Skip to main content

Why Kodi isn't illegal: Cutting through the media's misreporting

At least over here in the UK, media stories about police raids relating to Kodi boxes and the authorities "cracking down" are becoming more and more frequent. But here's the thing: Mostly these stories sensationalize for a headline and gloss over the actual meat of the subject.

But here's the thing: Kodi is not and will not become illegal.

Why Kodi isn't illegal

Kodi

Simply put, Kodi is just a piece of media software. When you install it, it's completely empty, void of any content from your own library or the internet at large. It's a media solution, pure and simple. In a similar vein to the old Windows Media Center, Kodi is a front to give you access to all your content in one place.

Even the add-ons aren't illegal, or at least, the ones provided in the official Kodi repository aren't. That's not to say there isn't a whole bunch of shady goings on, though.

All about Kodi: What it is and how you get it

So what is illegal?

Kodi

Using Kodi to gain access to pirated content is illegal. How you pirate content is irrelevant, be it through Kodi, a web browser, torrents, it doesn't matter. Piracy is piracy and it's illegal. That means if you're installing third-party add-ons to access paid content for free you're breaking laws.

In the UK, for example, the big deal is how Kodi is being used to access Premier League football streams. Sky and BT own the rights to show live matches and an increasing number of people are using Kodi to get access to these without being a subscriber.

But even that isn't going to make Kodi illegal because it's just a shell. You can use Windows 10 and Microsoft Edge to access the same content.

The crackdown

The apparent crackdown by authorities isn't related to Kodi, and that's where the misinformation gets out of hand. It's also giving the service a bad name where it isn't deserved. Because Kodi is open-source and available to use on a number of different platforms, it makes it fairly easy to modify and do unscrupulous things with.

What is the subject of police action is the sale of so-called "fully loaded" Kodi boxes. These are usually fairly cheap Android-powered set-top boxes that have had the Kodi app installed and a host of piracy-enabling add-ons pre-loaded. These boxes are then being sold to the public as a way to watch pay TV for free. This is illegal, just as it is to sell bootleg DVDs and Blu-Ray discs.

It's these boxes that are being misreported as "Kodi boxes," because truthfully there is no such thing. Kodi doesn't pre-install itself on any set-top boxes officially, so buying one "fully loaded" means it's been altered in some way.

So, I'm not going to get arrested for using Kodi?

Kodi

No, definitely not. Just like the old Napster scandal way back, any trouble is heading the ways of the distributors. Just using Kodi in itself is not and will not become illegal, as it doesn't offer pirated content in its official form.

Yes, you can use it to pirate content, but you can also do the same with Windows 10, Android, iOS, MacOS, anything that connects to the web, basically.

The best thing you can do is to be responsible. We're not going to lecture on what content you can and can't watch, that decision lies with you. But buying a "fully loaded" box is just facilitating piracy and putting profit in the pockets of the people who are ultimately asking for trouble.

Make your own Kodi setup

Kodi OSMC

No-one needs to buy one of these boxes, anyway. Making your own Kodi setup is by far the best solution and it's really easy. You can build one cheaply out of something like a Raspberry Pi, an Amazon Fire TV Stick or any Windows PC.

The latest version of Kodi is available to download from the Store to any Windows 10 PC and it works really well. The developers are also planning to go full UWP with it and open it up to the Xbox One at some point in the future. So your console under your TV can (once again) become your full media center.

There's lots you can do with Kodi, with just a couple of useful integrations being OneDrive and Plex. You can hook in a bunch of legal add-ons, too, that will help you get all your favorite content in one place.

