Without a doubt, there is a lot of advertising going on in the media for Kodi. However, most of this comes from bad press of the software.
You hear of Kodi boxes, Kodi add-ons and copyright infringement all muttered in the same breath.
This leads many users or would-be users to wonder if Kodi is, in fact, legal and safe to use.
There are reasons why it is in the media spotlight, but this doesn’t detract from the legal issues involved.
Users may be surprised that there is nothing illegal about Kodi; rather, it is the add-ons and third-party developers, which are causing this attention.
This guide will go through all you need to know about how is Kodi legal, why it isn’t, and what you can do to make sure you are protected.
Kodi is a free and open-source. It was first developed by the XBMC foundation for use on the original Xbox.
Its function was to perform as an entertainment media player, to play videos, music from local network storage or over the internet.
It has seen many updates along the way and is now available to run on macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android, Linux.
Because of this, there is all manner of devices which users can use, such as TV’s, computers, media players, tablets, and smartphones.
The latest version of Kodi is Kodi v18 Leia. This has been long-awaited because it brings a raft of improvements in many areas. Two of the key areas being how Kodi can handle Live TV and music libraries.
While some open, source software still requires a license. Kodi is FOSS (free and open-source software), and it is this reason it is openly available for anyone to modify as they wish.
The modded versions can run in all manner of areas, but it is this, which attracts users of the Kodi app.
It makes Kodi flexible, and the first place this can be seen is in the user interface. There are hundreds of skins, which transform the look of Kodi, so users can personalize their experience.
For the more tech-savvy, they have gone a step further and created the ominous third-party add-ons.
It is these, which pull all the attention toward Kodi as if it was the apps fault. These plug-ins are available in official addons and also unofficial-add-ons.
The official ones were introduced as a way for Kodi to enter the mainstream as a viable option for streaming without the gray clouds hanging over its head.
Some of the top legal add-ons allow you to access the BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify among many others.
There are enough legal sources to keep anyone happy, yet they don’t deliver the most recent movies and TV shows free.
Kodi continues to grow in popularity because it can play nearly any file format; it can combine all your media files from any device and make them accessible anywhere.
If you have Kodi installed on multiple devices, you can stream media from a cell phone to an Amazon FireStick or anywhere else where you wish to watch.
The question now comes down to how far you can go before you are breaking the law. These next sections go some way to clarify this.
Regardless of any result, the recommendation is that all Kodi users install a VPN before legally using Kodi, or if they wish to go to the dark side and use these add-ons.
Is Kodi Legal?
In this section, we will cover as much as possible to find out, is Kodi legal, and how different countries affect the answer.
The most significant problem with determining the legality of Kodi is there are no clear rules on streaming copyrighted content.
While it is certainly frowned upon by the likes of the movie studios, TV broadcasters and the likes of Sky and many others.
You can download Kodi from the Microsoft Store, Google Play Store as well as a host of other areas, so if Kodi were illegal, this action wouldn’t be possible.
This shows that Kodi is, as a standalone app 100% legal. It is when copyright laws are broken by these add-ons, which pulls users under the legal radar.
There have been several individuals in certain areas, who have in fact received copyright notices because they were streaming this type of content.
One other thing to note is the developers of Kodi work with the Software Freedom Law Center, which is a body that helps developers with trademark and copyright regulations and laws.
This is a simple answer, but things can become more complicated.
The Kodi developers have no control over what a third party adds on can do. This streaming of free content, which is clearly stepping on the toes of copyright infringement, will be classed as illegal.
This again will depend on the country you live in. Here is a rough breakdown of the more common areas.
The EU (European Union)
The legal clarity in the EU is murky because it appears streaming of copyrighted content is not considered an offense.
This goes back to a ruling in 2014 from the European Courts of Justice.
The ruling showed that copyright was not infringed because the streaming of copyrighted content is only held on a user’s device temporarily.
It came to the conclusion that the downloading of free content is strictly illegal, yet the streaming of content isn’t.
As a result, the add-ons for Kodi mostly deal with streaming as opposed to downloading, so there is no legal issue in the EU.
Things change slightly for hardware sales of “fully loaded” devices. These Kodi boxes are sold with all the add-ons pre-installed.
