Kodi media player has become the go-to application for people who like to watch streaming video on the web. Some Kodi addons even allow you to stream cable TV for free. But is Kodi legal, or illegal to use? We hope to shed some light on the question in this article.
Disclaimer: None of the information here should be considered legal advice. AddonHQ is not responsible for how you decide to use this information, or what you stream through Kodi.
TLDR: Kodi Is Totally Legal
If you don’t download anything or host the content yourself, you aren’t doing anything illegal. However, if you are saving content to your computer (in the form of torrents, for example) or sharing copyrighted content with the public, you could get sued.
Attempts at Cracking Down on People Who Host Streams
The corporations that own copyrights to popular entertainment content obviously have a lot to lose if streaming goes mainstream. That’s probably why there’s a lot of pressure to create new, stricter laws to regulate streaming content.
In September of 2016, the European Court of Justice ruled that posting links to illegal content is against the law. The law could theoretically affect the makers of Kodi addons if they live in the EU. Many Kodi addons are just big collections of links to sites that contain copyrighted content.
Here’s What Happens If You Get Caught Streaming or Downloading Pirated Content
In the US the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and some ISPs keep track of individuals that download and share pirated content. Sometimes the RIAA and the MPAA hire copyright lawyers (aka “copyright trolls”) to go after individuals and demand payment in the form of hefty out-of-court settlements.
Typically, copyright trolls threaten to sue unless the individual who has received the letter agrees to pay the settlement. Dragging streamers into court isn’t a profitable business model, though. That’s why some copyright trolls never follow through on their threats. However, some file sharers do wind up getting sued.
If you decide to ignore a copyright troll and then end up getting served with a lawsuit, make sure you show up in court. If you don’t go, the lawyers automatically win.
To learn more about the ins and outs of copyright law in the United States, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundations excellent blog.
Kodi’s Attempt to Distance Itself From Pirates
In April of 2014, the makers of Kodi spoke out against people who make money by selling addons that link to copyrighted material.
The makers of Kodi clearly want nothing to do with the people that link to unlicensed content. So if you are concerned about breaking copyright laws, you can always choose to limit yourself to installing addons from squeaky clean Kodi-approved software repositories.
What Is a Software Repository?
A Kodi repository is a storage location for Kodi addons. Kodi fans have created loads of free Kodi addons that add functionality to the basic player. To install an addon, all you have to do is connect to its software repository, find the addon and select “enable.”
Some repositories contain addons that help Kodi users find unlicensed and pirated content. Kodi has created a repository blacklist to help Kodi fans avoid these types of addons and repositories. If you want to make absolutely sure that you’re not infringing copyright law, steer clear of the addons and repositories listed here.
Should All Digital Content Be Free?
Some prominent silicon valley intellectuals think so. Also, people living in the most recently added members of the EU view the struggle to protect intellectual property as a class conflict.
According to a recent study entitled Copyright enforcement online: policies and mechanisms, people living in countries that joined the European Union in 2004 are more likely to admit to software pirating.
The study found that streamers living in Malta and other Southern European and Eastern European countries believe that copyright law protects the rich and oppresses the poor. That could be why many pirated streams originate from that part of the world.
Young, Educated Men Are More Likely to Pirate Content
Studies indicate that future generations will be more comfortable with sharing and viewing copyrighted content. In both Europe and the US, young people and people with a high level of education were more comfortable with downloading and viewing copyrighted content compared to the general population.
Will Kodi Continue to Remain Legal?
Probably. Decisions like this one are chilling, for sure. But a coordinated crackdown would probably affect addon creators before it would affect the people who watch pirated streams.
Streaming is growing in popularity, so most politicians generally don’t want to try to help push through stricter streaming laws that affect the general public.
Are There Any Kodi Addons That Are Straight Up Illegal?
Kodi addons that allow you to download torrent files could theoretically get you sued. Be careful if you live in a country that has laws against downloading pirated content. But as long as the addon only streams content and doesn’t download it, you won’t get in trouble for using it.
Here are a few Kodi addons that can download pirated torrent files:
None of the above addons are illegal in-and-of-themselves. However, if you use them to download copyrighted content you might just attract the attention of a copyright troll.
Does Pirated Content Hurt Movie Makers?
Executive producer Gareth Neame believes that piracy causes producers to make more conservative choices when investing in movies. Piracy could be one reason why film studios often choose sequels and remakes over original stories.
Are Kodi Viruses a Thing?
A group of white hat hackers recently conducted a test to see if Kodi could transmit a computer virus. The team successfully pulled off a “man-in-the-middle” style attack.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the experiment was that even a hacker with low level skills could pull it off.