A Kodi Add-On Developer is Crowdfunding to Help Fight 'Copyright Bullies'

By Tom Pritchard on at

The developer of ZemTV, a popular Kodi add-on, is asking for help from the public in order to defend himself from a lawsuit filed by Dish Network - a US broadcaster and satellite TV company. The developer, who goes by Shani, insists that a proper defence needs to be mounted in order to avoid setting a bad precedent, saying "The fight is rigged against the little guy, they are trying to make something illegal that shouldn't be illegal."

ZemTV the add-on is a tool designed to scrape video from ZemTV.com, a Pakistani news site. It was originally made for Shani's personal use, though it was eventually made public. The add-on itself is an open-source passive service that allows users to scrape video content from third-party sources, providing an interface but not hosting, controlling, or supplying the third party content.

The lawsuit was filed in Texas against the ZemTV add-on and the TVAddons library back in June, with both parties facing $150,000 fines for each alleged offence. This was despite the fact that TVAddons owner Adam Lackman lives in Montreal, and ZemTV's developer Shahjahan Durrani lives in London. Lackman has been speaking out about poor treatment for months, though Shani himself has only just opened up - asking for help funding his defence in the process.

“I’ve never been to Texas in my life, I’m from London, England. Somehow a normal chap like me is expected to defend himself against a billion dollar media giant. I don’t have the money to fight this on my own, and hope my friends will help support my fight against the expansion of copyright liability.”

He also spoke to TorrentFreak about his start in the Kodi community, originally developing the add-on to learn Python before making it freely available to other members of the community,

“I had no involvement nor control over any of the websites or content sources that were allegedly accessible through ZemTV. I did not host nor take part in the sharing of any form of streaming media. As an open source developer, I should not be held liable for the potential abuse of my code.

This lawsuit is part of a targeted effort to destroy the Kodi add-on community. The fight is rigged against the little guy, they are trying to make something illegal that shouldn’t be illegal. They tried to do it with the VCR, and now years and years later they are trying to do it with Kodi.

Since I am the only add-on developer to date who is actually fighting the wrath of big media bullies, it is crucial that I win my case.”

Dish Network sees things differently, however, and insists that Shani was illegally re-transmitting its channels and asking for donations to help fund the operation. While it's impossible to tell which side is being truthful at this point, meaning the case has to be heard in court before the full story can be determined. But since this is the first time a small-scale Kodi developer has been taken to court like this, so the outcome could set an important precedent.

Shani believes that copyright holders are better off going after the people providing the illegal content in the first place. Without them any add-ons that are seen as enabling infringement will be worthless. That's easier said than done, however, since you take down one content source and a bunch more pop up to take its place. Rights holders probably see going after the add-ons themselves as an easier way to score a victory.

Shani has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Generosity, asking for $8,500 to mount his defence. At the time of writing he only has $382, though, so he still has a long way to go. [TorrentFreak]

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