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The Intellectual Property Office has criticised Kodi Boxes
Kodi has come under fire yet again for the role it plays in facilitating digital piracy in the UK.
Of course, Kodi itself is not illegal – and does not offer access to pirated material out-of-the-box.
Kodi is a neutral, open-source media player that can be installed on a broad range of devices – from discount set-top boxes powered by Android, to known brands, like Amazon Fire TV Stick.
However, Kodi has gained an unfortunate reputation thanks to the way some third-party developers leverage the platform.
Third-party add-ons and plugins can enable access to premium television channels and copyrighted material on-demand without the right-holders’ permission.
Set-top boxes, preloaded with the Kodi media player and a whole slew of these piracy-focused add-ons, are colloquially known as Kodi Boxes.
And it’s these adapted set-top boxes that are criticised by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in its latest report.
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Although the IPO does not single-out Kodi, it does claim that these "illicitly adapted set-top boxes" can "threaten to undermine recent progress" in anti-piracy efforts in the UK.
According to the IPO, research conducted by Kantar Media has found that around seven million Britons are now guilty of online piracy, with 13 per cent of those using a modified set-top box to stream copyrighted material.
That’s a significant step-up from the five million people in the UK that use pirated TV streaming services via so-called Kodi Boxes, Amazon Fire TV Chipped Sticks, and illegal streaming apps, according to YouGov data from earlier this year.
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While the UK Intellectual Property Office slammed the role of "illicitly adapted set-top boxes”, it went out of its way to praise the influence of "innovative" services like Netflix and Spotify.
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“Streaming giants such as Netflix and Spotify have helped keep online infringement in check with innovative new streaming models,” the IPO claimed.
Ros Lynch, Copyright and IP Enforcement Director at the IPO, said: “It’s great that legal streaming sites continue to be a hugely popular choice for consumers.
This government takes IP infringement extremely seriously and we are working with our industry partners and law enforcement to tackle this emerging threat
Ros Lynch, IPO
“The success and popularity of these platforms show the importance of evolution and innovation in the entertainment industry.
“Ironically it is innovation that also benefits those looking to undermine IP rights and benefit financially from copyright infringement.
“There has never been more choice or flexibility for consumers of TV and music, however illicit streaming devices and stream-ripping are threatening this progress.
“Content creators deserve to be paid for their work – it is not a grey area. This government takes IP infringement extremely seriously and we are working with our industry partners and law enforcement to tackle this emerging threat.”
The news comes as the team behind the Kodi software confirmed that a swathe of third-party add-ons have ceased to work on the platform following a crackdown on online piracy.
Back in May, the Digital Economy Act received royal assent – and increased the maximum jail sentence for copyright infringement in the UK from two to three years.
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Separately, the European Court of Justice ruled that streaming copyright-protected material without the right-holders permission was illegal.
The combination of this landmark ruling and the increase in sanctions for those who infringe copyright has led some developers to abandon Kodi.
In early June, Kodi fans saw one of the most popular destinations for third-party add-ons removed from the web.
TVAddons, which hosted a number of add-ons that enabled free streaming of copyright-protected material, was taken offline completely.
Writing on its official blog, Kodi said: “Due to recent legal action against websites and repositories promoting add-ons that use pirated (stolen) media content, many have shut-down their services.
“This is driving a large increase in users complaining in our forums and on social media about their 'Kodi Box' no longer working.”
Kodi is run by a team of unpaid developers who volunteer their time and expertise to create the hugely-popular media player and manage the brand.
“If you post in our forums or social channels about a pirate add-on or streaming service not working please expect ZERO sympathy or support. We don't care,” the blog post is at pains to point out.
“We care less than not caring. We don't care biggly. And to counter a popular comment; if the Kodi userbase drops a huge percentage because pirate services flee or die, we're fine with that.
“Kodi has been around since 2002 and we are not going to implode or disappear (unlike the pirates).
“Life will be a little quieter, but less time spent on self-entitled whiny people means more time writing great code and having fun. We're okay with that too.”