There has been an explosion of public awareness of Kodi over the past year or so. Part of this is down to the fact that the sale of so-called 'fully-loaded' Kodi boxes (that enable easy access to pirate streams), and the increase in press coverage. But following some highly publicised court battles here, in Europe, and in North America, the EFF has weighed in on the whole issue.
The digital rights group has noted that there are proposals in the US to "illegal" media boxes which "can be used to access media streams that were not authorised by the copyright holder."
The problem here is that this makes it sound like the hardware itself is at fault, when in reality its the third-party software addons that are the root of the issue. The popularity of Kodi boxes likely stems from the fact that configuring the addons is beyond the technological capabilities of some people, and not worth the effort to others. So they're willing to pay someone to do all the hard work for them.
In reality it's possible to do this sort of thing through any internet-connected device. Including web browsers on regular computers.
Many still refer to this as a legal grey area, since there's no actual copying of content. That being said it hasn't stopped rights holders from stamping down on streams, even if some suspect their methods are somewhat dubious. FYI, like torrenting watching Kodi streams isn't really a grey area, it's flat out illegal according to UK police.
The EFF feels otherwise, insisting that prosecutions end up relying on untested legal theories. That's because traditional copyright infringement law doesn't really apply, as those enabling Kodi piracy aren't actually doing any sort of unauthorised copying. The whole report is quite an interesting read, noting a number of abuses of the European, American, and Canadian legal systems.
One good example is that of TVAddons in Canada, with the EFF noting that many of the plugins hosted by the service were not illegal, nor did they promote piracy. It also noted that in Canada, hosting providers are protected by law, being "exempt from liability when they act strictly as intermediaries in communication, caching and hosting activities." The same is true in the US.
This didn't stop TVAddons' administrator's home from being raided, his equipment confiscated, domain names and social media accounts were compromised, and the man himself forced to endure a 16 hour interrogation by company representatives. A judge later ruled that his rights had been breached, though TVAddons has yet to regain its equipment, or the original domain names.
The organisation has concluded, however, that the goal is primarily to expand the scope of 'secondary copyright infringement'. The involves forcing distributors of Kodi add-ons off the internet, and in the process launch a smear campaign the discourage the use of open source, configurable media players that are completely legal by themselves. It's calling for courts and rights holders to stop targeting neutral platforms and technologies.
As ZDNet notes, one wrong move by a judge could spell disaster, particularly for a platform that has done everything it can to distance itself from unauthorised piracy-enabling addons. [EFF via ZDNet]