Linux: Is the Kodi media player a piracy app?

Also in today’s open source roundup: The best add-ons for the Kodi media player, and the best Kodi boxes of 2016

Is the Kodi media player a piracy app?

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and nowhere is that more clear than in the controversy over the open source Kodi media player. Kodi has been characterized as a “piracy app” by some in the media, but the Kodi developers beg to differ with them.

Justin Pot reports on Kodi and piracy for How To Geek:

There’s a piracy app that lets users find any TV show, movie, or song you can imagine. Streams and downloads are both easy to find, and the software is already used by hundreds of millions of people.

The name of this dastardly program? Google Chrome.

That’s a crazy thing to report, right? Sure, it’s strictly true that you can use Chrome to pirate movies and TV shows: just search for any movie’s name followed by the words “streaming,” “torrent,” or “download.” You’ll find a pirated option on the front page basically every time. But if a mainstream media outlet called Chrome a piracy tool, you’d ridicule them for it, and deservedly so.

But that’s pretty much how Kodi, the open source media player, is being reported on lately, particularly in the UK. The BBC called Kodi a piracy epidemic in a headline. The Mirror pointed out that Kodi offers a “way to find illegal streams of movies and sports presented with a friendly Netflix-style user interface.” The Birmingham Mail helpfully informed readers that downloading Kodi will result in you getting a scary letter.

Reading these headlines, you’d think Kodi is the second coming of Popcorn Time. It’s not. Kodi is merely a (very good) media player and organizer. If Kodi is a piracy app, so is Google Chrome (and, for that matter, QuickTime or VLC).

More at How To Geek

How To Geek readers shared their thoughts about Kodi and piracy:

Tom Wilson: “Thanks for the PSA. It's hard to watch legitimate tools ft trashed by the actions of a few idiots, just like it's hard to watch illegitimate tools (like Popcorn Time) be treated as a good thing.

I've used Kodi, and while it didn't really suit my purposes, I also don't want to see the team's hard work be torn down by a few freeloaders.”

Cambo: “You hear it all over the place... "I bought a Kodi box and now I don't have to pay for TV".

It's sad, and unfortunately may result in Kodi being shut down- either voluntarily by the Dev's, or indirectly by bad publicity.

They're going to have to change the add-on system such that only approved 'add-ons' are allowed. The Kodi team would then vet the legitimacy of them.

Google is a bit different in that they have unlimited resources for lawyers. Kodi- basically nothing but open-source licensing.”

Chris S: “WRONG!! It is illegal to rip Blu-Rays, DVDs and CD's! Maybe not wherever you live but here in the UK it's highly illegal. Your article makes it sound like the norm for anyone to do, it isn't!”

Tom Wilson: “The UK isn't the world. In the US, where HTG is based, it's not a criminal action to store a DVD or BD disc on your hard drive, although you can be sued for it if the person whose movies you are copying finds out and wants to make a case of it. (This is obviously highly unlikely.) Format-shifting content you've paid for is not piracy, in that no one is losing any income over it.

On the other hand, downloading shows that you should be paying for (either by buying them or subscribing to cable) clearly is piracy, and distributing content over the Internet is a criminal action. That's obviously the action that people are Justin is taking issue with and the kind of thing Kodi is wrongly being associated with.”

Chris S: “I did say "Maybe not wherever you live but here in the UK it's highly illegal". So no not all countries respect the rights of artists/film companies but does that make it acceptable? My criticism of this article is that it suggests the practice is legal, period! But HowToGeek is available to anyone anywhere with an internet connection, this article just demonstrates bad journalism in my opinion and should be amended as such to avoid any misinterpretations by other readers not based in the US.

I'm no saint, I have seen one or two doggy pirate movies and where do you think they originated from? The USA of course! What might be legal (still a grey area) in your country will be abused by the rest of the world and so the copyright holder loses out. Fair Use? My ass! I wonder how many US citizens loan legally purchased discs to friends for copying? Many I should imagine.

It might interest you to know that the UK also passed a similar law allowing format shifting/copying of legally bought CD's just a few years ago but that was later quashed by a High Court Ruling as being unfair and rightly so.”

Jared Theurer: “DISCLAIMER: I am from the US and so my comments do not extend to international circumstances.

You all have a much more positive outlook on viewer/consumer rights than I do when it comes to format shifting and ripping of discs. There are current examples of companies and individuals in the news that have gotten into legal trouble because they have ripped discs to their servers in ways that the content creators did not agree to.

Personal disc copies of movies are more complicated that it would appear. When you buy a movie on a disc, for example, you are not buying the rights to the movie itself as most people think. You don't, "own the movie" as we often hear. What you buy is a LIMITED LICENSE to view that movie under the terms of the license, "This content is for home viewing audiences and has been formatted to fit your screen." The fine print will explain the terms of the license in greater detail. Not all movie production companies are the same and the terms of the license will probably be different for each. One company may allow format shifting (or provide a digital copy on the disc), and others are strictly against any sort of ripping or "altering" of content in any way.

