UK Set to Topple Kodi and Set Top Boxes
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UK Set to Topple Kodi and Set Top Boxes

UK Set to Topple Kodi and Set Top Boxes

Pirates, beware! The UK government is gearing up to tackle the use of Kodi and set top boxes to access pirated digital content.

For those not in the know, Kodi is a free software that facilitates the playing of videos, music, podcasts and other digital media files from local and network storage media and the internet.1 Originally a home-brew software for the Xbox called the Xbox Media Centre (XMBC), the software is now capable of being run on Linux, OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android.2

Kodi’s appeal lies in its open-source nature; people can freely modify and customize the software to suit their preferences. With the assistance of third party add-ons it can be used to access pirated copies of TV programs and movies, or bypass subscription fees to watch TV channels.3 Its user friendly interface is a big plus; users don’t have to navigate streaming websites plastered with ads or risk legal fines torrenting content.4

The software is sometimes sold in set top boxes or television sticks in a form that can access subscription content for free. These “fully-loaded Kodi boxes” have risen in popularity.5 However, an ongoing UK case relating to their sale may curb the current Kodi craze.

The first man in the UK to be prosecuted for selling Kodi boxes, Middlesborough trader Brian Thompson, faces accusations that he sold set top boxes deliberately calibrated to facilitate the circumvention of copyright protection measures. A finding of guilt could put the future of fully-loaded Kodi boxes in jeopardy.6 Thompson has previously stated that he wanted the legal boundaries on the sales of devices like fully loaded Kodi boxes to be clarified and that he does not believe himself to be breaking the law.7 He pled not guilty to three charges.8 The next trial will take place on October 27th, 2016.9

In their recently published report on IP crime the IP Crime Group and Intellectual Property Office highlight the increasingly easy access set top boxes provide to pirated digital content as one of the main challenges they are facing. Around 50% of the Federation Against Copyright Theft’s current investigations center upon such boxes and 70% of the public complaints they receive are related to copyright infringement.10

As for Team Kodi’s opinion on all of this? Kodi’s official website contains a statement that the software’s developers do not endorse or approve of the watching or listening of illegal and pirate content that would otherwise need to be paid for.11 They further state that they do not support “piracy add-ons” and condemn sellers of fully-loaded set top boxes. While their stance on what users do with their own software remains neutral, they have said that they will fight those who use the Kodi trademark to sell fully-loaded set top boxes.12

Leanne Farsi

Leanne Farsi is a LL.M student specializing in Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law, an IPLJ staff member, and a staunch advocate for writing "videogames" as one word.