There’s a lot of questions out there regarding the legality of Kodi. Is Kodi legal or is Kodi illegal?
Well, there are some details to explore in this question. We will look at Kodi itself, unofficial add-ons, streaming vs downloading, and also the practice of selling fully loaded Kodi boxes.
Vanilla Kodi software is perfectly legal
The out-of-the-box default Kodi software that you can download from http://kodi.tv is completely legal. It is primarily meant as a multi-platform media player interface for the 10-foot, lean back experience.
By itself, it can be used to play media that you already own, or you can install add-ons from their official Kodi repository which allow you to stream content from providers to willingly offer their content for free viewing.
Nothing in the official Kodi repository can be accused of infringing on copyright laws.
The XBMC Foundation, the maker of Kodi, has taken this strong stance that the software that they produce is only intended for these legitimate and legal uses.
Unofficial add-ons for Kodi are questionable
However, Kodi has a system of add-ons which allows anybody to create their own add-on for Kodi. The developers of those add-ons can do whatever they want within the Kodi interface.
This is where the popularity of Kodi has taken off because some people have built some pretty awesome add-ons that will let you watch whatever TV shows or movies you want.
Unfortunately for the XBMC Foundation, they are often accused of producing software that is only meant to pirate content because that’s the way most people use it. However, that’s kind of like saying that Firefox is to blame for the pirating that is done by its users.
So, what about the legality of those add-ons… are they all illegal? Not necessarily… it depends on each add-on’s function. The main thing to consider is if an add-on lets you download content or just stream the content.
Downloading copyrighted content without paying for it is illegal
Some Kodi add-ons let you download TV shows and movies to your hard drive. This kind of activity is against the law in both US and EU, and probably most other countries.
It violates most copyright laws because you are in possession of content that you did not pay for as it sits there are your hard drive. It also makes you liable for any duplication or distribution you might do with your copy of content.
Streaming is legal to the end user (in US and EU)
Streaming is different from downloading because the entire video file never exists on your hard drive at any given time. Streaming only downloads a little bit at a time into the computer’s buffer as you watch the video.
There are a couple exceptions to this in the US. Pseudo-streaming and public performance are illegal according to Jim Gibson, director of the Intellectual Property Institute at the University of Richmond law school, in this Business Insider article:
When the user downloads even part of a file — called “pseudo-streaming” — it counts as a copy of copyrighted material, which is illegal. And w hen the user streams content as a “public performance” — namely, when it’s shown to a substantial number of people outside the normal family circle and its close acquaintances — it also constitutes a copyright violation.
Outside of these cases, accessing unlicensed streamed content is generally legal.
Selling fully loaded Kodi boxes is illegal in UK
At least in the EU, I’ve found many cases where sellers of Kodi streaming boxes preloaded with these unofficial streaming add-ons are going to jail. EU law basically says that you cannot sell a device that comes pre-loaded to allow the buyer to access unlicensed content without a subscription.
It seems like this precedent began with people who were modifying cable or satellite boxes to decrypt and access all of the content without a subscription. That was considered illegal and people who were caught selling those modified cable or satellite boxes were arrested.
The laws around this are not as clear in the US. I haven’t found anything definite.
Protect Your Online Privacy with a VPN
If you are doing anything that is obviously illegal like downloading unlicensed content from a Kodi unofficial add-on, from torrents, or from usenet, it is very important to protect yourself with a VPN!
If you are just streaming, it’s not as important, but still might be a good idea. There is still a bit of gray area around streaming unlicensed content, and the laws could always change. I don’t want my Internet service provider keeping logs of my Internet traffic only to one day have to hand them over to the government or some large media conglomerate. Hmmm, some ISPs are owned by such media conglomerates… (cough)… Comcast.
If you want to play it safe and get a VPN service, go with my favorite, IPVanish VPN. They’re the best.