September 2019

Is it legal?

Is it legal?

 

After “What exactly is Kodi?”, the second most common question we often get asked is “Is Kodi legal?”.

The two questions are of course linked, but with the recent media reporting concerning piracy the answer to the legality is sometimes not so clear to the man in the street. Due to various 3rd party addons, the app has gained an unwanted reputation as being a “way to get movies and TV shows for free”.

This is not helped at all by certain unscrupulous websites and YouTube bloggers who encourage and perpetuate the myth, simply to increase their traffic from web users and earn more cash from the site sponsors. So it may be worthwhile to try and officially answer the legality question, and at least in part for usage one as well.

 

So what is Kodi?

Put simply the “reference Kodi”, which is the one supplied by Team Kodi and available from our website along with selected official app stores (Google and Windows for example) is a media centre. Underneath the hood is a powerful media player to play back video or audio files, but coupled to that is the flexible user interface and library system for storing and displaying posters, plot and cast information and other supporting metadata.

As supplied, reference Kodi does not ship with any media at all, nor are any media-providing addons pre-installed. What it does come with though is a catalogue of vetted and approved addons (our official repo) which can be installed from within the Kodi GUI by the user, enabling access to a selection of legitimate sources.

The intended usage case is that the user will either supply their own media files stored locally on their network for Kodi to access, or that they will install the addons that they wish to use.

 

Then is it legal?

As we supply it, Kodi is totally legal.

If the user is supplying their own media for Kodi to play, then the provenance and legality of that media is their own responsibility, as is any possible consequences of them having it in their possession. Similarly if they actively choose to install an addon within Kodi, it is their decision and responsibility to do so.

Where things become murkier is the area of third party addons. Kodi is designed to be extendable, and addons are available through third party repositories as well as from the official sources. It should be noted firstly that in reference Kodi this third party capability is disabled by default, and must be specifically enabled (along with a warning message and confirmation) by the user before third party sources can be used. If this is enabled, then additional repos can be installed and addons obtained from them. As the name suggests, these third party addons and repos are neither produced by, supported by nor endorsed by Team Kodi.

Sadly there are many third party addons out there which enable access to pirated media or streams, in violation of copyright laws. This has in the past led users who make use of them into legal difficulties alongside legal action being taken against those who write and supply such addons. This of course is something we wish to avoid, as by the nature of the press our name and brand gets associated with their activities, and the infamous “Kodi Box” has become synonymous with piracy (even though there is strictly no such thing, as we do not produce, sell or endorse hardware media devices).

 

How do I spot a dodgy deal?

As with any deal, common sense is your best yardstick. But there are a number of pointers to guide you when things may be less than kosher, be it for a device or for a third party addon:

  • if you are being offered media (TV shows, TV channels, events or movies) for free that you would normally expect to pay for.
  • if you are being offered media that you wouldn’t normally have access to privately (for example movies currently playing in theatres or not yet on DVD/streaming release).
  • if you are being sold a device by someone claiming to be Kodi or officially endorsed by them (for example by their website using our brand name and/or logo).
  • if the device is being sold as preconfigured to enable immediate access to online media sources.
  • if the supplier website or channel is plastered with ads for VPNs and other similar methods to “cover your tracks”, and doubly so if the article says that they are required.
  • if the deal is “too good to be true”.

In the end always ask yourself this question – “if I were offered this in a pub car park or a market, would I buy it?”.

The official built-in repo has been audited by Team Kodi. No addon within it makes use of non-legitimate sources, nor does their code pose a malware risk if installed. As this audit is not done on any other third party source, the user should beware and confirm that they are happy to trust the source before using it, or at least are prepared to accept any repercussions from doing so.

 

So what about torrents, storage sites and builds?

These again can be grey areas in terms of legality and trustworthiness.

Whilst we do allow addons which give access to torrents and web storage sites (OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Mega etc), we do not allow any into the official repo which come pre-packaged with sources included. Again this comes down to user choice and responsibility. The user can do what he likes with the software, as long as it is done with their understanding of what they are doing and that they take personal responsibility for their actions.

One thing that we do not support at all is builds, as by their very nature they take away that user choice. Even aside from the fact that most are simply there to provide access to pirated media via dodgy addons, they also take away the users consensual choice as to what is being installed on their devices. There has been more than one example of malware being bundled into certain builds, or other unwelcome inclusions which subvert and often break Kodi functionality. As we had nothing to do with such breakages, we of course do not wish to have to support fixing them.

 

The final verdict

So is Kodi legal? As we supply it, the answer is yes.

But as the old saying goes, “it’s not what you have, it’s how you use it”, and in this case also where you got it from. If it has been sourced from elsewhere, or if something has been added or modified since it was obtained, then all guarantees are null and void. We won’t tell you what to do, not to do or how to use our software. We guarantee the reference Kodi we supply, anything beyond that is up to you.

Finances and more!

As we approach Kodi DevCon (our annual team member conference) we continue our quest for greater transparency and openness in how the project is managed. We’d like to touch on project finances: specifically where the money comes from, and where it goes.

Outreach is a major expense. In the last year Team Kodi members presented at:

 

  • FOSDEM – both @yol and @lrusak gave talks (here and here)
  • Open Source Leadership Summit – @natethomas spoke (slides)
  • SCALE – @natethomas spoke, How to Destroy a Community (video, overview and slides)
  • Linaro Connect – @lrusak spoke (video)

 

Team members also attended:

 

Some attendance costs are fully covered by the conference organizers. Sometimes our team members pay their own way. Mostly Kodi funds or part-funds a trip. Your donations allow the team to play an ongoing and active part in the Open Source community; both sharing our own knowledge with others, and learning from them so we can make Kodi better.