Kodi is a superb media center application, don't let the misinformation tell you otherwise.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

50 Comments
  • Ugh. All this "UWP will fix everything" hype and apps like Kodi are still not available on Windows 10 Mobile. Can't be that easy to move the app over or it would be happening more often.
  • No software development is easy as a click on a button. Also, no matter how "easy" it is to develop/port to UWP, companies still need to have a legimate reason to do it, and spend resources on it, (Developer account for companies-90$...).
  • If it was as easy as they claimed it would be, it would be worth it if it just got five extra used. Problem is, it sounds like the actual ease of it was exaggerated.
  • Kodi isn't a UWP yet, they are just working on it. Right now, the Windows 10 app is just a wrapper over the Win32 program, which is a bit more stable, BTW.
  • The Kodi makers have already said they would be rebuilding their app from the ground up to put it on mobile. Building an app from the ground up is no simple task no matter what you use. It's also been pointed out that it is infact pretty easy to convert an application from win32 to UWP, but that can also leave out platforms (this has been explained regularly) do some research. Also, it's a major stretch to think your comment is even on topic.
  • Cool, no need to get so snippy though.
  • Kodi for W10M would be a great complement to an existing Kodi installation
    as it could play content from the Kodi PC installation via UPnP. Plex is really nice, but one quickly hits various glass walls for the non-paying version. I therefore really would fancy a Kodi app for W10M. Maybe Microsoft could be a little helpful with this subject. -            
  • So using Chrome to gain access to pirated content is illegal...BAN CHROME
  • And IE, Firefox, Edge, Opera...
  • Yes. Ban Chrome
  • you would have to ban the ineternet.
  • It's like the old days of descrambled cable boxes.
  • I don't know what idiot downvoted you but yeah I remember those days. And the hacked satellite tv cards too
  • typical of the wider general media who don't understand and like to create headlines
  • Can it DVR the antenna input on my PC and completely replace Windows Media Center on my Windows 7 HTPC?
  • Kodi is more of a playback software. If you have a capture device that spits a properly named file on a server, Kodi will give you the name/season/episode and artwork... but I don't think it does the ripping on its own.
  • Better stated: even if Kodi does (which I am not sure about), there are likely far better solutions on the market.
  • There are better stand alone products, such as Tivo Romia OTA. But for dvr, to fill the need for WMC, Kodi does a fine job.
  • Kodi supports mutliple DVR backends such as sage, vdr, tvheadend and nextpvr. Basically its a client server approach so rather then the kodi project reinventing the wheel you run a TV server of your chocie and use a client plugin in kodi. I have been using TVHeadend for a year and find it really great it keeps my live tv, recordings and streaming all in one interface.
  • I am using NEXT and it crashes every time I try to engage the second tuner. I will give tvheadend a try though. Thanks for the info!
  • it's more of a cordinator for your playback devices
  • It can! It takes a little setup and doesn't seem to support multiple tuners. Or at least I couldn't figure it out. But it works well for OTA DVR in general.
  • What backend are you using? I have used tvheadend with multiple tuners and it seems to work pretty well.
  • No but you can use Emby for that ;)
  • It absolutely can do OTA DVR.
  • The open source Kodi is totally not illegal, but some plugins are.
  • Jesus, make it available on Xbox . Running really good on Surface tablet. It pisses me off at the pace of UWP.
  • They are rebuilding the app for UWP damn do you know what it takes to build an app? Of course not.
  • I have my Kodi setup linked to my FreeNAS box and it is fantastic! less complicated than Plex and works great. Allows me to browse my personal home videos, as well as my movie collection (which I purchased myself, and ripped myself), while keeping them separate. The best bit is that Kodi works on my PCs, phone, tablets, etc. Any device I want to watch on, it is there! It's like my own personal Netflix... but with movies I actually like.
  • I thought Plex was the one available everywhere? I don't know. I use and am totally happy with Windows Media Center. I especially like the family friendly user interface, the cable card and over the air functionality, and the whole house set up available throughout the house. That said, I've seen many Windows Media Center users talk about Plex and it being available to devices outside the house too.
    Just curious to learn more.
  • Found Emby is the only alternative that actually replaces WMC across ALL platforms - inc. LiveTV & DVR (without long workarounds, additional 3rd party plug-ins or WMC dependencies). However, nothing comes close to WMC for it's simplicity and family-friendly, 6ft experience.
