Budding cord-cutters are familiar or at least may have heard of Kodi, a program that is supposed to be a gateway to a wide variety of unlimited streaming content.
Kodi's been all over the news these past few months due to a landmark court trial that may set the precedent for the legality of selling gadgets that are loaded with software geared toward pirating copyrighted content. The ruling can also affect how open source will be distributed and tinkered with.
The defendant, business entrepreneur Brian Thompson, is accused by the U.K. courts of breaking copyright laws by selling devices "fully-loaded" with Kodi and configured with added software that is used for illegal streaming of movies and other media.
Thompson pleaded not guilty to charges and the decision hangs in the balance until the trial properly begins in May.
Now, pre-empting the trial and the court's ruling on the case, online shopping empire Amazon has updated its policies to ban "fully-loaded" Kodi boxes and other products that "promote, suggest the facilitation of or actively enable" copyright infringement from its site.
Inventory will be destroyed
According to Amazon's updated policy under Restricted Products >> Electronics >> Streaming Players:
"Products offered for sale on Amazon should not promote, suggest the facilitation of, or actively enable the infringement of or unauthorized access to digital media or other protected content. Any streaming media player or other device that violates this policy is prohibited from sale on Amazon."
And the company doesn't stop there. It will also go after sellers that peddle such products on its site and if caught, selling privileges will be suspended or terminated. Additionally, get this, all existing inventory of banned streaming gadgets found in Amazon's fulfillment centers will be destroyed without paying the seller.
"If you sell these products, we may immediately suspend or terminate your selling privileges and destroy inventory in our fulfillment centers without reimbursement. In addition, if we determine that your account has been used to engage in fraud or other illegal activity, remittances and payments may be withheld or forfeited."
Although Amazon has not really condoned the sale of copyright-infringing gadgets, usually sold by third-party sellers, this new policy has the harshest and most clear-cut penalties so far against sellers of such devices.
Keep in mind, that as the policy indicates, Kodi boxes are not specifically targeted, they're just the most well-known third-party streaming devices. Other streaming gadgets that are pre-loaded with possible copyright-infringing software will be banned as well.
Interestingly, Amazon's other banned and restricted electronic products include signal jammers and descramblers, lasers, DVD duplicators, cellphone unlockers, region unlocked Blu-ray players and, in case you didn't know, even non-Prime content compatible streaming gadgets like the Apple TV, Chromecasts and Nexus Players.
What is Kodi?
Kodi is an open source program that aggregates media including movies, music and photos from multiple online or local sources - think of it as a highly customizable media manager/player.
Kodi, in itself, is perfectly legal. If you install Kodi on its own on your computer, there's actually nothing on it. Nothing to play nor watch, just an empty interface.
A simpler way of putting it is to think of Kodi as a software tool, similar to a web browser. You can access illegal content through your web browser but that doesn't make the web browser itself illegal.
It takes a bit of know-how but it's up to the user to add media sources, either locally or online. These online media sources are often added to Kodi via installable packages called "add-ons" or "plug-ins."
For this reason, some enterprising people are selling these black market "Kodi Boxes" - pre-configured gadgets like Amazon Fire streamers or mini PCs with Kodi filled with add-ons and plug-ins for free streaming content.
Just like any capable streaming platform, there is a large number of legitimate and official add-ons available for Kodi. However, due to its open source and customizable nature, add-ons or plugins from third-party sources (called repositories) can also be installed.
These third-party add-ons can then be used for watching streams of movies, TV shows, pay-per-view sports events, and music provided by questionable sources.
Now, with this sweeping Amazon policy, this gray area about the legality of streaming through unauthorized sources is put into question and set the precedent for the sale and scrutiny of electronics pre-loaded with open-source software.
To read Amazon's updated policy on Electronics and a list of its other prohibited electronic products, click here.