What is the Legal status of Kodi users in the UK – BBC Radio 5
In recent weeks, the legality or otherwise of so-called fully-loaded Kodi boxes has become a big topic. The devices are massively popular in the UK but are people going to get busted for using them? Almost certainly not, an intellectual property lawyer told the BBC this morning.
Unlike most other kinds of unauthorized online sharing, the way content is delivered through Kodi has exposed a whole new legal gray area. While it’s definitely illegal in Europe and the US to share copyrighted content without permission using BitTorrent, no one is really clear whether streaming content via Kodi has the same status.
In recent weeks, this has led to the publication of dozens of articles which claim to answer that question. Upon review, none of them actually do, so the topic remains hot in the UK.
To that end, BBC 5 Live ran a pretty long feature this morning which had host Adrian Chiles discussing the topic with FACT chief Kieron Sharp, intellectual property lawyer Steve Kuncewicz and technical guy Tom Cheesewright who really knew what he was talking about.
The start of the interview was marked by Chiles noting that when he found out what a Kodi device could do, he immediately wanted one.
“I’d never heard of them,” he said. “I heard what they were and then I wanted one. And then someone told me that they’re probably illegal, so I better not get one.”
Chiles’ reaction is probably held in common with millions of others who’ve learned about what Kodi devices can do. There’s a clear and totally understandable attraction, and it was helpful for the broadcaster to acknowledge that.
After a brief technological description from Cheesewright, Chiles turned to IP lawyer Steve Kuncewicz, who was asked where the law stands. His response was fairly lengthy but clearly focused on the people supplying the devices.
“You’ve got big content producers like HBO that are used to producing premium content that people pay for,” Kuncewicz said.
“Where they are directing their attention is on the people who sell these boxes loaded with software that lets you get around paying a subscription.”
The lawyer acknowledged that there are some ongoing cases in the UK which involve suppliers of devices which effectively allow users to get around copyright protection.
“That’s been the focus of the strategy and it’s a big, big, big issue,” he said.
But for those who know Chiles’ down-to-earth style, it was always obvious that he would want to know how the law views the man in the street.
“From the punter’s point of view, if you’re watching something made by HBO that Netflix would hope that you’d be paying them to watch, but you’re watching it for free via your Kodi stick, then are you going to get a knock on the door?” Chiles asked.
Chiles didn’t get a straight answer about the law, but after a breath, Kuncewicz offered the reality.
“In all likelihood, no,” the lawyer responded.
Noting that there have been cases against file-sharers, the IP expert said that there is a difference – a legal gray area – when it comes to streaming versus file-sharing.
“What tends to happen is that the content providers go after the ISPs, they go after platforms [offering pirate content], not the individual people,” he said, adding that getting a knock on the door at home would be fairly unlikely.