There’s many legal implications which will directly result from the UK’s decision to leave the European Union many of these will definitely be in the area of internet and copyright law. Take for example the discussions mentioned in our last post regarding the use of the increasingly popular Kodi media box.
Now Kodi is simply some software that allows you to stream video of any sort from a myriad of devices onto your TV screen. It’s fairly standard stuff however what makes Kodi so popular is the hundreds of add-ons that expand the capability of the software. These programs allow Kodi to stream all sorts of copyrighted material from Sky, BBC, BT and Netflix to name but a few. What makes it even more popular is that you can bypass the technical configuration required and by a pre-installed media box with all that done for you.
You can see why for the cost of one months subscription someone would be tempted to buy a full set up box capable of streaming every Sky Channel from movies to Sports. No subscriptions, no ongoing costs – just buy the box and stream for nothing. With many people’s Sky accounts costing about £20 a week it’s not surprising that they became so popular.
One of the main legal protections people have currently for using these Kodi installed media boxes is a ruling by the European courts that merely streaming copyrighted content (as opposed to copying it) was not illegal. So someone simply watching something as per Kodi, using a free smart DNS Netflix solution or a VPN then is not actually illegal currently. This has meant the copyright holders have pursued the sellers and distributors of these boxes rather than the individuals.
Of these perhaps the VPN is the safest option simply because you can firstly completely hide your location and the software functions without any specific configuration to download movies or films online. However the others you can easily argue are specifically designed to watch copyrighted material.
Many people have of course, been downloading movies and films online for decades however it is Kodi which has probably moved this into the mainstream. Downloading torrents anonymously like this takes a fair amount of computing knowledge – whereas buying a pre-configured Kodi box is no harder than setting up a DVD player. Which is why the UK’s Intellectual Property Office is taking such a keen interest, no doubt heavily pushed by the mainstream media companies of course.
It’s likely that using these devices will become illegal much more quickly as a result of Brexit as the IPO will have more direct powers and are not as constrained as the European courts. Also much of the legislation is already in place but just needs slight adjustments to encompass the people who use Kodi boxes to stream copyrighted material.
At the moment, there’s much confusion about copyright laws and the how this affects the ability to stream films and TV shows online. The arguments seem to be focussing on media streaming boxes installed with software called Kodi which effectively facilitates streaming subscription only services.
It’s not surprising these boxes have become so popular, for a small one off investment, you can purchase a box which gives full access to subscription services like Sky which can cost nearly £100 a month. The android based media streamer bypasses the subscription requirements and enables you to watch the latest cinema and TV. Companies like Sky are obviously not impressed with this, maintaining that it is little more than theft, you can see their point when they pay out billions in copyright and licensing fees only to see all their programmes streamed through a Russian server for nothing.
The Court of Justice of the European Union, probably the forerunner in trying to establish some sort of order in the digital world has ruled that you’re not actually breaking the law by streaming content. So tools which allow this are perfectly fine too, you can stream via a VPN or sit and watch the Test match on your Kodi box. So presumably are the millions of people who use things like Smart DNS and proxies to change their Netflix region although they would be merely switching their subscription rather than avoiding it.
There are lots of complications though and much seems to be centred on the Kodi software. At it’s core, it’s merely a piece of software which streams movies over the internet, however to individuals it’s much more. When you use Kodi with all the various add-ons available it can provide access to just about any piece of media on the internet – legitimate or stolen. After installation no real technical knowledge is required, in fact many of the pre-loaded boxed look remarkably similar to the media boxes provided by the media companies themselves.
It is however these boxes which are being targeted by the authorities as being the most likely route to making downloading copyrighted material a criminal offence. The problem for them is at the moment the EU copyright exemption makes streaming and viewing different from making a physical copy or downloading, Which is why no Kodi user has yet been successfully prosecuted.
The manufacturers and retailers however look first in the firing line, in the UK there have been several raids on individuals who are selling pre-configured and installed Kodi boxes. They seem to be much more of a priority for companies to target as opposed to providers such as VPN services which perform a totally legitimate service of security. These battles seem to be being fought on a technical level rather than a legal one – read this My VPN Stopped Working.
It is likely though that eventually using a pre-installed Kodi box to download or stream copyrighted material is going to land you in trouble. It’s actually fairly easy to detect users and if it becomes illegal, you can be assured that a big clampdown would follow as it’s already costing companies like SKy millions every year in lost subscriptions.