The popular Kodi Media Center continues to attract new users every day. You may have heard that Kodi can give you easy access to free movies and TV shows. That means you may also be asking a very important question: is Kodi legal? The easy answer to that question is YES. However, we’re here to help you explore that answer in more detail.
Before you proceed
While Kodi is extremely popular as a streaming application, some users have received copyright notifications from their ISPs after using certain third-party addons. To help keep your streaming habits private, we recommend using a virtual private network (VPN). Our recommendation is IPVanish. IPVanish emphasizes user privacy while maintaining a large number of servers with high-level security features.
Is Kodi Legal? Yes! But Some Addons Are Not
Please note: AddonHQ is not a legal service. Our explanation of Kodi Media Center legal matters is for discussion and general, non-technical research purposes only. It should not be considered professional legal advice.
Kodi as a software application breaks no laws. The Kodi application has never been deemed illegal by any country.
The Kodi software has been described in many different ways, with some comparing it to a web browser. This means that, like a web browser, you can watch TV and video streams hosted on various websites through the application. Originally, Kodi acted more like a program for playing your DVDs and music. Now, however, you can do a lot more with it, which includes streaming live TV, movies and TV shows, as well as using Kodi for torrenting.
However, when the XBMC Foundation officially made addons easier to manage back in 2010 with version 10.0 “Dharma,” more developers within the Kodi community started making and sharing new streaming addons. Certain addons like Exodus and Phoenix quickly became popular, with some of these addons allowing Kodi users to access pirated content, such as movies, TV shows, and music. The popular addon Quasar is a good example of this, which streams media content directly to Kodi through torrents.
Addons that leverage torrenting are more commonly known as P2P addons within the Kodi community. Among the many addons available, these are often looked upon negatively within the community due to the fac that they are commonly used to pirate movies and TV shows.
Perhaps one of the largest issues surrounding Kodi’s third-party addons is Kodi TV boxes. In general, Kodi TV boxes are perfectly legal. These devices will come with the bare Kodi application installed and nothing else. Additionally, in most countries, it is legal to sell “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes, which come with both Kodi and many addons already installed.
In the UK, however, copyright holders and police forces are increasingly going after fully-loaded Kodi box sellers. Several individuals were arrested in 2016 and 2017, with some facing fines of over $300,000 and potential jail time.
The issue for the UK government is the fact that these boxes come loaded with third-party addons that deliver pirated content. Of particular concern in the UK are addons that pirate live sports, such as Premier League games, that users would otherwise have to pay for.To learn more about this issue, read our article on Kodi TV Box Legal Questions.
XBMC Foundation: Official Stance
The XBMC Foundation is on the record as being against using its software for illegal streaming. The Foundation’s official comment on the matter is located on software download page:
“Kodi is available as a native application for Android, Linux, Mac OS X, iOS, and Windows operating systems, running on most common processor architectures. A small overview of the features can be found on our about page. For each platform, we offer a stable and development release(s). For normal users, we recommend installing the stable releases.
IMPORTANT: The official Kodi application does not contain any content whatsoever. This means that you should provide your content from a local or remote storage location, DVD, Blu-Ray or any other media carrier that you own. Additionally, Kodi allows you to install third-party plugins that may provide access to content that is freely available on the official content provider website. The watching or listening of illegal or pirated content which would otherwise need to be paid for is not endorsed or approved by Team Kodi.”
The Foundation also links to a 2016 post on its website detailing the negative impact of piracy on the platform. Here, the Foundation highlights “piracy boxes,” or Kodi boxes that include third-party addons specifically designed for piracy.
The post, titled “The Piracy Box Sellers and Youtube Promoters Are Killing Kodi,” states:
Although the XBMC Foundation believes strongly in its open source tradition and maintains a strong dedication to allowing users to use the program as they see fit, it is increasingly fighting against the negative perception created by those who use the software for illegal activities.
XBMC Foundation Fighting Back Against Piracy
Given the issues related to Kodi and piracy, the XBMC Foundation has made several steps to fight back against this issue.
In its Version 17.0 “Krypton” release, the foundation made installing third-party addons more difficult. It now requires users to change settings within the application to allow the installation of “Unknown sources.”
Additionally, the Foundation has decided to more actively wage war on addons that link to piracy websites. While they initially announced their intention to do this back in 2014, it was not until 2016 that they expressed more serious concern and a desire to act on their trademark. As reported by TorrentFreak, XBMC Foundation President and Kodi Product Manager Nathan Betzen described methods the company can employ to help fight the piracy issue.
Betzen told TorrentFreak that the Foundation has been using its registered trademark authority to force takedowns of piracy box sellers. “The requested takedowns are based entirely on trademark issues. All of the listings targeted so far have explicitly connected XBMC/Kodi with addons that enable piracy, resulting in eBay listings with phrases like, ‘XBMC lets you watch all the free movies you want,” Betzen explained to TorrentFreak.
Kodi Application Bans
As a result of ongoing issues with third-party addons and pirated content, the XBMC Foundation has had to deal with bans on their software. In 2015, Amazon officially removed Kodi from its app store. The reasoning related specifically to the way Kodi can be used to access pirated material. While the XBMC Foundation and Kodi itself are not implicated in the act, some companies see its use for pirating material as giving Kodi tertiary guilt.
However, many have pointed out the irony of this situation, as Amazon still allows individuals to sell Kodi boxes designed around accessing pirated content.
To date, Amazon is the only company with an official operating system that has banned the Kodi Media Center app. Although you will not find Kodi on Apple’s App Store, this has less to do with Apple’s issues with Kodi itself, and more to do with Kodi’s licensing structure. According to its policies, Apple does not allow open source apps onto the App Store. Because Kodi operates under an open source license, it will never be on the App Store unless Apple decides to change this policy.