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


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?


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?


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


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
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. 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 steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine