Amid the constant controversy surrounding the free open source media center known as Kodi, The group behind the program, The XBMC foundation has regularly maintained that it is not responsible for sharing copyrighted material such as movie and TV shows without permission. Through statements on its official blog see an example here Kodi essentially denies any culpability for users accessing copyrighted content illegally.
Kodi’s PR defense
Kodi attempts to defend accusations of piracy. In a blog post by Nathan Betzen on Feb 14 2016, Betzen addressed the issue of users and illegal content saying it was up to the user as to what is accessed using the software. I call this the DVD defense because it is like saying DVD players are not meant for piracy but could be used for it.
“Team Kodi maintains an officially neutral stance on what users do with their own software. Kodi is open source software, and as long as the GPL is followed, you are welcome to do with it as you like. So while we don’t love this use of Kodi, as long as you know what illegal and potentially dangerous things you are getting yourself into and accept the fact that the Team will not be providing you with any support, then you are welcome to do what you like.”- Nathan Betzen Feb 14, 2016. see the whole blog post here.
Kodi has also fought back with posts from independent writers (Which Kodi heavily promoted on their own social media for maximum distribution) parroting its viewpoint. In an article by Engadget Senior HD editor Richard Lawler here, Lawler explains the fight between Kodi and YouTubers who promote third party addons heavily sourcing the same Kodi blog. In this excerpt from the story that appeared 2/14/16 Lawler sums up the controversy surrounding Kodi succinctly.
“One look around YouTube reveals setups touting “The Beast,” “Genesis” and others that promise access to current movies, cable TV and more without the issue of actually paying for any of them. “
Kodi’s Official addons do allow users to access copyrighted content without paying for it
Kodi says that their media center is meant to provide users access to legally digitized copies of a user’s own legitimately purchased media library be it Hollywood, blockbusters, music or personal movies and pictures. For the record, Kodi does perform this function beautifully.
Betzen’s claims that Kodi has a hands-off approach when it comes to how users interact with Kodi as far as third party addons that provide access to copyrighted material is fair enough. After all, I can use my Toshiba Satelite computer to access any number of things thatToshiba does not have anything to do with including torrents, pornography and more. But given such a stance on Kodi’s official blog then we should certainly expect that Kodi’s official addons would not provide access to copyrighted material without up front logins and legitimate portals to the content right? Well, my friends, this is not the case at the moment.
Included with any install of the media center available on Kodi’s official website here users have access to a large number of what the foundation would refer to as legit addons that do not violate any copyright laws. But the fact is that Kodi’s official addon repository contains access to a number of addons based on the US and international TV stations that provide direct access to programming which in any other case would require an authentication from a cable provider in order to access the information.
Want evidence of this, we got it.
The NBC Sports Extra add-on for Kodi contains a live section seen in the picture bellow
When users click the Golf Channel Live link they are immediately connected to a live stream of the Golf Channel. See the screen shot bellow and note the Kodi Media center UI at the bottom of the screen.
Now here is what happens if you try to access the same info via the NBC Sports website by clicking the Watch Live arrow in the center of the screen.
Users are asked to sign in with a cable provider. This is because the Golf Channel is part of a TV everywhere option meant for those who are paying for participating cable services. See pic bellow and note the NBC logo. Try this yourself here on the website http://www.golfchannel.com/
SyFy Content Without Authentification
Another example is the SyFy App, also available on Kodi’s official collection of addons.
We opened the SyFy app and chose to look at 12 Monkeys, chose episode 12 of the current season.
Here we choose to select 12 Monkees.
We choose episode 7 of 12 Monkeys Meltdown”.
Just like the NBC Sports Golf channel, 12 Monkees episode 7 was available, no login required. Again note the Kodi UI.
Again when we went to the SyFy channel website in order to test the same episode and see if it is available for free viewing, take a look at what happens.
We were again prompted to enter a cable login.
Is Kodi truly working to prevent its software from being used for Piracy? No
Both of these networks have apps for other platforms. The Roku App for SyFy also requires a cable log in to access full slates of programming. These two blatant examples show that Kodi does, in fact, deliver copyrighted content to users even when accessing official add-ons. They are not simply scraping content from a website and providing access to content available for free. They are somehow instead skirting the basic rules in place for using the content in the first place. If Kodi feels they are being unfairly targeted by companies like Amazon or that their reputation has been tarnished by unofficial addons like 1 Channel, the XBMC foundation had better give an explanation of that evidence. I feel that there is undeniable evidence that Kodi can be used to steal cable content and movies and that the XBMC foundation knows it. Those are after all their add-ons. So are pirates and hackers ruining the reputation of Kodi? Or are they expanding on it? For the record, I reached out numerous times to two representatives from The XBMC foundation for a period of over a month before choosing to publish this story. My contacts never returned my phone calls, text messages or skype messages.
Why are the creators of Kodi called the XBMC Foundation?
On a side note, if you are wondering why I keep referring to the XBMC foundation versus say vs say the Kodi Foundation or Corporation it is because the official name of the group of developers who started Kodi is the XBMC foundation. The term XBMC was a shortened version of the software’s original name The Xbox Media Center which was developed as a modification for the Xbox. Kodi was actually called XBMC for years before it put forth a name change meant to empower Kodi to be able to control how its software was referred to and marketed.