These boxes are like regular TV set-top boxes and can be used to access all manner of free content, and even TV subscription services where there is no need to pay any subscription.
These loaded boxes are classed as illegal not just in the EU, but most other countries. The waters became muddied even more because, on the one hand, they were saying streaming wasn’t unlawful, and the hardware itself wasn’t illegal.
Yet, when there are individuals selling the two as one unit, then this is classed as illegal.
Selling Fully Loaded Kodi Devices
From the above, it appears, if you have a device and you install Kodi, you are not breaking the law. If you stream any illicit content, you are not breaking the law.
If you purchase a Kodi box that is fully loaded, you are committing an illegal act.
This has been further enforced by some significant arrests in the EU. The UK is one of the most prominent.
Malcolm Mayes was fined $325,000 when he was caught advertising and selling “Fully loaded Kodi Boxes.”
Others have been imprisoned for this offense, and from their proceeds, you can see there is a significant demand for these devices, and for apps like Kodi.
Again, in the UK, there are some major establishments which have been victims of these devices, and none is much larger than the Premier League is.
They went as far as to have a ruling introduced by the British Courts which will enable the largest ISP’s in the UK to block connections that are hosting any illegal streams of these copyright-protected League matches.
Kodi in the USA
Just like the EU and the UK, things are not at all clear in the USA. Even before the Kodi name came about, there was a bill named S.978.
This wanted to make streaming of content which was copyrighted a felony. This bill failed to be passed by Congress.
Because of this, it appears you can stream copyrighted videos, music or whatever, and you are not doing anything wrong.
Is Kodi legal in the USA? At present, it appears it is legal as long as users follow the direction of the EU.
While this is the legal side of things, there is another side which is very different. If you take part in downloading any content, you can find yourself in breach of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).
Streamers can face copyright trolls. These organizations such as the MPAA (Motion Pictures Association of America), the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and some of the US ISP’s monitor this kind of activity.
These organizations make use of lawyers who take it onto themselves to threaten individuals who take part in Kodi streaming.
Once caught, these individuals are requested to make substantial financial settlements.
While they can target anyone, they usually go after larger fish then end users because there is little value in prosecuting one person.
If an individual is requested to attend court, they do need to attend and face the court because a no show automatically means they have lost.
Is Kodi Safe?
Above, we sought to find out, is Kodi illegal? No, it isn’t illegal if you install it yourself on your own device.
To a certain degree in any country, you can stream. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions, just in case.
We should look at the safety of using Kodi, and not just protection against copyright trolls. There are things that may happen from using an unofficial Kodi add-on.
Is it safe to use? The official app itself is, but the way it is used may not be safe at all for a few reasons.
Kodi is open-source and can be modified by anyone. It is this uncertainty that stops Apple from offering Kodi as an official app in their app store.
While it isn’t available from Apple, you can find lots of places where Kodi.TV download is available.
It is these places where a user can download a Kodi file, and sideload it on to a device which has been jailbroken. These can be modified to do anything once they are on a device.
Another area is a man in the middle attacks. These happen when data becomes intercepted as it travels from its source to the destination.
This is then corrupted in some way, and can easily infect the destination device.
A prime example being Real Debrid. This service is a multi-hoster which takes file links from numerous sources.
They aggregate these links and send this to the user who has an account. In Kodi, these show up as additional streaming links.
However, there is every opportunity for a man in the middle attack in this kind of scenario. This doesn’t mean Real-Debrid does this, but it shows how easy it can be.
Staying Safe with a VPN
The problem is that there is no saying what happens to data before it reaches your device. Most connections take place using the HTTP protocol rather than HTTPS.
Using a VPN can go some way to mitigate these threats. Not only this, because your data is encrypted, it prevents your ISP and copyright trolls from seeing what you are accessing with Kodi.
The top-level VPN’s come with a kill switch. This stops all apps accessing the internet if your VPN loses its connection for a second.
This means you can’t accidentally leak your IP address that can be associated with any free content.
The best VPN service for streaming with Kodi, downloading and for bypassing geo-restrictions is ExpressVPN.
This is ideal for users in the EU, the USA, or any other country where they may have concerns over the legality of Kodi and its add-ons.
There are other VPN’s, but this one continues to be the most reliable and robust to stop copyright trolls and ISP’s from watching, tracking and taking action against Kodi users.