A trader in Middlesbrough is standing trial for selling media streaming devices that come pre-loaded with software, allowing un-paid for access to copyright protected content, including Premier League matches and all the latest blockbuster movies and TV series.
Commonly known as KODI or Android boxes, these devices can be picked up for a relative pittance – from £20ish and up – and plugged in to your television to access media content that you would usually have to subscribe to, or shell out on for the physical media to view. The boxes, sold in their thousands through retailers including ebay and Amazon, are usually advertised using terms such as ‘Fully-loaded’ or (incorrectly) ‘Jailbroken’ and have seemingly increased in popularity quite dramatically in these last couple of years.
It should be pointed out that, in and of itself, KODI is a perfectly legitimate piece of software – I use it myself and it is near peerless in terms of organising and presenting your locally owned and stored media - but it’s free, open source nature and the fact it can run third party add-ons - think apps or plug-ins - means it can be leveraged to access file sharing or potentially illegal streaming websites from which the content can be accessed.
In fact, the team behind KODI vehemently oppose the selling of these pre-loaded boxes but, given the fact it’s a voluntary, non-profit organisation resources to fight these sellers are naturally very limited and it looks as though they’re fighting a lost cause, at least for now. It could even be argued that KODI is a victim of its own greatness in presenting unscrupulous developers the opportunity to present these nefarious websites in attractive, Netflix-esque interfaces. There has been talk amongst the KODI team to block the installation of third party (non-official) add-ons but it’s unlikely to happen in the near future as many feel it would hinder development of the project.
It should also be said that labelling these devices as ‘Android Boxes’ is also somewhat misleading; KODi can run on Windows, OS X, iOS, various flavours of Linux and more but the low cost Android hardware, usually provided by far eastern manufacturers, has naturally made it a popular choice. We could also argue that the reputation of KODI is being unfairly tarnished as the same content can be accessed via virtually any web browser, numerous apps that appear on Google Play and the Apple App Store and via other software platforms, including PLEX, but there’s no doubt KODI proliferates.
The case in Middlesbrough, brought against a Mr Brian Thomson who runs ‘Cut Price Tomo’s TV’ in the town, is the first of its type to reach the County courts in the UK and hinges on the fact that his wares were sold pre-loaded with certain third party add-ons that allow easy access to the content. Had he sold them in their ‘vanilla’ state – at least in most cases – he would have had nothing to answer for; it would then have been down to the purchaser to configure the box to get to the materials which, in all honesty, is very easy to do – an extremely popular video sharing website has numerous guides contained within it, for example.
The outcome of the case will certainly be interesting to follow but, in reality, it’s going to do very little to stem the tide of piracy and the fact a small independent is being targeted is somewhat ironic, given that certain multinational retailers have been complicit in the sales of fully loaded boxes for some time now. People will continue to buy cheap media boxes even if they don’t come pre-configured and either learn to do it for themselves or it’s likely they ‘know a man who can’.
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