It has been hard to avoid stories about Kodi in recent months as broadcasters and copyright holders panic about the software's potential for piracy. The controversial site TVAddons was the subject of a lawsuit from Dish Network, and shortly after this it disappeared from the web completely.
Rather than originating from the US as many people suspected, the lawsuit against TVAddons that led to its disappearance comes from Canadian telecoms firms Bell Canada, TVA, Videotron and Rogers. Now TVAddons is back, but the story about its legal battle -- involving claims of piracy of Game of Thrones -- is rather more complicated than just about anyone could have thought.
Back in June, Adam Lackman -- the owner of TVAddons -- was hit with a lawsuit which claimed his site permitted and promoted the piracy of a number of high-profile TV shows by providing access to various Kodi addons, including the ill-fated Phoenix. The site was closed down, and the domain signed over to a Canadian law firm. TorrentFreak now reveals details of the Canadian lawsuits that led to this.
As well as providing access to piracy-enabling addons, TVAddons has also been criticized for its custom build of Kodi, FreeTelly, and its configuration tool, Indigo. The complaint against the site says:
Approximately 40 million unique users located around the world are actively using Infringing Addons hosted by TVAddons every month, and approximately 900,000 Canadian households use Infringing Add-ons to access television content. The amount of users of Infringing add-ons hosted TVAddons is constantly increasing.
A secret court ruling led to the temporary closure of the site as the domains were seized. Lackman was also the subject of a warrant (an Anton Piller order) that allowed law enforcement officers to raid his home without notice to find evidence against him. TorrentFreak explains:
The order covered not only data related to the TVAddons platform, such as operating and financial details, revenues, and banking information, but everything in Lackman's possession.
The Court ordered the telecoms companies to inform Lackman that the case against him is a civil proceeding and that he could deny entry to his property if he wished. However, that option would put him in breach of the order and would place him at risk of being fined or even imprisoned. Catch 22 springs to mind.
The Court did, however, put limits on the number of people that could be present during the execution of the Anton Piller order (ostensibly to avoid intimidation) and ordered the plaintiffs to deposit CAD$50,000 with the Court, in case the order was improperly executed. That decision would later prove an important one.
Lackman was interrogated without access to a lawyer and without a right to remain silent, and questions have been raised about whether the use of an Anton Piller order was valid. A record of court proceedings shared by TorrentFreak shows that in accessing Lackman's property, the aim was much more than just securing evidence, but was part of an attempt to destroy TVAddons completely: "We use his passwords, we shut down everything, we change the password and we change everything and it cannot be reactivated by him or someone else," said a lawyer for the plaintiff.
Any attempt to "destroy" TVAddons before a trial would have been unlawful, and the judge overseeing the case noted that procedures were not executed as they should have been:
I am of the view that [the order's] true purpose was to destroy the livelihood of the Defendant, deny him the financial resources to finance a defense to the claim made against him, and to provide an opportunity for discovery of the Defendant in circumstances where none of the procedural safeguards of our civil justice system could be engaged.
Importantly, the judge also said that TVAddons does not necessarily break copyright law in providing access to Kodi addons that could be used to break copyright laws. Judge Bell also said:
In considering the balance of convenience, I also repeat that the plaintiffs admit that the vast majority of add-ons are non-infringing. Whether the remaining approximately 1% are infringing is very much up for debate. For these reasons, I find the balance of convenience favors the defendant, and no interlocutory injunction will be issued.
The battle is far from over; TVAddons may be back -- for now at least -- but the case continues.
If you intend to use Kodi with add-ons to stream potentially illegal content, you may wish to consider a VPN.