San Francisco
02 October 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

EFF chimes in on Kodi debate

Legal action against Kodi IPTV box add-on manufacturers are an attempt to expand the scope of secondary copyright infringement, and smear and discourage open source, freely configurable media players by focusing on “bad actors”, according to digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

In a blog post, Jeremy Malcolm senior global policy analyst and Mitch Stoltz senior staff attorney at the EFF, said the recent availability of plugins for Kodi set-top boxes has made it the latest target of “Hollywood’s copyright enforcement juggernaut”.

Kodi first released in 2002 as XMBC, which Malcolm and Stoltz describe as “an obscure piece of free software that geeks used to manage their home media collections”.

Since then, the software, alongside other streaming media boxes, has seen a breadth of legal action in the EU and UK In the US, streaming boxes appeared as an enforcement priority in the US Trade Representative’s 2017 Special 301 Report.

The Court of Justice of the European Union also clarified its position on the streaming boxes in April, ruling that any media player marketed and sold with pre-installed software allowing access to pirated content infringes the copyright owner’s right of distribution to the public.

This legal threat led to an exodus of Kodi add-on developers who, under threat from copyright infringement lawsuits, abandoned their add-ons and shut down their operations.

However, Malcolm and Stoltz say that those who sell Kodi boxes, or write add-ons for the software are not engaging in unauthorised copying.

Malcolm and Stoltz say that a lawsuit brought by multiple Canadian telecommunications companies against Kodi add-on developer, TVAddons, sought to skirt important safe harbour exemptions by arguing that “merely hosting, distributing and promoting Kodi add-ons, the TVAddons administrator is liable for inducing or authorising copyright infringements later committed using those add-ons”.

“This argument, were it to succeed, would create new uncertainty and risk for distributors of any software that could be used to engage in copyright infringement.”

According to Malcolm and Stoltz, the lawsuits from big TV companies are aimed at expanding “the scope of secondary copyright infringement, to force major Kodi add-on distributors off of the Internet, and to smear and discourage open source, freely configurable media players by focusing on the few bad actors in that ecosystem”.

The duo adds: “The courts should reject these expansions of copyright liability, and TV networks should not target neutral platforms and technologies for abusive lawsuits.”

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