Kodi is simple to download and install, and add-ons can be found using search engines. It works on anything from a PC or Mac down to Android-based set-top boxes and even Raspberry Pis. Even so, setting it up isn’t within the comfort zone of every consumer. That means there’s a demand for ready-to-use, pre-configured hardware.
Android set-top boxes are widely available wholesale, and there’s nothing unlawful about selling them on with bare Android or with Kodi on top. What crosses the line is pre-installing add-ons for specific unlicensed content, creating what are known as “fully loaded” Kodi boxes.
What’s the scale of illegal Kodi use? On April 20, YouGov published a survey that suggested nearly five million people in the UK were using “pirated” streaming services of one sort or another, while more than half as many again planned to start using them. More than 800,000 users had cancelled a TV subscription. The implication is that pay TV companies stand to lose a substantial chunk of revenue.
Kodi add-ons link to content that others have decrypted or duplicated. That’s hard to stop, but on March 8 the High Court approved an order requiring BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media to block specified servers that were streaming Premier League football games, preventing anyone on their broadband services from accessing them. The same method could now be used to block other sources.
At the other end of the chain, content owners are putting pressure on the supply of fully loaded boxes. As Ars reported on April 4, Amazon warned sellers at the end of March that “certain media players” had been “marked as prohibited.” The move coincided with industry briefings on action against Kodi use. “[Retailers’] assistance in tackling this problem is a great help and we really appreciate it,” the IPO tells Ars.
The announcement delighted “Freddy T-Power,” a Kodi user who campaigns against the “scam” of fully loaded box sales. “Yes!!!!! Finally My work of POSTING WARNINGS all over Amazon and Facebook for over a Year Hrs and Hrs Weekend after Weekend HAS PAID OFF!!” he posted on April 6. On May 1, Ars typed “fully loaded kodi” into the search box on Amazon’s UK website. It auto-completed “android box.” The search produced 73 results; none seemed to contain any reference to illicit content.