Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to use Kodi is to buy a fully loaded Kodi box. That said, many users (or potential users) have wondered whether this process is actually legal. After all, Kodi still finds itself in a legal gray area at times, primarily due to the many third-party addons that skirt or even break many copyright laws. Even still, some sellers will jailbreak first party devices, such as the Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, install Kodi onto those devices, and then resell them as a Kodi-powered device. Is any of this on the up-and-up? What does the law have to say about it, in the U.S., Canada, UK and elsewhere?
Below, we lay out the research we’ve done to help answer your questions related to whether it is legal to buy a fully loaded Kodi box. However, we would like to reiterate that WE ARE NOT LEGAL EXPERTS, and NOTHING YOU READ BELOW THIS DISCLAIMER SHOULD BE CONSIDERED OFFICIAL OR EVEN UNOFFICIAL LEGAL ADVICE. Laws can change and are often far too complex to cover in one single article. Additionally, our research may not cover capture the full picture, as we may not have access to the full spectrum of court cases, laws, statutes, or legal codes covering this and similar issues. THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. AddonHQ only offers this material as a starting point that should not be taken as expert legal advice.
What is Kodi? Why Is There an Issue?
Perhaps the best place to start is by explaining what Kodi is, and why there are even any questions surrounding its legality.
Kodi was first created in 2002 as a media player on the Xbox. Known then as the Xbox Media Center (XBMC), the program was designed to play downloaded movies and music. Several generations later, in 2014, the non-profit XBMC Foundation changed the name to “Kodi”.
Now running primarily on Windows, Linux, and Mac computers, as well as on Android-based devices and other operating systems to a limited degree, Kodi was capable of performing a large number functions, including streaming content directly from the web. This was accomplished through the use of downloadable plugins, known as “addons”. While many of the streaming addons available for Kodi pulled from perfectly legitimate sources, a growing number of Kodi addons were streaming copyrighted content for free.
The XBMC Foundation and Kodi began to develop a negative image outside of the community as a primary host for copyright infringement. The XBMC Foundation has constantly battled that image, reiterating on its website that the Foundation does not support or condone the use of third-party addons that play host to illegal file sharing. Nevertheless, third-party addons remain popular.
The XBMC Foundation made a major change with its newest stable Kodi release, 17.0 “Krypton”. With Krypton, the Foundation made installing third-party addons more difficult, although not impossible. Whereas in previous releases, such as the popular 16.1 “Jarvis”, installing third-party plugins was simple, Krypton requires users to specifically change their settings to accept such as addons. By making this a user-completed action, the XBMC Foundation further distanced itself from having to share in the responsibility of Kodi users who choose to install third-party plugins that access illegal copyrighted material. This is similar to how most Android devices allow users to install unofficial addons from “unknown sources”, a setting Android users must intentionally turn on in order to do so.
What is a “Fully Loaded Kodi Box”?
A “fully loaded Kodi box” is not one specific thing. You may buy a Kodi TV box that just has Kodi on it or one that has a specific Kodi build. In most cases, you would only consider a Kodi box “fully loaded” if it comes with a Kodi build already installed.
A Kodi build is a build that includes a large number of addons already installed on the system. This means that you will not have to go through the process of installing those addons yourself, and will be able to use the system to gain access to the content available through those addons immediately.
There is a large number of Kodi builds out there, although most “fully loaded” Kodi boxes will not come installed with one of the popular Kodi builds, but will instead come with a large array of Kodi addons preinstalled. The primary difference between a fully loaded Kodi box and one that uses a specific build is that most builds utilize a theme. The Wookie Kodi Build, for example, has a Wookie theme to it. Kodi builds are typically put together by different members of the Kodi community.
That being the case, a Kodi box that has a naked (e.g., empty) version of Kodi installed on it would likely not be considered a “fully loaded” Kodi TV box.
Is a Fully Loaded Kodi Box Legal?
Here’s where things may get a little bit complicated. We’ll answer this question first, then provide a detailed explanation for the caveats:
Is it legal to buy a fully loaded Kodi box? YES.
So Are There Any Questions About Fully Loaded Kodi Boxes? Let’s Explain.
In the US, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is the single most important legislation to understand when it comes to the legality of both Kodi and Kodi TV boxes. For the most part, a Kodi TV box by itself, with an empty version of Kodi on it, would be considered fully legal to purchase. This is because Kodi, as an empty shell, is not capable of breaking any laws. Furthermore, a Kodi TV box, by itself or with just an empty version of Kodi installed, is simply a TV streaming device. Together, neither is illegal so the pairing is not illegal.
- For a time, selling a jailbroken Kodi box, such as a jailbroken Amazon Fire TV stick, or jailbroken Apple TV, was illegal. As late as 2014, modifying the firmware on devices like smart TVs and tablets was still illegal.
- The US federal government updates the DMCA every three years to change the rules to best suit changing times. In 2012, jailbreaking a mobile phone was legal, while unlocking one was made illegal. Meanwhile, modding or jailbreaking all other devices was still illegal.
- When Congress updated the DMCA rules in 2015, it made jailbreaking tablets and smart TVs fully legal. However, game consoles, laptops, e-readers and handheld gaming devices were not included, meaning that it is still illegal to jailbreak those devices.
This is where there are some legal gray areas. However, almost unequivocally, since these devices are almost exclusively used to access television and digital media services, they’re generally considered smart TV devices. This means that modding them is legal, which also makes selling the modded devices legal.
