Kodi has been around for a long time. 15 years to be more precise, under various names. While the software has had a surge in popularity over recent years, it's safe to say that the piracy isn't the only thing that's kept it going for such a long time. The MPAA doesn't seem to agree, insisting that nearly 70 per cent of the software's 38 million users are pirates.
For those who don't know, the Motion Picture Association of America is a trade group that represents the six major Hollywood film studios (Fox, Disney, WB, Universal, Sony, and Paramount). It's responsible for things like film ratings in the US, as well as fighting copyright infringement wherever it might pop up. So obviously the surge in streaming piracy, often attributed to Kodi and dodgy third-party add-ons, is firmly in the crosshairs right now. To the point where its making serious accusations about the userbase.
During a panel hosted by the Copyright Alliance last week (titled "Copyright Pirates’ New Strategies"), Neil Fried the MPAA, Senior Vice President, Government and Regulatory Affairs, had some things to say. He noted that Kodi's base software is legal, but then went onto declare that the MPAA believes there are around 38 million Kodi users worldwide (which doesn't seem like a lot), and that 68.5 per cent of them are pirates. That's around 26 million users, for everyone who can't do maths in their head.
That means, according to the MPAA, only around 12 million people use Kodi for legitimate purposes.
TorrentFreak got in touch with the XBMC Foundation, which develops Kodi, to see how accurate those figures really are. President Nathan Betzen said:
"Unfortunately I do not have an up to date number on users, and because we don’t watch what our users are doing, we have no way of knowing how many do what with regards to streaming. [The MPAA’s] numbers could be completely correct or totally made up. We have no real way to know."
The last time usage figures were published were back in 2011, before XBMC rebranded to become Kodi. In April of that year it was estimated that there were 435,000 active users around the world, a number that grew to 789,000 just three months later.
Infamous add-on depository TVAddons also gave TorrentFreak a statement, which isn't that dissimilar from XBMC's:
"We’ve always banned the use of analytics within Kodi addons, so it’s really impossible to make such an estimate. It seems like the MPAA is throwing around numbers without much statistical evidence while mislabelling Kodi users as ‘pirate’ in the same way that they have mislabelled legitimate services like CloudFlare.
As far as general addon use goes, before our repository server (which contained hundreds of legitimate addons) was unlawfully seized, it had about 39 million active users per month, but even we don’t know how many users downloaded which addons. We never allowed for addon statistics for users because they are invasive to privacy and breed unhealthy competition."
So really it doesn't sound like there's anyway of knowing exactly how many people are using Kodi, and even then it's basically impossible to see which ones are using it for piracy. At least on the developer end. The MPAA might have a secret way of detecting it, though it's hardly going to come out and tell the world what it is in great detail.
It could just be that this is another attempt to demonise Kodi users, and try to prevent people from using the platform. The EFF has warned of this in the past, and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), whose members include some of the world's biggest tech companies has spoken out about using Kodi as a scapegoat. After all Canadian ISP Sandvine did recently find that only three per cent of IPTV pirates in North America used Kodi add-ons to do so.
Will this be effective in driving people away from dodgy Kodi add-ons? As much as the developers would like their software to stop being a synonym for piracy, I doubt it. Shouting about how much of a problem it is, without actually doing anything about it, is only going to spread awareness. The more people who know about the capabilities of the dodgy add-ons, the more people are likely to try it for themselves. And the legit users end up getting branded criminals as a result. [TorrentFreak]