In 2015, Cordcutters News issued a somewhat chilling report. It appeared that U.S.-based internet service provider Comcast was issuing copyright infringement warnings to some users. Kodi users, in particular, seem to have been a primary target. In truth, Comcast and a handful of other ISPs had been issuing these emailed notifications to their customers for several years prior to 2015. However, several recent developments may be a sign of significant backtracking by ISPs.
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Comcast, P2Ps, and a Vague Response on Kodi
The belief expressed in the Cordcutters News article was that Kodi users were specifically getting targeted. This concern was also noted by KodiTips.com. In order to determine if this was the case, we contacted Comcast about their policy, receiving some clear, and then some vague information.
When we asked if Comcast monitors the use of torrents, the Comcast representative told us that this was not the case:
However, when we inquired about the copyright infringement notices, we were told these are indeed legitimate.
When we further asked whether it was torrents, or Kodi itself, that was triggering these notices, the representative told us that Kodi might be the culprit.
At the time of writing, we cannot verify that Kodi itself is triggering notifications. And indeed, it is our belief that the Comcast representative may have been in error in making this statement. This would appear to be counter to how this type of content monitoring actually works, and generally, counter to how Kodi works as well. However, the Comcast representative’s last statement opens up some room for questions.
Is Comcast monitoring Kodi users specifically? If anything, the representative’s remark does give another nod to the idea that many non-Kodi users, particularly among ISPs and media companies, still view Kodi as a source of piracy, despite the fact that the program itself does not pirate material.
This negative perception of Kodi is not uncommon. In the comments section of the 2015 Cordcutters News article on the issue, one Team Kodi developer expressed his frustration over that fact:
A bigger problem may indeed be that many Kodi users fail to realize when their addons are using torrents to stream, assuming erroneously that their addon is using only links offering up real-time streaming protocols of some kind. Alongside this, many Kodi users who are streaming may not be using a VPN, resulting in a situation where their IP address and streaming or download history are made plain to the copyright holders and then their ISP.
Not Just a US Problem
Some users may also be under the false impression that this is just a US problem. However, as of 2017, ISPs in Canada, Australia, and the UK are all sending out such notifications to users who are caught streaming illegally or sharing content.
In Canada, the “notice-and-notice” system came into effect in 2015. This system, employed by some, but not all ISPs in Canada, works similarly to the one in the US. Copyright holders will monitor peer-to-peer networks, gather up IP addresses sharing their content, and send messages to the requisite ISPs. The ISPs will then send the users caught up in the IP address grab an email notification about copyright infringement. However, unlike the US system, the Canadian “notice-and-notice” system does not reveal personal or identifying information to the copyright holder. ISPs do retain the right to cut off internet access due to excessive copyright infringement, however.
For Australians, the “three strikes” code, which some had feared would lead to huge privacy concerns, has since been mostly abandoned due to the expense. Instead, copyright holders have been strong-arming their way around law-making bodies to get ISPs to block P2P networks completely at the source. This has been used to some success against the biggest sites on the block, such as The Pirate Bay. As usual, users have found some simple ways around these blocks, but current trends seem to indicate that ISPs will be blocking more sites.
In the UK, the issue appears to be more recently ramping up. Although initially proposed several years ago, the legislation took some time to get through. However, it is now on its way to getting started. TorrentFreak reports that the copyright notifications will focus specifically on P2P site users, meaning other types of streaming may not get the same kind of attention. BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media are all slated to participate in the “alert” system. While it appears that this program is not designed to cause anyone to have their internet caught off, or to receive any legal actions, some users will likely be concerned when the emails start hitting their inboxes. However, the alerts will be limited to 2.5 million each year, many of which will likely be repeats to some of the more common users.
How to Avoid P2P Addons
It’s sometimes difficult to tell if a popular addon is using P2P methods to stream content. While there are many addons that are self-identified as torrents, others may use torrents to provide content without outright saying so. Listing out every Kodi addon that uses torrents should be a community effort. We’d like to help get that ball rolling.
