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Kodi users were shocked to see the US Department of Justice warning letter
Kodi fans were left panicked after a warning letter from the US Department of Justice appeared to be shared on the firm's website.
Visitors who navigated to the official kodi.tv website – where the open-source media player software, as well as third-party add-ons, are downloaded – were met with what appeared to the a warning that the web domain had been seized by the authorities.
Those who visited the hugely-popular webpage were greeted with a warning that read, "This domain name has been seized by ICE – Homeland Security Investigations, pursuant to a seizure warrant by a United States District Court under the authority of 18 U.S.C 981 and 2323.”
It adds: "Wilful copyright infringement is a federal crime that carries penalties for first time offenders for up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine forfeiture and restitution (17 U.S.C 506, 18 U. S. C 2319).
“Intentionally and knowingly trafficking in counterfeit goods is a federal crime that carries penalties for first time offenders of up to ten years in federal prison, a $2,000,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution (18 U. S. C 2323).”
The warning that was posted on the Kodi website
However, it turns out the warning letter was a fake designed to respond to the controversy around the use of so-called Kodi boxes.
Kodi plastered the fraudulent letter from the US Department of Justice as part of an elaborate April Fools' Day prank.
Revealing the prank, the company was able to respond to the controversy around pirate-streaming devices, like those powered by Kodi software.
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Posting on its own forum, Kodi wrote: "Over the past months, and specifically while we’ve been migrating these pages, we’ve learned an enormous amount about the risks that third-party addons can bring – and, to be blunt, these are issues for you as well as for us.
"They leech off our infrastructure, from which they make money while we – you – pay for it from your donations.
"So, let’s be clear: Kodi does not provide content. It never has, and it never will.
"However, in the spirit and freedom of open source, we make no limitations on what other people choose to do with the program.
"We cannot morally or legally prevent people from modifying the code or shipping it with whatever hidden dangers they choose to: all we can do is defend our trademark and keep our own house (this site and forum) clean."
Earlier this week, Amazon announced a tough new stance against vendors who sell media players that allow customers to access pirate streams and copyright-protected material for free.
The US retail firm now explicitly bans all media players that "promote" or "suggest" the easy facilitation of piracy.
Kodi is a neutral, open-source media player software that can be used on a slew of different devices
Sellers who violate the policy could have any inventory stored in Amazon fulfilment centres destroyed – with no reimbursement, the company warns.
Amazon has never explicitly permitted the sale of these copyright-infringing set-top boxes, however, it was possible to find sellers within the online marketplace trying to sell them through the retail portal.
Kodi is one example of the software that can be used to power these "pirate" media players.
Kodi is a neutral, open-source media player software that can be installed on a broad range of devices.
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This legal software can be used to run third-party add-ons which enable users to access copyright-protected material for free – uploaded, shared or streamed from other users across the globe. And it's these ready-made "pirate" streaming devices, which are manufactured by a range of different brands but running Kodi and a slew of third-party add-ons, are colloquially dubbed Kodi Boxes.
Some estimates currently place 20 million devices running Kodi in use in the UK at the moment.
Kodi is not the only software that enables these types of "pirate" streaming devices – but it is one of the most well-known.
Amazon is very strict about its stance on devices that enable users free access copyrighted content
Last September, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) branded the use of Kodi software to tune into pirated streams as an "epidemic".
The news comes as the Premier League launched its "largest ever" crackdown on streaming devices, like fully-loaded Kodi Boxes.
Speaking to The Guardian, a spokesperson for the Premier League said: “The Premier League is currently engaged in its largest ever anti-piracy campaign to protect its copyright.
“Like other sports and creative industries our model is predicated on the ability to market and sell rights and protect our intellectual property.
"It is because of this that clubs can invest in and develop talented players, build world-class stadiums, support the English football pyramid and schools and communities across the country – all things that fans enjoy and wider society benefits from.”
The Premier League recently secured a hugely significant court order which is aimed at stopping rights-infringing video streams of its matches.
This new ruling gives the league the ability to block servers which are broadcasting the games – stopping users of Kodi and other streaming devices from tuning in for free.
Until now, rights holders could only close individual streams which could easily be restarted via a new server.
The Premier League says they are implementing the order because of concerns that fans are side-stepping premium pay services, such as Sky and BT Sport, who each pay huge sums for the rights to broadcast the matches.