Let me start off by saying while this is technically legal, it is also 100 percent, for sure, not NOT illegal. It falls somewhere in that weird ethical void you live in when you say something like,
Well, I'm not the bad guy if I download this free song. That's on the people at LimeWire! Yeah! And the record companies for making music expensive! Yeah! I'm actually the good one here! Right? Right?
There is a new streaming service out there called Kodi picking up popularity in the wholly unregulated Wild West-esque environment that is black market Internet things.
Kodi, which used to be known by the less consumer-friendly name “XBMC,” is an app mostly used on an external USB stick that works as the key to unlocking the doors to free-streaming Narnia.
All you do is plug it into your streaming device and open up the Kodi media player to gain access to channels featuring a smorgasbord of occasionally legal but mostly completely pirated content.
Here is the kicker: There is nothing actually on Kodi when you download it, exactly like iTunes -- sans that one time it forced that weird U2 album on all of us.
So, it's technically not illegal, like torrent downloaders who occupy the same space.
The illegal part comes from the content users download onto it later, kind of like a novelty shop in the East Village selling crystal meth pipes.
Is what the shop does illegal? No. All it does is offer a service and sell some glass utensils. It's on the consumer to use that crystal meth pipe responsibly, like for planting tiny plants or for using it as the world's most fragile, little doorknob.
Are its customers using it to do either of those things? No. I mean, maybe every once in awhile it's used as a fragile, little doorknob, but the only person who would do that is a crystal meth addict who has a bunch of meth pipes lying around and is too blitzed on magic dust to head to The Home Depot and buy a proper doorknob replacement.
That's essentially what Kodi is.
All Kodi does is offer you a service that could totally be legit if it wanted to be but instead is populated with a treasure trove of illegally-streamed content because that's what the Internet is, a land full of interesting technology people turn illegal the second they get the chance.
Don't get me wrong, there are sections of Kodi that are legit. You'll see suspects like Twitch.tv, NBC Sports, YouTube and everything else that also has channels on devices like Roku and Apple TV.
Where it gets illegal are the add-ons. Developers have been using Kodi's platform as a source to upload their own channels with pirated material even basic Internet users can figure out how to access.
So, rather than dropping $9.99 a month on Netflix and $14.99 on HBO Now, on top of whatever the hell Time Warner decides to charge this month for regular, terrestrial cable, a growing Internet community is starting to either use a mirroring device (like an HDMI cable from your computer to your TV screen) or jailbreak an existing streaming player (like an Amazon Fire TV Stick, for instance).
Hackers are even starting to make some side cash selling their own Kodi jailbroken USB sticks on Craigslist and eBay for between $50 and $100 each.
And before you play the ethicist here, Millennial Kant, let me remind you you are already just as terrible as anyone who uses Kodi. You ever use your friend's ex-boyfriend's mom's Hulu Plus password or your uncle's boss' son's Amazon Prime account? Yeah, thought so.
Get off your high horse for a few seconds and join the rest of us down here on earth as we learn about this new way to get free content while probably loading up our computers with malware.
The company takes a pretty strong "don't ask, don't tell"-style policy when it comes to people using the platform to stream their own stuff. It recently addressed illegal use of its program in a blog on its site, alerting users,
You are welcome to keep doing whatever you want with Kodi. Devs of all stripes, feel free to keep developing whatever you want. This is an open, free platform, developed under the GPL, and always will be.
It did, however, warn users if the platform continues to be abused, there will be issues down the line with developers pulling out of the Kodi support system.
In that same blog post, it asked the users to avoid buying these jailbroken streaming sticks and to report to the company when they see them being sold.
Good. I'm sure that will work. Sounds like a foolproof plan. That worked out great for the Pirate Bay guys.