Notable Kodi programs and addons that use torrents fully or in some part include:
- Popcorn Time
- Ace Stream
- P2P Streams
- Red Beard
The question regarding how to avoid using torrent streams recently arose in the Kodi addon subreddit, /r/Addons4Kodi. There, several users determined that any addon that uses torrents requires specific plugins to work. It appears that users who are trying to avoid accidentally using a torrent need not worry that a stream may or may not be using torrents. However, those who have purposefully installed the correct plugins to run torrents through Kodi will need to check the addon information and settings to determine if the addon uses a torrent.
Kodi users still concerned over potential negative consequences, either from their ISP directly, or through the CCI Content Alert System, should use a VPN. Despite some controversies with Netflix blocking VPNs, VPN use is both a safe and legal method to protect one’s identity while doing any activity online.
Potential Good News for Kodi Users
Our research leads us to believe that there is some potentially good news for Kodi users regarding copyright infringement notices. First, a little background on the issue.
In early 2013, the website TorrentFreak detailed a new policy change at Comcast. In 2012, Comcast, along with AT&T, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Verizon, joined forces with the MPAA and RIAA in order to form the Center for Copyright Information.This organization implemented what is known as the Copyright Alert System. The CAS was designed to send alerts automatically to copyright owners, and then on to ISPs for when illegal file sharing is detected through peer-to-peer networks.
To accomplish this, a copyright holder will join a P2P network that contains their copyrighted work. When others share that content, the copyright holder verifies that the content is indeed their copyrighted material, and will then collect the IP addresses of anyone leeching or seeding the content. Because IP addresses are unique to different ISPs, any ISP that is a part of the Center for Copyright Information will then receive the data, which typically includes the user’s IP address, the content that was shared, geographic location and the date.
According to the Center for Copyright information, there are 3 levels of warnings a user might receive: Initial Alert, Acknowledgement, and Mitigation. The first level is a simply an emailed notice that illegal file sharing through a P2P site has been identified on the account. At the Acknowledgement level, users receiving the infringement emails must contact their ISPs about having received the message and may need to watch an “educational video” on copyright infringement. According to the CCI, the third level, Mitigation, involves three things:
- A temporary reduction of Internet speed;
- Redirection to a landing page until the primary account holder of your account contacts your ISP;
- Redirection to a landing page where the primary account holder must review and respond to educational information.
The CCI additionally explains that termination of one’s account is not one of the punishments that can be received under this system and that the notifications will cease after the infringement stops.
However, termination of one’s account and copyright infringement records are typically not the biggest concern for most Kodi users. Most are concerned about the potential of receiving a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Although there are some rather high-profile cases of individual users getting sued for thousands of dollars, there is some indication that not only are these methods no longer working, many ISPs and copyright holders are pulling back on the policy.
A 2015 Mother Jones piece identifies a decrease in the number of these types of cases, citing as an example federal judge skepticism over the use of IP addresses as evidence. One such example occurred in the same case we linked in the paragraph above. The judge in the case threw it out on the belief that IP addresses were scant evidence to prove copyright infringement had occurred. In Australia, where a similar piracy monitoring method had been implemented, ISPs and copyrights holders basically backtracked on the whole thing. However, TorrentFreak reports that HBO has recently gotten serious about going after P2P users, indicating as well that many ISPs are choosing to comply with that requests.
All of this points to a bit of a mixed bag. While it appears that some ISPs are definitely pulling back on the CCI initiative, others may still be following suit. Kodi users may have less to worry about, but should still be concerned over which addons they are using, and whether or not those addons are using P2P methods. If nothing else, this raises the continued argument for the use of VPNs, especially given the vast uncertainty involved.
As we’ve made clear on our website in the past, our personal recommendation is that you use IPVanish, a leading VPN for Kodi.