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Free video streaming devices are riskier than you think

We’ve been telling you about the ongoing controversies surrounding Kodi, a program that is supposed to be a gateway to a wide variety of unlimited streaming content.

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’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 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.

Amazon and other online vendors have also started banning fully loaded Kodi boxes from their sites.

But even as Mr. Thompson’s fate is yet to be decided by the U.K. courts, another European high court has already laid down the ruling for illegal streams and consequently, the legality of  “fully loaded” Kodi boxes.

Streaming is not exempt

In another landmark case against a certain Mr. Wullems, a Dutch seller of preloaded Kodi boxes, the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that the sale of such multimedia players, which enable illegal streams of movies, may be violating copyright laws.

The court ruled that streaming pirated content is as illegal as the downloading of pirated content itself.

Streaming used to be in a legal gray area since it was argued that it only generates temporary files on a user’s machine and technically doesn’t constitute a copyright violation.

But the new ruling settled this question, closing this loophole with a directive that states that streaming of illegal content is not exempt from copyright laws because it doesn’t satisfy these five conditions:

  • the act is temporary
  • it is transient or incidental
  • is an integral and technical part of a technological process
  • the sole purpose is to enable a transmission in a network between third parties by an intermediary or a lawful use of a work or subject matter
  • that act does not have any independent economic significance

Since streaming copyrighted work is now ruled on the same legal standing as illegal downloads, the sale of such players that enables pirated streams may be breaking copyright laws as well.

According to the EU Court’s press release, “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 could constitute an infringement of copyright.”

However, the court also determined that Kodi, the software, nor the use of Kodi boxes is not illegal.

Kodi itself is legal

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.

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.”

Note: Looking for the best streaming player for legal content, here’s our guide.

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.

With this court ruling, combined with the Amazon and eBay crackdowns, it looks like the days of selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes are definitely numbered.

Click here to read the entire press release.

What do you think? Will this court ruling affect how you feel about Kodi? Drop us a comment!

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