This article has been in the works for a very long time.
It’s ridiculously hard to write this without sounding preachy or judgmental. That’s not what I’m going for at all.
In the end, I decided to write this because the information is valuable because it’s not something you hear from any one other source.
If you look on YouTube, you’re going to see a lot of “informational videos” that can best be described as…crap.
Most of the videos “asking” is Kodi legal have just a touch of bias.
In the end, that’s what made me write this article.
No matter what side of the law you want to stay on, you need to be aware of the laws in your country.
Laws change all the time, so this isn’t meant to be legal advice by any stretch of the imagination. Think of this as just a brief overview. If you have any doubts, check with your lawyer.
Since almost all of my readers live in either the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom, I’m going to focus on the major laws in those three areas.
Is Kodi legal…yes.
Kodi by itself is just a media player, like VLC or MX Media Player. It doesn’t come with any content by itself.
It’s popular because it will play just about anything you throw at it.
There’s absolutely nothing shady or illegal about it.
Where it gets into trouble is by allowing third-party developers (those that don’t work for Kodi directly) to create addons that enhance the core Kodi player and give it increased functionality.
Many of these addons are completely benign. They can download album art for movies or music, IMDB information about the actors or directors, or make it easier for you to manage your media library.
But those aren’t the addons that you hear about.
The ones that most Kodi users care about.
…but not the way you’re using it
I’m going to focus on two things: addons and your own media.
Is streaming legal? – Kodi Addons
When you think of Kodi, you’re probably thinking of one of the major addons (Exodus, Sports Devil, etc)
That’s where the content comes in.
I’ll be completely transparent here: there’s a very large grey area because of the ways laws are written. They haven’t caught up with modern technology.
The United Kingdom
Recently, the UK’s Intellectual Property Office issued guidance about what they call “illicit streaming devices.” Notice that they didn’t say illegal. They said Illicit.
Currently, there’s no laws against streaming copyrighted material.
Keep that in mind. You’re going to see that theme repeated.
As the Globe & Mail reports, Canada is home to some of the strictest anti-piracy laws in the world. But they’re all geared towards downloading copyrighted material – not streaming it. That’s good news for Canadian Android TV box users…for now.
The US has had some pretty high visibility lawsuits recently against streamers. Dish network sued TVAddons and ZemTV in mid 2017 and one at the beginning of 2018. But they’re just the beginning. The United States is establishing case law right now, which makes this a dangerous time to be an “illicit streamer.”
Everyone agrees that downloading a movie from a torrent site such as Pirate Bay is illegal, but streaming doesn’t technically download the file to your computer.
That makes it OK, right?
For right now…that doesn’t make it illegal.
It does make it decidedly iffy though. That’ll have to be good enough.
Sooner or later the laws will change and all hell is going to come down on the people that are hosting these movies and shows.
I’m not judging, but I want you to know what you’re doing can potentially get you into trouble.
A good rule of thumb is that if you’re getting something for free what most people are paying for, that doesn’t mean you got a great deal.
It’s called piracy.
If you’re OK with that, fine. I’m not judging.
Is streaming your own ripped Music\DVD’s\Blu-ray’s legal?
Think of your favorite movie or music CD.
If you bought it at the store and own the disc, there’s nothing wrong with copying it to your hard drive so you can play it on your PC or smartphone, right?
In most places in the world, that’s still illegal.
Yup. That’s right.
Even though you own the disc, you can’t make a copy of it…even for yourself.
In the US, UK and Canada, it is illegal to circumvent the copy protection on a DVD or Blu-ray movie – even if you’re just making a backup for your own personal use.
Let’s take a look in a bit more detail.
US Code Title 17 holds the major parts of copyright law in the US. At this time, there is no provision for or against making a personal use copy of a DVD\Blu-Ray or CD that you own.
Don’t celebrate yet though.
The DMCA still makes it illegal for you to circumvent copy protection – like the kind found on DVD’s and Blu-Ray movies. Back in 2015, they tried to get an exemption to allow for personal use copies, called space shifting. Unfortunately for cord-cutters, the Library of Congress denied that exemption.
So while technically, ripping a DVD or Blue-ray movie is legal in the United States, you’d have to find a movie without copy protection. Good luck.
The Copyright Act of Canada, and the later Copyright Modernization Act allow for personal backup copies except when is circumvents a “technological protection measure.” Similar to the US, it’s technically legal to copy your DVD’s and Blu-rays to your hard drive, but not if you bypass any sort of copy protection.
The UK’s Intellectual Property Office has had a flurry of activity over the past few years. After a brief respite, it is once again illegal to rip CD’s, DVD’s and Blu-rays. The law makes no exception for personal use whatsoever.
Is Kodi legal? Kodi supporters will swear up and down that there’s nothing wrong with streaming the latest movies for one reason or another.
