The coronavirus lockdown looks certain to be a boom time for online streaming services.
With people around the world confined to their home, the chance to get up-to-date with the latest must-watch box set on Netflix, combine your essential shopping with some essential viewing on Amazon Prime, or explore what the new Disney+ service has to offer seems too good to turn down.
The mainstream services are all well-geared up for the extra traffic. Even the BBC iPlayer has stepped up to the plate, adding a load of much-loved series for socially-distanced viewers to enjoy.
But one online media player that might not be seeing as much traffic as it would have expected is Kodi.
Google takes down Kodi links
Kodi is an open-source media player that has proved hugely popular with streamers around the globe.
It doesn’t actually host any content itself. But as an open-source tool, it does allow other developers to create add-ons that attach to it and do allow users to watch different types of content.
There are a whole host of official Kodi addons that are approved by the people behind the player itself and which offer a wide range of completely legitimate content. But there are even more unofficial addons that do not have the official seal of approval and which offer even more content, some of which breaks copyright laws.
Kodi itself has always distanced itself from these unofficial addons but that hasn’t stopped the player suffering as a result of various copyright law cases against unofficial addons over the years.
That appears to be what has happened over the past few days as Google has removed a number of links to the Kodi download page from their search results.
If you search for Kodi on Google in a number of countries around the world you will see a message stating that “In response to a complaint that we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 6 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at LumenDatabase.org.”
Why Digiturk has gone after Kodi
According to the Daily Express, the takedown notice was sent on behalf of the Turkish subscription TV service Digiturk. Digiturk is owned by the beIN Media Group which has a long track record of aggressive actions against any site or addon that pirates its content.
According to Digiturk, “The infringed content is sports content (illegal video stream) branded and watermarked with the trademark/logo BEIN SPORTS HD”.
The notice mentions hundreds of different URLs related to several IPTV services. But it is the inclusion of the Kodi download page that has caused the most controversy. Kodi is not even the only legitimate media player to be targeted. Two URLs related to the popular VLC media player are also included on the list.
It is not clear if the inclusion of Kodi and VLC was deliberate or unintentional. Digiturk has managed to submit takedown notices for its own website on more than one occasion in the past, so a mistake is certainly possible.
Usually, Google wouldn’t act on legitimate software like this and Google is usually pretty good at catching notices that list URLs wrongly or unnecessarily. But they have dropped the ball on this one and you do have to wonder if the increased use of automated screening and review software in the wake of the coronavirus crisis might be a factor?
Kodi fights back
Understandably, the Kodi Foundation which is behind the Kodi media player was far from happy with their download URL being removed from Google.
As with other streaming services, they will have been hoping that the global coronavirus lockdown will lead to a sharp increase in the number of downloads of their software.
As Keith Herrington of the Kodi Foundation told Torrent Freak, “It’s unfortunate content companies continue to lump us and VLC together with services who are clearly in violation of copyright law by not only providing streams to their content but using their logo, etc.… It feels like a very ‘guilty until proven innocent’ model which I do not agree with.”
The good news for Kodi is that their DMCA counter-notice, which was submitted as soon as they found out about the move appears to have been successful. The Kodi Foundation has said that Google has confirmed it will be restoring their download URL to search results as soon as possible.
With the number of Kodi downloads likely to skyrocket in the coming days and weeks, that is good news for them. It also gives us a timely opportunity to remind readers about the importance of using a VPN whenever you stream content on Kodi or, for that matter, any other platform.
As a piece of open-source software, Kodi is susceptible to hackers and other potential security or privacy threats. For users, there is also the risk of streaming content illegally and facing possible legal consequences as a result.
A VPN is now seen as an essential tool for all Kodi users and we would strongly recommend anyone planning to stream any content on Kodi to download a VPN first and be sure you are always connected before you begin to watch.