Hollywood Takes on Streaming Devices
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) has taken issue with Hollywood’s new war on streaming devices. The EFF alleges that Hollywood and its international counterparts have unfairly targeted Kodi boxes and similar devices as piracy-inducing devices. When Kodi was first released in 2002, it was known as XMBC and was free software that very few people used to manage their home media and entertainment collections. Since then, however, developers and software coders have been able to create pre-configured Kodi boxes that allow for the inclusion of software and plugins that provide access to streamable media.
To put it more simply, Kodi boxes can operate similarly to web browsers in that they can access media streams that are unauthorized or pirated. Illegal streams for NFL football games, UFC fight nights, and premium cable content such as “Game of Thrones” are rampant and continue to climb in popularity and accessibility. Kodi boxes simply require specific source code/plugins to allow the box to run certain content.
Currently, it is neither illegal to sell pre-configured Kodi boxes nor is it illegal to write code for the Kodi boxes in the United States. As such, the EFF claims that Hollywood is overstepping by trying to find roundabout ways to punish Kodi box users. The EFF claims that lobbyists are pushing Congress to pass laws that will increase the scope of secondary copyright infringement, discourage open source coding, and decrease the popularity of freely configurable media players on the market.
The EFF also points to a handful of cases where users are being prosecuted under varying theories of law. The EFF worries that the lack of clarity and predictability in how cases will be handled is unfair to current Kodi box users, developers, and vendors.
For example, in Europe, a seller was prosecuted for selling Kodi boxes that were pre-installed with third-party plugins that could access copyright-infringing streams. The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in April that the seller was guilty because he was infringing upon the copyright holder’s exclusive power to control the distribution of its content.
In Canada, Kodi users were accused of inducing copyright infringement. The legal wrangling caused even more controversy when the plaintiffs were able to execute an Anton Piller order, which allowed for the search of a TVAddons site administrator’s private residence. The company’s representatives were also able to interrogate the citizen for sixteen hours. His personal computer, domain names, social media accounts, and other similar tech-related property were also seized from him. Although a Canadian court later vacated the Anton Piller order, the company is already appealing, causing considerable expense to the private citizen and heightening already growing fears among the Kodi community.
Lastly, in America, Dish Network sued the developer of an addon for direct copyright infringement as well as for claims of contributory and vicarious copyright infringement, seeking awards of statutory damages in both cases.
Although only time will tell how courts will decide how to handle such claims of copyright infringement in regards to streaming devices, it would behoove clients to consult experienced intellectual property counsel if they intend to develop software, use, or be generally involved with such technology.
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