 

Server infrastructure, hosting, bandwidth and CDN services, build servers, hardware items for testing, and some minor subscriptions, e.g. accounting software (as we need to file tax returns) are lesser but regular recurring costs. Some are offset by sponsors, most we fund ourselves.

Kodi DevCon is our largest expense of the year. We are a global team and the project talks mainly in text, via the forums or Slack. This creates endless opportunities for cultural, linguistic and more general misunderstanding. DevCon typically brings 20-30 team members together somewhere in a cheaper part of Europe and gives them a chance to speak face-to-face, share ideas, share some drinks and laughs – helping to defuse tensions that build up. We also get to talk about Kodi a lot (even more than normal) which spares our partners for a few days. They do get sick of hearing about it 🙂

The project has three sources of funding: sponsorships, public donations, and sales of Kodi branded tee-shirts and Raspberry Pi ‘flirc’ cases. There is zero advertising on our website and in our application – and this will never change (we reject many emails from advertising sales people each week). While we need to raise funds to cover our annual costs, we are not motivated by money, and nobody is paid by our foundation – we are 100% volunteers.

 

Kodi is free – and will always be an Open Source (GPL) project – because we chose to be Open Source and because it is impossible for us to change our license. We have never required contributors to submit a CLA, so they own the rights to their code, and a license change would need the permission of all contributors. Our oldest code (c.2002) cannot be attributed to a single author, and solving that would need us to rewrite an impractical volume of code. And the team simply wouldn’t allow the license change; especially @spiff our resident Viking who has been around since the original Xbox days.

 

We do like sponsors – as long as they are relevant and publicly supportive of Open Source software. Sponsoring Kodi does not bring any special treatment or influence on the team, and all sponsors are vetted by the board. Past sponsors have donated cash to our Foundation (our preferred option) or provided developers with hardware (spec. kit to write code on, not test samples) and one even bankrolled DevCon which was awesome. Current Gold sponsors provide us with free services (e.g. site hosting) which saves us a fortune. You can see their names in the footer of this page and we cannot thank them enough!

 

We are proud to announce our latest Diamond sponsor – Libre Computer, who manufacture a range of Allwinner, Amlogic and Rockchip single-board computer hardware for industrial and hobbyist use-cases (including HTPCs). We are normally shy when hardware vendors approach us with an offer of sponsorship, but Libre Computer has been funding a range of Open Source projects and Linux multimedia development that directly benefits the ecosystem around them in addition to their own products. We like their approach to FOSS, and we appreciate their support.

 

Interested in individually supporting us? – there are several ways:

 

  • Our Donate page has Credit Card, PayPal, BTC and Wire Transfer info
  • Amazon (US) will donate 0.5% of your purchases to registered non-profit organizations of any US purchases via smile.amazon.com.  We are listed as “Kodi Foundation” and here is a link to sign up: Amazon Smile

 

Thank you to everyone who contributes to Kodi and hopefully makes it possible for the team to have our developer conference in October – and if you know of a company contributing to Open Source who might be interested in becoming a Kodi sponsor, please drop us a line.

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Kodi “Leia” 18.4 Release

Another couple of months have passed since we last pushed out a release, and so, in our ongoing efforts to produce the best media software in the world, it’s time to squash another few of those more irritating bugs. Usual rules apply: don’t expect any new features, don’t think that this will change your life, it won’t make you richer or more attractive, but it will hopefully be more stable and usable for people who’ve been victims of any of these bugs.

So, what have we done? Well, you can find a full summary of closed pull requests here, but the summary would be…

Interface

  • Fix Missing text when sorting from inside addon
  • Clear/save focus-history when leaving window with focus on parent folder item
  • Picture slideshow fixes (Estuary)
  • Subscribe to controller install events (games)
  • Fix radio button text length (Estuary)
  • Fix season/episode formatting for video addons (video)
  • Don’t consider display mode ids constant (Android)

Playback/Display

  • Fix PlayMedia builtin for playlists (.strm) and “artists” smart playlists (music)
  • Fix PlayMedia builtin for smart playlists and playlists (music)
  • FFmpeg: Bump to 4.0.4-Leia-18.4
  • Load program from stream property without using streaminfo (video)
  • Fix initialization of AVD3D11VAContext structure (video, Windows)
  • Fix TS resume point, related to PR16314 (video)
  • Fixed memory leak, fixed segfault (video, Linux)
  • Fix PAPlayer to handle passthrough for TrueHD (audio)

PVR

  • Fix component dependencies
  • PVRRecordings: Prevent concurrent calls to video database

Other/General fixes

  • Use first protocol from add-on in add network dialog
  • Use exact matching for protocol in file+dir factories
  • Use of absolute paths in combination with hosts in URLs
  • Fix file times for vfs addons
  • Fix + sign HTTP folder
  • Corrections to filesystem CircularCache initialization and termination
  • Controller fixes
  • Delete stream details when video info is refreshed
  • Do not attempt to further resolve plugin paths for failing entries
  • Revert “fixed: We should always update stream details from player…”

Many – indeed, most – of these fixes are hidden deep inside Kodi and really shouldn’t be obvious to most people; unless you’re doing something that regularly hits one of them, you’ll really never notice. That said, they’re all real bugs, and real fixes, so thanks as always to all who found a bug, took the time to report it and, in some cases, provided a fix.

The full v18.4 changelog can be found in our GitHub milestone. If you want to read back on what was actually changed in v18 itself, you can find the corresponding articles in the blog posts – Kodi 18Kodi 18.1Kodi 18.2, and Kodi 18.3.

As usual, Kodi roll out on different platforms (notably, Google Play and the Microsoft Store) varies due to circumstances outside of our control. It may thus take a few more days, so just stay tuned.