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Following the April ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union that the sale of a multimedia player which enables films that are available illegally on the Internet to be viewed easily and for free on a television screen could constitute an infringement of copyright, Nathan Betzen, Kodi community and project manager at free and open source media player Kodi has set out the consortium’s position on the judgment.
“We wanted to address the recent judgment by the EU Court of Justice regarding so-called piracy boxes,” he wrote in a blog post. “We should start by saying that none of us are lawyers in the EU, so consider anything we say to be opinions and not facts. If you want facts, ask actual lawyers.”
According to Betzen, the decision of the Court appears to address two related issues.
Selling Pirate Boxes
“The first is whether selling a multimedia box with links for copyrighted content knowingly pre-installed counts as a ‘communication to the public’ of copyrighted content, which is a copyright violation. Basically, is selling a box with links to movies that users could potentially see the same thing as selling tickets to a movie that you don’t have the right to show,” he asks.
“The court said that yes, this was a communication to the public, so selling a box with links to copyrighted content is illegal. The team is, frankly, quite pleased with this decision. As we’ve said in the past, pirate box sellers are a real problem for users, because they provide users with constantly breaking messes, vanish, and then expect Team Kodi to provide support to users who are confused about what Kodi is, where their ‘free movies’ are coming from, and all of the issues related to this problem. We don’t have any problem with users setting up their boxes however they want. We just want them to actually know what they are getting themselves into when doing so,” he stated.
“We are also not particularly worried by this decision. There are definitely some slippery slope arguments to be made about what can constitute a ‘communication to the public’ in the future, but the Court seems to have made it quite clear in its ruling that they view Kodi itself as something akin to Firefox or the Internet, perfectly legal, while the links/add-ons specifically are the illegal IP,” he noted.
According to Betzen, the second issue addressed by the court is a simple one. “Are pirate streams a copyright violation by the user? The answer appears to be yes. There is a situation where a temporary copy of a work is exempt from the copyright holder’s ‘right of reproduction’. Certain conditions must be satisfied, like the act be transient and temporary. Unfortunately, even though a stream is a VERY temporary and very transient copy to RAM, it doesn’t get an exemption from the copyright holder’s ‘right of reproduction’, because such streams are not authorised by copyright holder and because they likely will result in reduced sales by the copyright holder. To put it simply, pirate streaming appears to be illegal in the EU,” he suggested.
“With that said, even though pirate streaming appears to be illegal in Europe, we still stand by our neutral policy. We are developers and not the police, and we have no interest in acting as police for our own software. Kodi will remain as free and as open as it always has. Feel free to continue using Kodi however you want. To us Kodi is and always will be just a tool, like a hammer, and how you choose to use that tool is up to you. We do ask that if you decide to use Kodi in a way that’s illegal, please leave us out of it. People who steal cars don’t tweet a picture of their stolen car to Ford Motor Co. We ask that if you watch pirate streams, that you not tweet us about those streams,” he recommended.
For people living in the US and the Rest of the World, he pointed out that the CJEU ruling only affects Europe. “US laws on the subject of piracy streaming remain as murky as ever. If that changes and we find out about it, we’ll let you know,” he promised.