Investigators could start exposing users of illegal add-ons for Kodi in “the very near future”, the head of a major anti-piracy group has said.
Kieron Sharp, the chief executive of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), says authorities could soon target ordinary Kodi users, and not just sellers and developers.
While Kodi itself is legal, third-party add-ons built by developers can enable users to illegally access copyrighted content through it.
Though it’s currently difficult to work out who is using the software for legal purposes and who is using it for illegal purposes, Mr Sharp says sellers of so-called “fully loaded Kodi boxes” could hold the key.
“What we’ve been looking at in conjunction with many of our clients and members are the different levels of crime being committed,” Mr Sharp told the Independent.
“There’s the manufacture and importation of devices, and then the distribution and selling of those. We’re also looking at the people who are providing the apps and add-ons, the developers.
“And then we’ll also be looking at, at some point, the end user. The reason for end users to come into this is that they are committing criminal offences.”
Though you can download Kodi and find and install add-ons yourself, the process isn’t completely straightforward, and criminals have capitalised on people’s uncertainty by selling media players pre-loaded with the software and certain add-ons that provide access to copyrighted content.
In April, however, the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that anyone who uses a media player to stream copyrighted content is breaking the law. Previously, it was only illegal to actually download the content.
The ECJ also ruled that the sale of media players deliberately pre-loaded with links to copyrighted content is illegal, a verdict that opened the doors for the prosecution of Kodi box sellers.
“When we’re working with the police against a company that’s selling IPTV boxes or illicit streaming devices on a large scale, they have records of who they’ve sold them to,” said Mr Sharp.
“It’s part of the work that we do with the police that we have to look at the whole business there, and start investigating those that have been buying these devices.
“At the moment, where that will lead we don’t know. We have a number of cases coming before the courts in terms of those people who have been providing, selling and distributing illicit streaming devices. It’s something for the very near future, when we’ll consider whether we go any further than that, in terms of customers.”
Earlier this year, the Digital Economy Act became law and raised the maximum possible sentence for online copyright infringement offences from two to 10 years.
However, that maximum sentence will only apply to people who commit serious copyright crimes, such as distributing content.
“Nothing really changes for people at the lower end of the scale,” explained Mr Sharp.
“I don’t think [users of illegal Kodi add-ons] have anything to fear from the fact that the sentencing has gone from two years to 10 years because at that level, if people get into trouble with the law, they will still be dealt with on the basis of the level of the crime they’re committing. And that would still be at the bottom end of the sentencing scale.”
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