I don't know all the rules and I don't read all the fine print when I buy a limited license via DVD or Blu-ray to view a movie in my home. However, I know that the content creators have a right to tell you how can view/possess their content and they do. Read the fine print if you must!

A few months ago, an HTG article suggested that we all could get access to every NFL games by tricking the NFL servers into thinking we are international fans using a VPN. At the time I brought up the legality and morality of the issue. Now, using a VPN is completely legal. But is it legal to trick (lie) to a company in order to benefit from a product that wasn't intended for you? I think the same questions and thinking have to go into all type of media in today's world. What might be legal isn't necessarily morally right, and what is thought to be morally right (i.e. buying a disc and making a digital copy for yourself) may not be legal. We all may have differing opinions on piracy, what it is and what it isn't. I've tried to stay out of that game. It is very messy and standard rules of logic often don't apply. All I can say about piracy is, get the best information you can about it and then make conscience, personal decisions to avoid it.”

Tom Wilson: “I even talked to a guy in line at Fry's today who laughed about his Kodi box.I was just joking with him about how rabbit ears are the new thing, and all these antennas are being advertised as a way to get "Free TV." I turned to him and said, "do you remember when that was the only way to get TV, and we'd have killed to be allowed to pay for cable?"

”I’ve got a Kodi box, and I'll keep using it until they come and arrest me," he said. Basically, he reinforced the point that Justin made in the article. Kodi is becoming synonymous with piracy and cheating the system, not with being the simple Media Center that it was meant to be.

There are plenty of people out there lobbying to make non-piratical format-shifting legal; I'm hoping they succeed, because consumer's rights is a bit of a hot button for me, too. Regardless of what the MPAA has to say, format-shifting is not piracy. Labeling it as such is just plain wrong, and that's really my whole point, here.”

More at How To Geek

The How to Geek article about Kodi also spawned a thread in the Linux subreddit, and the folks there did not pull any punches while sharing their thoughts:

Xxczxx: “Kodi trademark owners should sue…BBC and others.”

MoneyChurch: “Really, they ought to sue the people selling the "fully-loaded Kodi boxes."”

GoogleRedditUser: “The BBC should write a new a article titled ... "Should Windows 10 be banned? Tens of thousands downloading illegal copyrighted material daily and the worst part is ... They're viewing it right through Windows Media Player!"”

ManyPinkRobots: “Even the BBC News article the HowToGeek post links to makes it quite clear that Kodi itself is not the problem, the problem is with third party add ons. Though seeing that of course requires reading beyond the headline.”

Kicksherintheballs: “So why do I see a lot of people who embrace the argument of 'You shouldn't ban something which has legitimate uses just because it can be used for a crime' in cases of torrents, kodi and encryption reject that very same argument when it's used for guns? And in reverse, by the way.

Oh my god, it's almost like people are desperately searching for an argument when they don't want the things they use be banned. What a shocking revelation.”

More at Reddit

The best add-ons for the Kodi media player

Speaking of Kodi, TechRadar recently published a helpful roundup of the best add-ons for Kodi. The article also includes instructions on how to install Kodi add-ons.

Nathan Taylor reports for TechRadar:

Kodi, the versatile open source media player has a lot of hidden talents thanks to its huge collection of Kodi add-ons that bring even more features and functionality to the media player.

But on its surface Kodi is already a fantastic media player that has become almost the default software for many home theatre PCs thanks to its slick interface that has been built especially for TVs. It's also the go-to player on a variety of Android-based media players and set-top boxes.

You can unlock all sorts of new abilities, and we've collected the best Kodi add-ons for you to install in your Kodi streaming box. These give you access to a universe of streamed audio and video, making Kodi the only software you need to act as the front-end of your entire home entertainment setup.

More at TechRadar

If you haven't used Kodi, see this helpful setup guide video from YouTube:

The best Kodi boxes of 2016

You also have the option of buying devices directly to run Kodi. Cord Cutters News has a roundup of the best Kodi boxes of 2016 that will help you find the one that is right for you.

Luke reports for Cord Cutters News:

2016 is poised to be the year that Kodi comes up big. (You may remember XBMC of the past. Now it is called Kodi.)

Kodi is the ultimate media center for cord cutters. If you have a ton of content you want to watch on your TV Kodi is a great management tool to make it happen. What is the best device you can run Kodi on in 2016? Here is our list of the best Kodi devices on the market today.

Nvidia Shield

G-Box Q 2

MI Box

Fire TV

Element Ti4

More at Cord Cutters News

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