  • Well, I am using Kodi on my Android Tv Box, and it works fine. I'm using the DLNA-Server as well, and that works either. I like Kodi very much, and That's it.
  • How is it different than plex?
  • I believe Plex is mainly for running and using your own media server. While Kodi can do that (even using a Plex addon), that’s not its specialty. It's more of a jack of all trades.
  • Jack of all trades? Like what? Just curious.
  • It's essentially a shell that allows you to browse content. Plug-ins - 1st or 3rd party - allow streaming, formatting of media, browsing, TV guides etc. Personally however I think the ecosystem is overrated and (IMHO) looks like its (graphically) designed by a high-schooler (most skins/themes) and doesn't provide an adequate family-friendly or sofa/6ft experience. That said, at least it does have a thriving community and MANY supported, and regularly updated, services/plug-ins to expand it's capabilities. Just found it awkward and unpleasant to use myself.
  • xzb6np, its really not... you can view pirated content on your Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and you can view it even on the original Xbox via XBMC (now Kodi)... or even in countless other tools on your Windows, Android, or iOS devices.
  • Good article. I cringe every time I see one of those click bait headlines making it look like everyone using Kodi is going to be arrested. Love, love, love Kodi, and it gets a bad rap in too many circles.
  • You got to love that fake news. Always putting another story on the air waves, not caring if there is any truth, only caring if it facilitates their progressive ideology.
  • Couple of things you missed WC. I live in the UK. You are right Kodi itself is not and will never be illegal. However. And this is bigger than what you mention. Sky and BT are attempting to change the law. For example. If Sky want to shut down a stream, they can. But currently just a single stream. Of which a user can instantly link to another stream sometimes from the same source and wallah. Free Football. What Sky and BT want from the law change is the authority to be able to shut down an entire network of streaming instantly. They argue because its illegal anyway they should be allowed. And its gaining traction. To be honest if this passes, using a box with Kodi on it for free illegal stuff in the UK will be pointless. Instead of individually shutting down singular streams, hundreds of thousands will go down instantly. And worse still big IP companies like Virgin are on board with this.
  • The article seems to be written by someone not familar with legal due process and legal due process in the U.S. (will note the author said UK) for sure.  As far as it being "illegal" to watch content which has been pirate, well, not sure what the context of "illegal" is... but generally I would say no or it really hasn't even been adjunicated fully at all in the US.  The term "illegal" is more commonly used to refer to criminal acts, not civil liability.   Generally, if you are viewing pirated video for instance, I seriously doubt it would "illegal".   As far as uploaders or people reselling, there might be some criminal acts at that point i.e. Megaupload, but generally if someone else is making it available I seriously it would be "illegal".  "Using Kodi to gain access to pirated content is illegal."   Generally, this statement is false, viewing content that might be available on the internet is not "illegal" in the U.S.   Now you get into distributing content and large amounts of content than maybe you would start getting warmer.   The article is poorly written because I think parts of it are either too broadly written or just false. 
  • Of course Kodi isn't illegal just like Plex isn't illegal but what people do to use Kodi is very illegal I work at a retail store and its hard to keep the Amazon Fire Sticks in stock cos every customer asking for them always asks how to get "free" movies. While on the clock I can't help them how to get an app to illegally get movies. And off the clock I could careless for this feature, I've done my fair share of illegal downloads or mainly viewing them and while convenient and yes Hollywood makes their money its still stealing and Id rather pay for something. Anyone who disagrees would be pissed if someone stole your work.
  • Tell them to download the Crackle app for free movies. Completely legal. 😁
  • Watching commercials isn't free. You pay with your time.
  • >Anyone who disagrees would be pissed if someone stole your work.
    Jokes on you I make Vaporwave EPs lmao
  • Hmmm,
    I think, you should provide a redacted list
    of what add-ons to definately avoid.  I know a British newspaper/tabloid had published such a list, but I lost the link.   
  • If it's a big concern, just don't install a third party repository. Everything in the official repository should be legal.
  • I don't think @Tarkus13 is picking up what @Fred_EM is putting down...
  • I find it to be buggy and unresponsive on my SP4, have dabbled with it over the years since original xbox and its always been clunky, maybe the xb1 uwp will sort that but we shall see
  • What about watching TV Shows using the add-ons? You see the shows without the commericals. Is that illegal?