What are Kodi boxes, are they illegal, what are the penalties and have they been banned on Facebook?

The boxes have surged in popularity, but buyers should know whether they're legal to buy and use in the UK

IT’S one of the most popular ways to watch telly – but Kodi boxes are stirring up a whole lot of controversy.

The technology has made its name letting people live-stream content from apps and on-demand services — but will you get fined for using one?

What is a Kodi BOX?

Kodi, formerly known as XBMC, is a free and open source media player application for playing videos, music, pictures, games, and other content.

A Kodi Box, advertised for its Plug and Play capability, is essentially a set-top box or a HDMI stick with the software installed on it.

It allows people to stream shows and watch them on any platform including a computer, smartphone, tablet or set-top box.

But some boxes are being modified to access paid content channels using third party plug-ins, illegally allowing people to watch the shows without paying.

Are Kodi boxes legal to use in the UK?

Kodi boxes are legal. Users are able to buy a box, and watch free content.

But it becomes illegal when a box is used to stream subscription channels for free.

It is also illegal to buy these modified devices which have become known as “fully-loaded” – a term that describes how the software has been altered to allow access to subscription-only channels.

What has a European court ruled on the use of Kodi boxes?

Selling a device which has been “fully loaded” to allow people to watch pirate films or sports events is illegal, the highest court in Europe has ruled.

In a document, the European Court of Justice sided against a Dutch man named only as Mr Wullems, who sold multimedia players through a website.

That means anyone selling a box which is intended to be used to infringe copyright will be treated as if they have infringed copyright themselves, and could be put behind bars.

It is widely believed that streaming material instead of downloading means you aren’t infringing copyright, but in this case the European Court said there was no difference between the two.

Will you get fined for using a Kodi box? What are the penalties for misuse?

The Digital Economy Bill, which was made law on April 27 2017, increased the punishment for those using the boxes for illegal means.

While there were already penalties for those selling on Kodi boxes pre-loaded with third party plug-ins, those found to be breaking the law now face 10 years behind bars – up from two years.

The federation against copyright theft has since warned that anyone found to be using the software illegally could be investigated.

According to an anti-piracy group, 200 sellers configured for piracy have ceased Trading.

Why have Kodi’s add-on services Navi-X and TV Addons and shut down?

The Navi-X Kodi add-on will stop working because it’s afraid a brush with the law is on the cards.

It formerly alowed viewers to import movies, TV shows and live sports from illegal sources onto their Kodi video player.

Without Navi-X it’s a little trickier for people to stream films using Kodi.

It was widely regarded as one of the “best” media libraries and has been around for ten years.

But the team behind it recently warned that it had become too risky to continue offering the service.

And TV Addons, a similar service that is one of the most popular for Kodi users, is being sued in the US.

It appeared to vanish amid the legal turmoil.

TV Addons had supplied a library of pirated sports, box-office films and TV shows.

How are the Premier League, Facebook and Amazon cracking down?

Amazon has now banned “fully loaded” box sets being sold on the site and vowed to freeze the accounts of anyone found to be breaking the rules.

The company released a statement saying: “Products offered for sale on Amazon should not promote, suggest the facilitation of, or actively enable the infringement of or unauthorised access to digital media or other protected content.

“Any streaming media player or other device that violates this policy is prohibited from sale on Amazon.”

The Sun Online also recently revealed how eBay had begun wiping “fully loaded” Kodi box sets from its online marketplace.

In February, police arrested five people accused of selling fully loaded Kodi boxes in a major crackdown on the devices, with a landmark case to face court in May.

Facebook is the latest tech giant to crack down on the illegal streaming devices.

The social media site has has yanked “fully loaded” Kodi boxes and Amazon fire sticks from its marketplace.

What is ACE and how will it try to crack down on illegal streaming?

Netflix, Amazon, Sky, Sony and Warner Brothers have joined together to form a group called ACE, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, which brings together the biggest names in global media.

It will fight for targeted criminal and civil enforcement actions on behalf of their members.

ACE’s website states that it “supports cooperation with law enforcement agencies around the world to advance these measures and address theft of creative works”.

While ACE isn’t specifically targeting the average Brit, the UK’s copyright protection board, FACT, said it’s just a matter of time before someone is caught in the crackdown on people selling “fully loaded” Kodi boxes online.

After raiding sellers, records of their customers will form part of a wider probe.

What is the Digital Economy Bill?

The bill, which was made law on April 27, will provide a universal broadband service for the UK, according to parliament.

It’s aimed at enabling fast digital communication services for citizens and businesses.

It will shape the digital world to the benefit of children, consumers and businesses and support the digital transformation of government.

The bill is good for consumers, as it grants additional powers to Ofcom in respect of information provision, consumer switching and automatic compensation.

It will also create a new Electronics Communication Code and other infrastructure matters, putting an end to easy-to-find porn and will put age verification on smutty sites.

Consumers will see protection from nuisance calls and digital intellectual property, too, which is where the Kodi crackdown comes into play.

Can Kodi boxes be hacked?

According to experts, millions of people who use Kodi software to watch films, sports or TV shows online are at risk of a crippling cyber attack.

Cunning crooks have spotted a way to take complete control of televisions hooked up to Kodi boxes and nab the owner’s personal information using subtitle files.

If these files are downloaded by a victim’s media player, the attackers can take complete control through vulnerabilities in media players such as VLC, Kodi, Popcorn-Time and strem.io.

Researchers at security software company Check Point warned: “We estimate there are approximately 200 million video players and streamers that currently run the vulnerable software, making this one of the most widespread, easily accessed and zero-resistance vulnerability reported in recent years.”