Is Kodi legal?
After "What exactly is Kodi?", the second most common question we often get asked is "Is Kodi legal?".
The two questions are of course linked, but with the recent media reporting concerning piracy the answer to the legality is sometimes not so clear to the man in the street. Due to various 3rd party addons, the app has gained an unwanted reputation as being a "way to get movies and TV shows for free".
This is not helped at all by certain unscrupulous websites and YouTube bloggers who encourage and perpetuate the myth, simply to increase their traffic from web users and earn more cash from the site sponsors. So it may be worthwhile to try and officially answer the legality question, and at least in part for usage one as well.
So what is Kodi?
Put simply the "reference Kodi", which is the one supplied by Team Kodi and available from our website along with selected official app stores (Google and Windows for example) is a media centre. Underneath the hood is a powerful media player to play back video or audio files, but coupled to that is the flexible user interface and library system for storing and displaying posters, plot and cast information and other supporting metadata.
As supplied, reference Kodi does not ship with any media at all, nor are any media-providing addons pre-installed. What it does come with though is a catalogue of vetted and approved addons (our official repo) which can be installed from within the Kodi GUI by the user, enabling access to a selection of legitimate sources.
The intended usage case is that the user will either supply their own media files stored locally on their network for Kodi to access, or that they will install the addons that they wish to use.
Then is it legal?
As we supply it, Kodi is totally legal.
If the user is supplying their own media for Kodi to play, then the provenance and legality of that media is their own responsibility, as is any possible consequences of them having it in their possession. Similarly if they actively choose to install an addon within Kodi, it is their decision and responsibility to do so.
Where things become murkier is the area of third party addons. Kodi is designed to be extendable, and addons are available through third party repositories as well as from the official sources. It should be noted firstly that in reference Kodi this third party capability is disabled by default, and must be specifically enabled (along with a warning message and confirmation) by the user before third party sources can be used. If this is enabled, then additional repos can be installed and addons obtained from them. As the name suggests, these third party addons and repos are neither produced by, supported by nor endorsed by Team Kodi.
Sadly there are many third party addons out there which enable access to pirated media or streams, in violation of copyright laws. This has in the past led users who make use of them into legal difficulties alongside legal action being taken against those who write and supply such addons. This of course is something we wish to avoid, as by the nature of the press our name and brand gets associated with their activities, and the infamous "Kodi Box" has become synonymous with piracy (even though there is strictly no such thing, as we do not produce, sell or endorse hardware media devices).
How do I spot a dodgy deal?
As with any deal, common sense is your best yardstick. But there are a number of pointers to guide you when things may be less than kosher, be it for a device or for a third party addon:
- if you are being offered media (TV shows, TV channels, events or movies) for free that you would normally expect to pay for.
- if you are being offered media that you wouldn't normally have access to privately (for example movies currently playing in theatres or not yet on DVD/streaming release).
- if you are being sold a device by someone claiming to be Kodi or officially endorsed by them (for example by their website using our brand name and/or logo).
- if the device is being sold as preconfigured to enable immediate access to online media sources.
- if the supplier website or channel is plastered with ads for VPNs and other similar methods to "cover your tracks", and doubly so if the article says that they are required.
- if the deal is "too good to be true".
In the end always ask yourself this question - "if I were offered this in a pub car park or a market, would I buy it?".
The official built-in repo has been audited by Team Kodi. No addon within it makes use of non-legitimate sources, nor does their code pose a malware risk if installed. As this audit is not done on any other third party source, the user should beware and confirm that they are happy to trust the source before using it, or at least are prepared to accept any repercussions from doing so.
So what about torrents, storage sites and builds?
These again can be grey areas in terms of legality and trustworthiness.
Whilst we do allow addons which give access to torrents and web storage sites (OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Mega etc), we do not allow any into the official repo which come pre-packaged with sources included. Again this comes down to user choice and responsibility. The user can do what he likes with the software, as long as it is done with their understanding of what they are doing and that they take personal responsibility for their actions.
One thing that we do not support at all is builds, as by their very nature they take away that user choice. Even aside from the fact that most are simply there to provide access to pirated media via dodgy addons, they also take away the users consensual choice as to what is being installed on their devices. There has been more than one example of malware being bundled into certain builds, or other unwelcome inclusions which subvert and often break Kodi functionality. As we had nothing to do with such breakages, we of course do not wish to have to support fixing them.
The final verdict
So is Kodi legal? As we supply it, the answer is yes.
But as the old saying goes, "it's not what you have, it's how you use it", and in this case also where you got it from. If it has been sourced from elsewhere, or if something has been added or modified since it was obtained, then all guarantees are null and void. We won't tell you what to do, not to do or how to use our software. We guarantee the reference Kodi we supply, anything beyond that is up to you.