by Coop Cooper
A video streaming app for a popular entertainment device is reopening the debate on movie piracy. The ‘Kodi’ app available only for Amazon Fire TV Stick has the ability to mine specific content from video sharing services and stream it live on your TV. This means you can search for pirated films and TV shows and watch them for free, even bootleg videos shot on cameras inside movie theaters. While this has been fairly simple to do on computers for over a decade now, Kodi is the first easy way to put it on your giant, flatscreen TV. Because of this, the debate on internet film pirating seems to be heating back up.
Here are the biggest advantages of Kodi: Laws on piracy are primarily concerned with downloading copyrighted video for ownership and distribution, therefore ‘streaming’ in which the video is only shown and not kept (like on YouTube) falls under a murkier legal interpretation that isn’t currently penalizing viewers. Besides the legal issue, Kodi also seems to have the ability to bypass the viruses that can be transmitted through these video streaming sites which can damage hard drives and steal personal information. When it is working properly, Kodi streams very similar to Netflix or Amazon Prime without the need to download a torrent from a server, put the very large video file on a hard drive and go through a substantial technical setup to watch it on a television. Finally, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is very cheap ($40) and if users don’t have Netflix or another paid streaming service, this hardware, paired with Kodi, becomes a very inexpensive option.
However, Kodi is far from perfect. The setup for it constantly changes due to software changes/upgrades. Tutorials on YouTube can show you how to set it up, but many of them are outdated and some can steer you in the wrong direction. Once it is setup properly, finding videos are relatively easy but slow internet speeds or busy servers often makes the stream download time out before it even starts. Since the popularity of Kodi is growing, the servers seem to clog up frequently and viewing videos becomes a tiresome crap shoot. Plus there are many false listing for movies that don’t have streaming links, or the wrong video is connected to the wrong link. When it does work, the quality of the videos can be very iffy, they may have sound issues, they may not be in English and others are downright unwatchable. Using the app can be a very frustrating experience.
It is also due to Kodi’s popularity that the issue of internet piracy is becoming a hot topic again. Those seeking to shut down streaming of copyrighted videos are exploring new ideas to block it from happening. At one point, when downloading torrents was becoming popular, content companies were making examples out of users who downloaded large amounts of videos by suing them for millions. That quickly became an unpopular and excessive punishment and it seems companies are abandoning that strategy. Now they are targeting the providers of the material, pressuring internet service providers and trying to find new ways to block access. It is speculated that providers like AT&T and Xfinity will come up with technology that could possibly identify copyrighted material and either block it from being viewed, issue a warning to the user or throttle the user’s internet speed to a crawl.
But here’s the big question… Should YOU use it? As I said, the legality of Kodi is murky, but watching copyrighted material without fairly paying for it isn’t necessarily right. Plus, it’s a pain to set up, a pain to use and I have a feeling its popularity will be its death warrant. It will either be shut down by lawyers or the service will be so bogged down with users – much like it is already – that it will become downright unusable.
Kodi is another good argument in favor of Hollywood releasing new movies onto the internet for a premium on the same day they are released in theaters. It would hurt theaters greatly, but it would make piracy much less of an issue. The industry was afraid to release music on the internet but when Napster beat them to the punch, it nearly ruined the music industry. When Apple and other services were allowed to sell music, it was a success because it was simple, cheap and the quality was perfect. The film industry could easily do this but they are dragging their feet because of their symbiotic relationship with theaters, even though Netflix is already altering the playing field. I think Kodi will very soon become extinct and irrelevant. Despite that, it will be a footnote in the history of new movie content becoming available to the masses.