Tech Talk: Kodi, Add-Ons, Piracy - Understanding The Difference

Kodi has gotten its fair share of attention of late. For reasons that are both good and bad. Which has inevitably led to some confusion around the topic of Kodi in general. Is it a force for good? Is it a pirate’s dream? Well, the answer is sort of yes to both. As Kodi is whatever you want it to be. Which is its greatest strength and clearly its greatest weakness. The thing with Kodi is that it is not really anything more than a very basic media player. While the likening of Kodi to basic will likely infuriate Kodi-aficionados, it is the truth. The bare bones product, is bare bones, and as it stands once downloaded and installed, does nothing unless you already have content that it can draw from - it offers nothing on its own. However, once you get past the superficial and bare bones layer of the application, things become far different and then this simple media player comes to life. As it is one of the most highly pliable applications you will find, which can play just about any type of content, and from just about anywhere.

Which leads us to where we are now. The illegal Kodi. On its own, as Kodi doesn't actually do anything, it is nowhere near being the illegal product that most of the media seems to suggest. However, as Kodi is highly pliable, it is an application which can be used by third-parties to provide access to content. Both legally and illegally. These are more typically known as 'Kodi add-ons' and these, like Kodi, have also been lumped in with the word illegal on far too many occasions. When in reality, add-ons are also a far cry from being illegal - and there are plenty of legal Kodi add-ons to prove it. The beauty of these add-ons is how simply they work. Once Kodi is installed, you download and install an add-on, and immediately gain extra functionality. In some ways, they are like Kodi's version of Android apps. Which does mean to liken Kodi as an entirety to something that is illegal, is not that different from liking Android in its entirety to an illegal operating system - due to the apps that are available for Android.

In fact, the app analogy is a very good one as to blame Kodi for add-ons is exactly the same as blaming Google for the wealth of bad apps that routinely become available on the Google Play Store. While no one wants bad apps, this is something that comes part and parcel with being an open source platform. By allowing anyone the ability to develop for a platform, you obviously allow anyone to develop whatever they want for that platform - good or bad. Kodi is exactly the same, while being bare bones and basic, it is also highly customizable and open to third-party interpretation. Which is where the issue with the so-called “fully loaded Kodi boxes” has come from. These are boxes that come pre-loaded with Kodi. Which in itself, comes pre-loaded with a number of add-ons, that provide access to content, illegally. Which is another point worth noting, as even these bad add-ons are not technically illegal. While they provide access to content illegally, the add-ons themselves are not illegal - at least not yet.

So this is why the issue has become such a complicated one, as there are multiple levels in play here. Kodi is not illegal, neither is it illegal to install or download Kodi and it is not even illegal to sell boxes that come pre-loaded with Kodi. Nor is it illegal to buy boxes that come pre-loaded with Kodi. Likewise, the add-ons are not illegal either. Although some add-ons do offer access to content, illegally. Change their content and the add-on would instantly be considered a ‘good’ add-on again - it is not the product - but the destination of that product that is the issue. So to cut the confusion, what is illegal, is to sell TV boxes, which comes loaded with a version of Kodi, that is pre-loaded with add-ons, that provide access to content illegally. Although, even that is another convoluted issue - as it is not illegal to sell these boxes everywhere. If anything, it is the minority of places still, like the UK, who are making firm moves to protect content providers by making it illegal to distribute such boxes - note distribute, not buy.

The other issue with all this confusion is that it takes the shine off of what is a very good product. Kodi has the ability to bring all your media content together in one centralized place, making it much easier to engage with multiple sources from one single application and interface - an interface by the way, that you can customize to your particular tastes. Not to mention, Kodi is becoming increasingly better over time. It did recently undergo quite the makeover and only this week, we got to see just how much the next version of Kodi (18) will be improved and especially for Android TV device owners, as it is gaining greater and deeper Android TV integration through the inclusion of recommendations (shown in the image above) and voice search. In many ways, Kodi has paved the way for applications for Android TV, showing both developers and consumers how powerful a platform like Android TV can be. So regardless of anything, if you are a media user, through any Android-related device, then not only should you be using Kodi, but you should also be supporting the platform overall. At the very least, don’t be blindsided by the news and bad publicity that Kodi has gotten lately. It is not #FakeNews per se, but certainly can be considered miscommunicated news.

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