Pis, the Matricom or the Pivos box plugged in any longer.

  7. RetroWatcher
    April 15, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    Fully loaded Kodi boxes are particularly dangerous for unaware users if they contain P2P, sopcast, or torrent plug-ins. Once activated, these plug-ins turn the Kodi box into a redistributor of illegal content and make its user assailable for costly dissuasions or lawsuits.

  8. William
    April 15, 2017 at 9:03 am

    I still fail to understand why this is so difficult for people to comprehend. And why publishing groups have made it even more seemingly complex than it actually gets. Unless you need attention that badly. It is not illegal to own a Kodi box; it is not illegal to install Kodi on something unless it violates that device's end user license agreement. It is however illegal to stream and watch content that you do not either own, have permission to watch from the studio and or publisher of the content, or you do not have a subscription to the service that provides said content via their app or streaming service. It doesn't matter if it has a VPN installed with it as long as you are the legal owner of that VPN software or it is free software. It is however illegal to use that VPN to access content that is not legal in your country or continent that you do not have a right to via ownership or rental. Use your brains it really is not that complex. Even for the technically unsavvy period articles like this just make it more confusing and raise more questions when that is completely unnecessary. People think Americans are idiots but the way the EU and UK is making this packed with legal jargon it is making everyone literally seem like a truly epic dolt. It's safe if you use common sense and think hey if I don't own it I shouldn't watch it. Even somebody with an IQ of 80 can deal with that. Making it more complex than it actually is because it is black and white it's just nonsense and writing for attention. Also many VPN companies so off the content that people are accessing to literally anyone and everyone. Their privacy structure is almost non-existent. You really have to do your research, or hey don't do anything illegal and it won't be an issue

  9. Gerry
    April 15, 2017 at 1:41 am

    "Remember, your ISP knows exactly what you are watching online." Is that true if you're using a VPN? Or Opera, which has a VPN baked in?

    • David
      April 15, 2017 at 8:56 am

      If you use a VPN your ISP can only see that you are transferring data but not now data itself because of encryption. Opera is a big company and I wouldn't feel completely safe using it for illegal activities. There are providers that don't even log data so nobody can ever find out what you did. One of these is cryptostorm which lets you access the Darknet as well. Google VPN providers that don't log data. Or give cryptostorm a try. I hope I was able to help

      PS. I'm running kodi on my raspberry pi 3 and loaded it up with surely illegal addons through SuperRepo

  10. CoolKat
    April 15, 2017 at 1:26 am

    Good article. I wonder if it is consider illegal to stream the content. It would be pretty much like downloading instead of downloading and uploading like you would with BitTorrent in which I would see it being a problem since your are also sharing it. In what areas would this be illegal. Is this what you were referring to about the EU?

    • David
      April 15, 2017 at 8:59 am

      I'm germany you get bogus letters asking for money. They count on scaring you. If you ignore them it goes away. I checked with my lawyer and have 5 letters and nothing happened like he said. But if you use a VPN nobody can see what you're doing. Just use a torrent friendly VPN so you don't get a letter from the VPN provider cause they got a letter.

      Torrent friendly VPN = safe sailing in piracy

      • JohnnyBoy
        May 31, 2017 at 1:29 am

        What are they going to do if you use Kodi? Send the Kodi police to your house lol. If so I would punch them right in the mouth and send them off my property.