People who have Kodi enabled devices, know that they are in a bit of a legal grey area. Kodi is a media centre, basically. You can put Kodi onto any Android device, or a laptop computer, for example. That in itself isn’t illegal. Where it gets to be a bit dicey, is when you start using the “add-ons”. Which essentially allow you to watch TV for “free”. Now this isn’t doesn’t seem to necessarily be illegal either, but definitely frowned on by some ISP’s. And again, falls into this legal grey area. What we have seen tested in courts, however, is through the use of the pre-loaded Kodi boxes.
The crime is the fact that someone is pre-loading the boxes with all the “add-ons”, and therefore promoting this back door route into watching TV. This is coming forward, because of two cases in the UK. Brian Thomspon ended up pleading guilty to two charges under the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. Like I said, the big concern is that he is selling the boxes pre-loaded. Which is the draw for many people who aren’t tech savvy enough to be able to do it themselves. Rather than having to figure out where to look for the information and then how to program your own box, you can go and buy one of these already ready to go.
Last September, Thompson offered the following defence: “These boxes are available from all over the place, not just me, but it’s the downloading of software to watch channels that is apparently causing the problem.” But the chances of him going free, were actually really slim. Many people wanted to know, however, how the law would view this. Because, really, that’s how precedent is set. Thompson pleading guilty, however, isn’t going to allow us to see how this would play out. Thompson also said: “If I am found guilty and the court rules that I am breaking the law selling these boxes, I want to know what that means for people buying and selling mobile phones or laptops because the software is available for all of them”.
And he’s right. Where does it stop when it comes to the long arm of the law? I’m not saying what he’s doing is right, or even legal. But I think more information should be clarified around what is ok, and what isn’t. After all, the law that he’s being charged under is an act from 1988. Are there updates to that legislation? Are there subsequent regulation that speak to the details? The “how” and “why” someone can and can’t do something? If not, is he being charged under an antiquated law?
Why Thompson decided to plead guilty suddenly is unclear. According to his lawyer, there had been “an exchange of correspondence in the case”. Another interesting thing about this case, has to do with sentencing. Thompson is going to be sentenced on October 20th. Which happens to be the same day as Julian Allen, who was arrested for selling similar Android boxes through his “GeekyKit” business back in 2015. Obviously no one knows how this will play out, but I will definitely be keeping my eye on this one as I’m interested to see what this might mean in other jurisdictions.