New bill could threaten Kodi users with prison time

Man behind bars

If you’ve been keeping up with Kodi news over the last couple of weeks, then you’ve likely seen an influx of sensationalist and fearmongering articles popping up all over the web. Several “news outlets” ran the story of how the “Digital Economy Bill will threaten Kodi users with jail time.”

Before we go any further, there are a few important things that I need to point out right off the bat.

For starters, Kodi is not illegal (at least not out of the box). The XBMC Foundation, a non-profit technology consortium and Kodi developer, ships the open source media player without any content whatsoever.

Sure, there are ways to install third-party add-ons that will grant users access to infringing content, but the same argument can be made for virtually any other piece of internet-enabled hardware.

Second, the Digital Economy Bill, though problematic in other ways, will not actually threaten anyone using Kodi to stream legally infringing content, but it may arm copyright trolls with that ability.

Digital Economy Bill

The Digital Economy Bill is a revamped (and condensed) version of the existing Digital Economy Act of 2010. If passed, the new legislature will criminalize minor copyright infringement. To give an example — the Digital Economy Bill will target those individuals that access (or share) copyright-protected content without purchasing it legally or owning the rights.

Though the intention of the Bill is to primarily discourage cyber criminals from running torrent or file-sharing websites, the true scope of the legislature is incredibly murky. According to several digital rights activists, the Bill will also criminalize minor acts of infringement such as sharing GIFs containing copyrighted content, and more.

Feeding the trolls

The Open Rights Group warns that the ambiguous nature of the draft leaves plenty of room for “copyright trolls” to threaten offenders with legal action (including a ten year incarceration).

With that in mind, it makes sense that Kodi users, specifically those accessing infringing content, may start receiving copyright notices and possibly even threats of jail time unless of course, they’re willing to pay up.

That being said, Kodi users will not be the only ones receiving these threats — far from it. If copyright trolls will indeed gain the ability to threaten minor offenders, then a whole slew of UK netizens will also become targets for scattershot, mail-out warnings.

Copyright notices are nothing new, but the dramatic increase in maximum jail time may scare many users into paying the trolls, even if they haven’t broken any laws.

Then what’s all the fuss about Kodi?

Well, a combination of things, really. The first reason has a lot to do with the fact that sensationalist headlines attract much more attention. And the fact that Kodi is a household name just adds to the hype.

Second, Kodi’s popularity inspired countless off-brand knockoffs, many of which come “jailbroken.” Meaning that their users can start streaming torrents and viewing infringing content right out of the box. And while these ready-made streaming boxes are in no way related to the XBMC Foundation, they’ve been colloquially dubbed as “Kodi Boxes,” adding to the confusion.

What should you do?

For starters, you should stop worrying. Not only is it incredibly unlikely that anyone will face jail time (yet alone 10 years) for minor copyright infringement, but it’s also very easy to shield yourself from the trolls. In fact, all you need to do is install a VPN (I recommend IPVanish), and you’re good to go.

If you’re looking for more things to do, you can check out the Open Rights Group – a non-profit organization fighting for your digital freedom. Right now, the ORG is petitioning for the government to “reject proposals for censorship of legal content in the UK,” by calling for important modifications to the Digital Economy Bill.

  • NathanBetzen

    Ironically you write about sensationalist headlines, and then have a sensationalist headline.

    • VPNCompare

      Ironic.

      Sorry, the article was supposed to mention the “10 years” figure that is being quoted all over the place. 10 years is never going to happen.

  • cravin moorehead

    Calm down, everyone.

    Kodi, as well as, “newsreaders”, can be installed on every single desktop and laptop computer that exists.

    You don’t need a “black box.”

    Any law trying to eliminate their use would be like trying to play “Whack-A-Mole.”

    • VPNCompare

      Well said, Kodi works well on desktops such as Windows and others without an issue 😉 thanks for posting!

  • Bob Barker

    “Copyright notices are nothing new, but the dramatic increase in maximum jail time may scare many users into paying the trolls, even if they haven’t broken any laws.”

    That’s pre-supposing that citizens of the UK are as ignorant as the author of this bought-and-paid-for ‘article’ ….. but I guarantee you — most aren’t.

    and I quote :

    “The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has confirmed that watching pirated video streams online does not break any copyright laws.

    The ruling comes via a legal battle between rights holders and European media service company Meltwater. Copyright holders including the Associated Press charged Meltwater with copyright infringement when the company extracted headlines from various news sources and sent these via email to users.”

    Unless and until Great Britain completes “Brexit”, EU decisions reign supreme.

    And there’s not a darn thing british lawmakers can do about it.

    • VPNCompare

      It’s not that citizens are “ignorant” but when the average Joe who doesn’t know a lot about the internet receives a letter, history has shown many pay up. Why do you think speculative letters are sent and copyright troll companies exist? because they work.

      The United Kingdom will “complete” Brexit within the next two years, there is no “unless” about it. At which point European Law will be moot and the UK will be free to rule as it wishes.

      As a side note, There is nothing “bought-and-paid-for” about this article, the writer is a permanent contributor to the site reporting on news that has been covered by many websites.

      Thanks for commenting!