Amazon is one of the leaders in the anti-piracy crusade. Due to its position as a content creator and distributor Amazon has a major stake in preventing the distribution of copyrighted content. It houses original movies and TV shows as well as exclusive programming. Even the content it makes available via free services like IMDB TV are at risk if someone grabs content without allowing Amazon to monetize it. So Amazon has a number of reasons to engage in this fight. The issue is constantly evolving.
A recent article on Torrent Freak showed that Amazon and even eBay have cracked down on listings for devices marketed as fully loaded tv boxes or the old piracy shorthand “Kodi Box”. Of course, this cannot prevent users from finding listings for Android boxes, which are the key to the APK world. What that move does is prevent the novice user with little to no knowledge of how to use or install Android APKs from accessing pirated content and enriching those seeking to deliver it in the process. But there is a giant hole in the wall of defense against piracy. Amazon’s own devices. The Fire TV Stick and other Fire TV OS devices, which include TVs, Sound Bars, and multifunction speaker/streaming devices are by far the most popular platform for pirating in the industry. It’s not even close.
While the Torrent Freak article looked for listings for hardware specifically marketed for piracy any search for best piracy apps, or best live TV apps etc will pull in a never-ending listing of articles and youtube videos showing how to use a Fire TV stick to add APK’s or Kodi modifications used to access pirated content. And the thing is that in order to use a Fire TV device for such activities all a user has to do is go to settings and flip a switch. That really is it. You just tell the Fire TV that you would like to get apps from outside the Amazon App Store. After that using a couple of free apps in the Amazon App Store lets users add whatever they want. Compared to Roku and Apple TV, which have closed app stores, no browsers, and require real technical nohow and in the case of Apple TV multiple pieces of equipment such as a Mac computer to even begin to modify it or “jailbreak” the difference is night and day.
Android by its nature is an open operating system. This is a feature that has allowed developers a lot of freedom to develop a number of perfectly legal apps that provide users solutions to a number of needs and get them to market quickly. Fire TV is built on Android. It is essentially a stylized launcher. But if Amazon expects those in the know to take it seriously as a plaintiff in Piracy cases the idea of “Firesticking” being a way of saying pirating needs to be a thing of the past. There is still an entire mini-industry built around flipping one switch and turning the Fire TV stick into a $35.00 gateway to every movie and TV or live stream you want.
The Fire TV is a great streaming device without any modifications. Alexa is by far the most intuitive and interactive voice assistant on any streaming device, its live TV interface that integrates paid and free services is a model for the industry. There are a number of other very strong features on the Fire TV that we have talked about at length. But until it actually shuts down the ability to easily circumvent everything it says it’s fighting for in lawsuits it comes off like a candy manufacturer pushing for healthy eating. Amazon devices can’t be the most popular tool for piracy at the same time that the company sues device makers and APK developers.
It’s time for Amazon to build its own operating system. There are a number of examples of TV operating systems that do not depend on Android. Roku, Samsung’s Tizen, LGs Web OS, Apple TV, and Hesense’s VIDAA. So it is not as though Amazon has no way to develop its own. Its time.