Phil Walker

Phil Walker

Paralegal

Click here to view Phil’s profile

In April 2017, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the use and sale of devices which enable streaming of copyrighted material stored in temporary files amounts to copyright infringement. ‘Fully loaded boxes” or “Kodi boxes” are terms used throughout the media to describe devices used for streaming content.

What is Kodi?  Kodi Is an open-source media software designed for home entertainment. Capable of being downloaded on Google’s app store, Kodi is a legal media program. Unfortunately, Kodi is capable of being adapted by ‘third party developers’ who modify the program to allow ‘third party addons’ to be installed. These third party addons make accessible copyrighted material, whether that be movies, TV shows or live sports, often free of charge.

Prior to the ECJ’s ruling, these developers exploited a legal loophole which appeared to permit the copyright material to be lawfully distributed as it was stored on temporary files and was not download and stored permanently. However, the ECJ has now clarified that streaming with the use of Kodi or similar platforms will breach the rights of the copyright holder.

What does this mean?  Ultimately, those who sell, buy or own these boxes with the intention of streaming copyrighted works without the copyright owner’s consent could face a penalty, and in certain circumstances, a prison sentence. This year, the Digital Economy Act 2010 was altered and the maximum prison sentence for copyright infringement was increased from 2 years to 10 years. Presumably, these sentences will be reserved for the developers and distributors as opposed to an end user, but this shows a shift towards greater protection for copyright owners.

With this landmark ruling, the decline of developers has been evident in the third-party developer community, with many developers now closing down their services. As of this month (September), the biggest developer “TVAddons Fusion” has closed all services which has seen a huge reduction in available streaming content.  

The UK courts are currently hearing a number of cases surrounding the use of such boxes and streaming services which will have a huge significance for the creative industry. Many leading retailers have already stopped the sale of devices with Kodi preinstalled (despite it not being an illegal program).  

How the courts will fair with the mammoth task of ensuring copyright holders are afforded their rightful protection and how the authorities will track the everyday user of Kodi certainly raises further questions; the key one being- how much surveillance will an internet provider be entitled to do without intruding on an end-user’s personal and private information and will this bring about new terms when entering into a contract with your internet provider?