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Fully-loaded Kodi seller spared jail in landmark UK case

Fully loaded Kodi seller spared jail in landmark UK case

A shady dealer from Teesside has been spared jail for selling fully loaded Kodi boxes in what is a landmark case in the UK.

40-year-old Julian Allen made more than £135,000 flogging the illegal set top boxes, but received an 18-month suspended sentence at Teesside Crown Court.

Mr Allen was arrested after police raided two branches of his business, Geeky Kit, in 2015.

In July 2017, he pleaded guilty to using or acquiring criminal property, and has now been sentenced.

The venal vendor was only caught after advertising his services on Gumtree, in which investigators got their hands on a device pre-loaded with Sky Sports and Sky Movies pacakages.

What is Kodi?

Kodi is an open-source media player, which allows users to play a huge amount of streaming media, such as TV shows, music and podcasts.

The software is customisable, and allows for plug-ins to access copyrighted content from the likes of Amazon Prime, Spotify, YouTube etc, and can be reskinned to change its appearance.

The software was developed by XBMC, a not-for-profit technology consortium, and has its origins on the original Xbox console as Xbox Media Centre.

Kodi devices don’t come with the plug-ins as standard, meaning it’s up to users (or third parties) to install additional content.

What isn’t Kodi?

Sadly, Kodi: Fully Loaded is not the long-awaited sequel to the now-forgotten Lindsay Lohan/Michael Keaton vehicle, released in 2005.

Is Kodi illegal?

It’s still a grey area. We’re waiting for UK judges to rules on Kodi cases like these to test the law around intellectual property.

It’ll allow us to find out what exactly counts when fully-loaded Kodi boxes are used by the general public – and whether users can be prosecuted.

Kodi boxes have been subject to scrutiny in recent times, but have previously been declared ‘not illegal’ by the UK government.

When the Digital Economy Bill passed into UK law in April 2017, the indication we got was that users could theoretically face up to 10 years in prison for copyright theft.

This includes using fully-loaded Kodi boxes to access Sky and other protected online content.

In practice, it seems that investigations by the UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft will focus on the dealers selling access to these channels through Kodi.

At some point, someone who is illegally streaming is going to get caught.

Whilst end users are not our primary target, they may get swept up in one of our operations and become part of the whole criminal investigation, which could lead to prosecution alongside the suppliers, retailers and importers.

- Kieron Sharp: Director General, FACT

While the boxes themselves may be kosher, streaming copyrighted material is still very much against the law.

Despite the ruling Amazon recently removed Kodi from its app store, claiming it facilitated piracy.

The government aren’t the only ones to wade into the Kodi debate. Earlier this year, the Premier League obtained an injunction to prevent illegal streaming of football games.

This could have something to do with the discovery that over half of all Premier League games are viewed illegally, according to a BBC poll.

The ruling was also good news for a number of other organisations, including major broadband providers, such as BT, Plusnet and EE, who also want to put an end to the streaming boxes.

By:

Aran is a technology journalist with an interest in consumer issues.
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