In the UK, Kodi has been the courts again after the Premier League (England’s top flight football competition) went to the High Court in an effort to secure a court order to block video streams of their games on Kodi boxes.
Prior to this court ruling, rights holders such as the Premier League were only able to take steps to shut down individual illegal streams which were often ineffective as it was no hardship to establish the stream elsewhere.
Now, thanks to the order from Mr. Justice Arnold, Britains four major ISPs, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, will be legally obliged to block any connections which are hosting illegal streams of Premier League games.
The ruling now makes it much easier for the Premier League to take “precise” action to target illegal streams.
A spokesperson for the Premier League told the BBC that the ruling meant “for the first time this will enable the Premier League to disrupt and prevent the illegal streaming of our matches via IPTV, so-called Kodi, boxes.”
The action was taken with the support of both Sky and BT Sports, the two broadcasters who hold the rights to show Premier League football games in the UK. They pay a whopping £5.1 billion between them for three years of rights and are therefore keen to see any activity which might undermine their business being clamped down on.
A Sky spokesperson confirmed that they were pleased that steps were being taken to protect their profits saying “We are pleased the Premier League’s application to crack down on illegal streaming has been granted… We’ll continue to work… to tackle today’s piracy and make people aware of the risks it presents and the damage it causes.”
Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact)
The Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) has long been campaigning against the use of Kodi, arguing that it’s used to stream illegal content was becoming an “epidemic”.
Since then there has been a number of high-profile arrests of people for selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes, that is, Kodi set-top boxes which are pre-loaded with add-ons which enable users to watch illegal streams. We reported on one such case earlier this week.
Not that this crackdown seems to have had a huge impact on the popularity of Kodi. A recent survey by security firm Irdeto found that Kodi boxes are still big in the UK, with around 11% of those who admitted to watching illegal content owning one.
Is Kodi legal?
This ruling has gained quite a bit of coverage in the British media, but most outlets remain vague about the legal status of Kodi. It is important to be accurate here for the sake of both existing users and those who might be interested in giving it a go.
Kodi is completely legal software, and using Kodi is not in breach of any law. However, as a piece of Open Source software, Kodi allows add-ons to be used and these can be illegal, although this will depend on the country you are in at the time.
In the UK, the law regulating this area comes from the EU and comes from “Article 5 of Directive 2001/29/EC. This appears to suggest that there is a legal difference between streaming and downloading content, with the former being legal while the latter is not.
So, whilst selling Kodi boxes with these add-ons pre-installed definitely is illegal, as Kodi add-ons will only ever allow you to stream content, it seems likely that they are legal in the UK themselves.
At least one local authority appears to agree with this interpretation, with Derbyshire Trading Standards recently saying “Accessing premium paid-for content without a subscription is considered by the industry as unlawful access, although streaming something online, rather than downloading a file, is likely to be exempt from copyright laws.
The Intellectual Property Office does not agree with this interpretation with Matt Cope, their deputy director of intellectual property enforcement recently saying “It is a criminal offence to knowingly receive subscription broadcasts without paying for them.”
The UK courts are yet to fully test this law, so until full clarity is provided it is probably best to be cautious.
But this Premier League court case should not put any users off Kodi which is one of the best pieces of media software on the market. But as Open Source software, it is strongly advised to make use of a VPN with your software to protect your data from the risks of unscrupulous add-ons or cyber criminals.