And technically they’re right.
But it won’t always be that way.
Things change. Quickly.
I’m not going to judge how you decide to use Kodi – or any other streaming media server. That’s not why I’m here.
I’m here to make sure you’re not flying blind when you’re streaming.
What do you think? Do you think streaming will stay legal, or are its days numbered? Leave a comment below!
What will happen to the sale of streaming boxes?
Streaming boxes are perfectly legal. Whether you’re talking about an Android box, an official Android TV (like a NVIDIA Shield or Sony TV), or a Fire TV\Roku\Chromecast\etc…there’s nothing wrong with them at all.
Where people get into trouble is how they choose to get the content. If you’ve subscribed to a legitimate streaming service then you’re playing by the rules. If you’re paying for one of those IPTV services or Kodi addons, then I’d recommend covering your butt.
OK Tim , how do we as consumers find out which streaming services are legit? Are all IPTV services illegal?
I think the laws will change to close any and all loopholes. Streaming (for free) days are numbered (IMHO). I was thinking of replacing my Fire Stick but now i’m kind of hesitating. I would hate to spend 200.00 on a new device then get shut out.
Here’s the way I look at it. I cut the cord…geez…13+ years ago. The way I’ve gotten content over the years has changed a lot. Some of it has been…questionable. Now, my main priority is making it simple and with the best quality that I can get. My main streaming devices are an NVIDIA Shield and the new Fire TV. If Kodi went away tomorrow, I’d still be able to use them both because they’re great all-around players.
Buy something that’s quality and you don’t have to worry about getting shut out.
How about streaming through a paid service like an IPTV? Who holds the ball of responsibility?
That’s the big question Bill. The way the laws are written today (2018/01/11), the person who is providing the stream is responsible for it. But that doesn’t mean that tomorrow those laws aren’t going to change. I firmly believe that some day the media companies will throw enough money at the government officials and laws will be written to favour them. It’s only a matter of time.
Very well written as usual. But let us not forget that Kodi is the legal home for hundreds of legal links to online content or information. And in some cases the ONLY place you can find the content. You can scroll for page after page in their repository for sites that are perfectly legal to view and even record if desired. Many TV stations, radio stations, many OTA broadcast channels and even some movie channels. Here is a listing of perfectly LEGAL Kodi addons that anyone can use without fear.
However, there are times I do use Kodi when I can’t find the content elsewhere. For example when I stream some of the completely legal Technology shows I enjoy. Many are just not available anywhere else EXCEPT by using Kodi. These small business and independent blog operators are going to be the first to suffer when streaming comes crashing down and that is really unfortunate. Hopefully the courts will get the legal language correct.
Today I tend to use Hulu, Netflix and Dish for about 98% of my streaming/TV content since they are just so easy to use. After three years of using Kodi I still don’t understand why Kodi needs to have you bounce back and forth between menus to install something. Clumsy at best. Kodi to me has a huge learning curve for anyone coming from say the Windows or the Android community. And of course I always use NordVPN even if the content I am streaming is completely legal. That to me is just a smart thing to do given today’s environment.
By the way Tim, do you know WHY the movie studio’s are not encrypting their movie content? I mean, even Google encrypts our emails and online shopping could not exist without https?
Hi Thomas. It’s good to hear from you again!
You’re right. Kodi has A TON of perfectly legal addons that are in their official repository. You won’t get into trouble with anything that they store there.
I like how you described Kodi as “clumsy.” That was my thought as well, and the major reason why I started using Plex for my own personal media rather than Kodi. To me, Kodi gives you a hundred different options how you want to configure your device – 99 of which I won’t use. If you’re the kind of person that loves to tweak the settings, then Kodi can’t be beat. Me? I like it simple, which is why I switched to Plex.
Both media players have their benefits. The way I personally use it, it just made sense to switch.
What do you mean about “not encrypting their content?” Netflix, Hulu and YouTube are all https. At least here, most of the DVD’s and Blu-rays come with some sort of copy protection on the disc.
It seems to me that in many cases the studios are making it EASY to hijack stuff. There are so many things they could be doing instead of paying a bunch of lawyers, ha ha. How about sending out next week’s movies via encrypted thumb drives? How about developing their own encryption scheme that changes weekly to prevent hackers from stealing content. How about using FedEx or UPS as a secure delivery service. How about developing an online subscription service like Hulu or Netflix for the content from each studio? I gladly pay for content when it is reasonable and I don’t have to leave my home to enjoy it.
When you can find hundreds, no I mean thousands of links online of unprotected content ti appears to me that someone wants their product[s] to be selectively viewed. Which is more valuable – lots of eyeballs on a product or less revenue?
Have a great day Tim.
p.s. have been having some medical issues but now on the mend.
You don’t need KODI to get content.