What is Kodi? Is it illegal?
Kodi is free media player software which runs on multiple platforms (Windows, Android, iOS, Mac, etc). Despite what you may read in the press, Kodi on its own is NOT illegal to own or use. Other modules (IPTV, Streaming Add-ons, etc) may be illegal to use under certain circumstances. At the moment in Portugal, it is NOT illegal to stream online content from the internet through Kodi. However, it IS illegal to share copyright content over the internet with others (via Torrents for instance).
Kodi has become increasingly popular over the last 2 years as a method to view movies and TV over the internet. As a result of this, the press (in UK particularly) are publishing stories about how it is illegal and how people using it are being prosecuted.
Kodi itself was designed to play media that you already own – your personal collection of DVDs, music, live TV from an aerial, etc. As its popularity has increased, independent developers have created add-ons which allow Kodi to be used for much more beyond the official purpose. In fact, the team of Kodi developers are working hard to distance themselves and Kodi from these add-ons.
The Current Law
In Portugal, it is not illegal to watch streamed content over the internet. It doesn’t matter if you don’t own the content, you can legally watch a stream of it. This includes watching Eastenders live through IPTV, watching a copy of last nights Coronation Street on your laptop, or watching the latest blockbuster movie through Kodi on your TV.
What is illegal, is to either upload copies of copyright material, share copyright material with others, or host a live stream of copyright material which can be viewed by others.
A whole variety of unofficial add-ons exist so Kodi users can stream movies and tv shows which have been uploaded to the internet. Although the Kodi Team do not support these add-ons, you can still install them and use them through Kodi. Examples of popular add-ons include Exodus, Specto, Zen, Phoenix, etc.
What the majority of these add-ons do is create lists of movies and TV shows from internet databases (the Internet Movie Database, the TVDB, etc), then use “scrapers” to find websites where these are hosted and deliver them to your screen. This in itself is also not illegal – the add-ons are just finding sources of content which you have selected. It is the uploading and hosting of this content which is illegal.
There is an ongoing battle between websites which host content and add-on developers since the scrapers also remove adverts from the content which is delivered to you. Because of this (and websites being shut down for illegally hosting content), you will find that some things you want to watch won’t be available. When this happens the add-on developers usually create new scrapers and update the add-on to provide new sources for the content.
IPTV is live television streamed over the internet. There are apps which hook into IPTV streams to deliver free TV (FilmOn, Mobdro, etc), and there are plenty of paid-for services which provide HD streams and more channels.
Accessing and watching live television via IPTV, either through a Kodi add-on, a separate app, or by subscribing to an IPTV service provider is not illegal. Just so you know, if you are watching live TV through the internet you are accessing an IPTV stream.
There has been some fuss in the UK recently because Sky, BT and Virgin Media (who also happen to be the UK’s most popular Internet Service Providers) want to stop people watching live sports (particularly football) without paying. They have gained a court order allowing them (through their ISP roles) to block certain websites during live events.
This is how it works… live events are filmed and that content is passed via satellite and the internet to particular hosts (banks of computers) which share that content with customers. These hosts are owned or rented by Sky, BT, Virgin, etc. There are websites and IPTV providers which find out somehow where these hosts are and how to access the content. They then stream that content over the internet. Legally, it is those providers who are breaking the law, not the end user for accessing the streams.
The court order allows Sky, BT and Virgin to stop their internet customers from accessing known websites and IPTV providers during live events. Since Sky, BT and Virgin are not ISPs in Portugal, no sites or providers are blocked. Even in the UK the block can be circumvented by using a VPN (a subject for another article).
Let’s be clear. There is no such thing as a Kodi box. And yet, Amazon and eBay are full of them. There are also people all over Facebook selling them. So what’s going on?
People are buying cheap android devices (mainly from China), pre-loading Kodi, pre-loading “builds” containing all sorts of add-ons, and pre-loading android apps (such as Mobdro or FilmOn), and selling them as “fully loaded Kodi boxes”. They are also charging extortionate prices for them.
Do not get ripped off: a decent android box costs around 60€. Kodi, all the add-ons, and all the android apps, are free to install and use. There’s also no such as a “chipped” box which will allow you access to live sports and TV. You can access live sports and TV through Mobdro (for instance) for free or you can pay for a separate IPTV service.
The Kodi development team are sick of being associated with people selling these boxes and the boxes themselves, and are taking legal steps against the suppliers.
No add-on is illegal itself. However, using certain add-ons can cause you to share content with others while you are watching it. This IS illegal. One example is Quasar. If you use Quasar to watch content, you are receiving the content via torrents and you are sharing that content via torrents while you are watching it. People use Quasar and torrents because the quality (picture and sound) of the content will often be much higher. If you insist on using torrents, use a VPN to ensure the connection cannot be traced to you.
Let’s be clear for the final time… if you share copyright material you are breaking the law. If you download a torrent, all the time you are downloading you are also sharing a tiny amount of that content. It doesn’t matter how much you share, you are breaking the law.
It is legal to stream or download copyright content for private use. It is illegal to share or distribute it.