Way back in October of 2016 we reported on the confusing legality of so-called ‘Kodi boxes’ following a landmark court case in which a Teeside man was prosecuted for selling ‘fully loaded’ models (Kodi boxes which have legally-dubious apps pre-installed on them). It was the first instance of this happening in the UK.
Since then the accused shopkeeper has since pleaded not guilty, on the (rather questionable) grounds of: not being the only person selling them, that he believes it to be a legal grey area, and that anyone with a degree of technical knowledge could do the same thing in their own home.
Kodi boxes have been thrust into the media spotlight not only due to their rapidly increasing popularity, but because since this incident a number of court cases have sprung up – some with serious implications.
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European Court of Justice: Fully loaded Kodi boxes are illegal
Perhaps the biggest ruling is the one which recently came out of Luxembourg. The EU’s highest court recently declared ‘the sale of a multimedia player which enables films that are available illegally on
the internet to be viewed easily and for free on a television screen’ to be illegal themselves.
This is a verdict with enormous implications for the future of Kodi. While downloading a pirated film at home is obviously illegal, the ECJ has declared devices which enable piracy and make it easy to also be illegal.
High Court: Premier League obtains piracy court order
It may sound obvious, but it’s against the law to stream Premier League football over the internet if you haven’t paid for a subscription. A recent court case, however, has granted the Premier League the means to actively pursue individual pirates and shut them down.
While illegal online streams of football have always existed, Kodi boxes give thousands a simple way to watch it on their TV, rather than just a laptop monitor or sat at their desk. Their increase in popularity was thought to be the driving factor in this High Court verdict. The Premier League is now allowed to trace the servers used to broadcast its matches and have them blocked.
With the Premier League winning this case expect a variety of other rights holders, such as movie studios and TV networks, to try the same.
Amazon: Total ban on selling of fully loaded Kodi boxes
As a result of the above court cases, plus the growing negative press surrounding them, Amazon has blanket-banned the sale of all fully loaded boxes. The digital retailer said, ‘Products offered for sale on Amazon should not promote, suggest the facilitation of, or actively enable the infringement of or unauthorised access to digital media or other protected content.’
Anyone caught selling Kodi boxes that break those rules on Amazon will have their accounts suspended. While these boxes were being sold via Amazon shopkeepers and not actually by Amazon itself, it clearly has no desire to be associated with them or to provide a platform for potentially breaking the law.
What Kodi has to say
Something often forgotten when discussing this ongoing drama is that the term ‘Kodi box’ has no real tangible meaning. Kodi is merely a popular app which opens up a variety of streaming devices to apps not found on the Google Play or Amazon app stores.
Within it there are a huge number of perfectly legal apps used to access free content. Because of the casual label these illegal streamers have been granted, an honest service is being run into the ground.
The staff who develop the Kodi app released a statement on its official blog explaining as much. Within it they explain that they’re sick of ‘dishonest salesmen’ using their app’s name to ‘make a quick buck’. Their solution was to trademark the name ‘Kodi’ and actively pursue those using it to promote their own questionably-legal goods.
How to tell if your streamer is legal
If you want to download Kodi to, say, your Amazon Fire TV Stick or Nvidia Shield then you shouldn’t worry, you’re well within your rights to do so. Where you should exercise caution, however, is which apps and services you use within it. If an app seems too good to be true, it probably is – if it lets you watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters for free then that’s a pretty strong indicator.
If you’re looking to buy a TV streaming box and it’s not made by a manufacturer you recognise, is not being sold by a retailer you recognise, or uses the terms ‘Kodi’ and ‘fully loaded’ in the title then that’s another red flag (Kodi is not a manufacturer – none of these boxes in question are made by it). To be on the safe side, we’d recommend you take a look at one of our high-scoring Best Buy internet TV boxes instead.