Kodi, the free service that streams apps and on-demand services to TVs, has been put under pressure by a ruling from the EU that in particular attacks the plug-ins carried on the service which can give access to illegal streaming services for films and shows. Content providers such as Amazon and the English Premier League have been rapidly losing patience with the situation and the EU ruling could mean that end-users could no longer buy the ‘fully loaded’ Kodi boxes.

In a nutshell, the ruling said that using a streaming service to access pirated movies and TV shows is the SAME as downloading them.

Kodi’s software is entirely legal to own and use, however the problem comes when the ‘fully loaded’ boxes offer plugins which can provide copyrighted material.

Its long been a grey area as temporary files, like those created when media content is streamed, can technically be deemed exempt under copyright law, this was the loophole Kodi had been relying on. However, the new EU ruling puts pirated streams on the same legal footing as illegal downloads. This ruling follows the move from Amazon which recently banned ‘fully-loaded’ Kodi TV boxes and other pirate devices from its online store.

Kodi Comes Out Fighting

Naturally Kodi has hit back and has released an official statement via its website. Kodi are arguing that the decision of the court appears to address two related issues and is not fundamentally a major problem for its service.

Kodi says that the first issue the ruling addresses: “…is whether selling a multimedia box with links for copyrighted content knowingly pre-installed counts as a ‘communication to the public’ of copyrighted content, which is a copyright violation. Basically, is selling a box with links to movies that users could potentially see, the same thing as selling tickets to a movie that you don’t have the right to show?”

The court has said that it is and so selling a box with links to copyrighted content is illegal.

However, Kodi says it not phased and in fact its statement reads: “The team is, frankly, quite pleased with this decision. As we’ve said in the past, pirate box sellers are a real problem for users, because they provide users with constantly breaking messes, vanish and then expect Team Kodi to provide support to users who are confused about what Kodi is, where their ‘free movies’ are coming from and all of the issues related to this problem.

“We don’t have any problem with users setting up their boxes however they want. We just want them to actually know what they are getting themselves into when doing so.”

Kodi argues that the ruling puts it in the same category as ‘the Internet’, it is itself is not illegal, what others chose to do with it might be, but it is not the company’s job to police the Internet.

The second issue the Kodi sees the ruling as addressing is: “Are pirate streams a copyright violation by the user?”

Well again the company concedes that the answer is yes. The Kodi statement argues: “There is a situation where a temporary copy of a work is exempt from the copyright holder’s ‘right of reproduction.’ Certain conditions must be satisfied, like the act be transient and temporary. Unfortunately, even though a stream is a very temporary and very transient copy to RAM, it doesn’t get an exemption from the copyright holder’s ‘right of reproduction’, because such streams are not authorized by copyright holder and because they likely will result in reduced sales by the copyright holder.”

So as Kodi concedes, pirate streaming now looks to be illegal in the EU. However, again the company claims neutrality saying its

software will remain free and open. However, it does ask users to not involve it or tag the service when adding content that is not legal.

So, as it must, Kodi is walking a difficult line, it does nothing illegal, so feels it’s in the clear, but its product does allow illegality to take place that would not otherwise be able to take place in form that it does across its service. Does that mean it’s to blame from a technical legal point of view? well no, but does that make it popular amongst the big content providers who wield a huge amount of power, probably not and as is so often the case, content is about building relationships, just ask Kaleidescape.

For the UK there is also the impeding spectre of Brexit to think about, will a similar ruling still apply when the UK leaves? Anyone brave enough to make a prediction on that right now, is welcome to try. More reaction on tis soon as we talk to Kaleidescape and get it’s take on the situation, a company who has been at the forefront of the legal issues to do with copyright content, its storage and delivery.