Other Kodi streaming devices, such as the WeTek Core, are not jailbroken. These devices would have always been legal to purchase, even with a standard version of Kodi installed on the device. This, of course, leaves one real lingering question: are fully loaded Kodi boxes legal as well?
Yes, it is legal to buy a fully loaded Kodi box. However…
While it is legal to buy a fully loaded Kodi box, the real problem you may run into is what addons you decide to use. Any addons you may find in the Official Kodi Addon Repository are legal in that they do not pull streams from any copyrighted sources, or only work if you login with your official credentials that you have already paid for from that service. An example of this would be the BBC iPlayer or WWW iPlayer Kodi addons. These addons are fully legal as they will only work if you have a BBC iPlayer account. The BBC iPlayer is free to use for any British resident with a TV License. As such, you’ll find this addon on the official repository, and if you’re a UK resident, you won’t have any legal issues using it as well.
However, there are a number of third-party addons that do stream illegal content. While simply having these addons installed is not itself illegal, using them may be. That is not to say that all of the content available through third-party addons is illegal, nor are all third-party addons pulling illegal content. In fact, many IPTV third-party addons strictly pull over-the-air channels that are fully legal to view. Nevertheless, many third-party addons connect Kodi users to copyrighted content, such as movies and TV shows that would otherwise only be available through paid streaming services or via an actual digital or physical purchase.
Are Fully Loaded Kodi Boxes Legal in Canada, the UK, and the EU?
While we primarily focused on the US and the DMCA, we recognize that many of our readers come from the Canada, the UK and elsewhere. Here is some quick copyright and Kodi box information for users outside the US.
For Canadians, the relevant law covering this issue is the Copyright Modernization Act of 2012. While the U.S. law is confusing, in Canada, the Copyright Modernization Act makes jailbreaking in some cases a crime. The overall vagueness of the law makes it difficult to pinpoint whether a Kodi TV box would be illegal to jailbreak. However, what we do suggest is that Canadians avoid buying jailbroken devices that have Kodi installed. Instead, opt for one of the many Android-based devices that are built from the ground up to run and operate Kodi.
UK and EU
For UK and EU residents, the relevant law is the Computer Programs Directive. As is typical of EU directives, the wording in this directive is both long, convoluted and at times confusing. However, the law here seems to indicate that individuals who own devices can jailbreak those devices in order to use them with legally available software that would otherwise not work on that device. Here’s the relevant quote from the directive:
“The unauthorised reproduction, translation, adaptation or transformation of the form of the code in which a copy of a computer program has been made available constitutes an infringement of the exclusive rights of the author. Nevertheless, circumstances may exist when such a reproduction of the code and translation of its form are indispensable to obtain the necessary information to achieve the interoperability of an independently created program with other programs. It has therefore to be considered that, in these limited circumstances only, performance of the acts of reproduction and translation by or on behalf of a person having a right to use a copy of the program is legitimate and compatible with fair practice and must therefore be deemed not to require the authorisation of the rightholder. An objective of this exception is to make it possible to connect all components of a computer system, including those of different manufacturers, so that they can work together. Such an exception to the author’s exclusive rights may not be used in a way which prejudices the legitimate interests of the rightholder or which conflicts with a normal exploitation of the program.”
Based on our understanding of this part of the directive, we believe that this means jailbreaking your own device is fully legal or having someone jailbreak your device is legal. That said, the language used here seems to exclude purchasing a jailbroken device that can run Kodi. As with Canada, we believe that purchasing a jailbroken device that can run Kodi is likely not legal in the UK or anywhere in the EU, while buying a fully loaded Kodi box that is already designed for that purpose would be legal.
Special Case for UK Residents
UK residents, however, may need to be worried about selling Kodi boxes that also include third-party plugins. A recent article in The Sun notes that UK officials are cracking down on individuals who sell Kodi boxes with third-party addons already installed. The article highlights the case of one Ben Thompson, who was recently arrested for selling pre-loaded Kodi boxes with add-ons installed, and now may have to pay a £5,000 ($6113.40) fine and faces up to three months in prison.
What If I Already Purchased a Fully Loaded Kodi Box?
If you bought a fully loaded Kodi box and you believe it to have been illegally sold, chances are small that you’ll face any legal consequences as the buyer. The seller, however, may eventually face some consequences. That said, it’s probably a good idea that you do not resell your jailbroken Kodi box.
What Happens If I Stream from Third-Party Addons?
As we stated above, Kodi itself is not illegal, nor are the addons. Even third-party addons are legal if you don’t use them to access copyrighted content. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to distinguish copyrighted content from legitimate content when using Kodi. For that reason, most Kodi users who do stream from third-party addons tend to use a VPN while streaming.
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a service that anonymizes your identity while you’re connected to the internet. In this manner, neither your ISP nor the websites you’re visiting or streaming through can identify who you are. Typically, this is accomplished by identifying your IP address, assigned to you by your ISP.
In some cases, Kodi users using third-party addons have received copyright infringement notifications, either in the mail or by email, from their ISPs. This is preventable by using a VPN. We have tested a large number of Kodi VPN solutions, finding that IPVanish offers the best results for Kodi users.
IPVanish emphasizes anonymity while streaming. The company employs high-level encryption to keep your identity hidden and maintains a strict no-logs policy that does not keep records of who you are or where you went while online. Furthermore, IPVanish has hundreds of servers in dozens of countries which will enable you to access geographically-locked content while using Kodi and other programs. To help avoid the most common concerns with using fully loaded Kodi boxes, we recommend you install IPVanish on the device.