Kodi: EFF says courts should reject 'abusive' lawsuits against add-on distributors

The war against copyright infringement has always been a difficult one for rights holders. Aside from the scale of the problem, there are multiple platforms that make illegal downloads, streams, and sharing possible. For many years, the main target for anti-piracy bodies was BitTorrent, but in recent months a new number one enemy has surfaced in the form of Kodi, and in particular various companies and addons associated with the media center software.

While in Europe and the UK, sellers of "fully loaded" media center boxes seem to be the primary focus for Kodi-related lawsuits, in Canada and the US, it’s hosting site TVAddons and the ZemTV Kodi addon that are in the firing line. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was setup to "defend civil liberties in the digital world" and it has now weighed in on the Kodi situation, pointing out the shaky legal grounds these cases rest on.

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Talking about the TVAddons and ZemTV lawsuits, the EFF says:

It is undisputed that the vast majority of the Kodi add-ons hosted at TVAddons at the time of the seizure were not infringing. Although some add-ons facilitate the users' access to copyright-infringing streams, there is a strong case that no wrong has been committed by TVAddons for merely hosting them online for download. Canadian law, like American law, provides web hosts with a safe harbor making them "exempt from liability when they act strictly as intermediaries in communication, caching and hosting activities."

The lawsuit against TVAddons seeks to skirt that important protection by arguing that by merely hosting, distributing and promoting Kodi add-ons, the TVAddons administrator is liable for inducing or authorizing copyright infringements later committed using those add-ons. This argument, were it to succeed, would create new uncertainty and risk for distributors of any software that could be used to engage in copyright infringement.

In the full post, titled The War on General-Purpose Computing Turns on the Streaming Media Box Community, the EFF makes some excellent points, and it’s well worth a read if you have an interest in such matters.

The foundation’s conclusion will be heartening to the owners and users of TVAddons in particular:

These lawsuits by big TV incumbents seem to have a few goals: to expand the scope of secondary copyright infringement yet again, to force major Kodi add-on distributors off of the Internet, and to smear and discourage open source, freely configurable media players by focusing on the few bad actors in that ecosystem. The courts should reject these expansions of copyright liability, and TV networks should not target neutral platforms and technologies for abusive lawsuits.

TVAddons says:

TVAddons is not a piracy site, it’s a platform for developers of open source add-ons for the Kodi media center. As a community platform filled with user-generated content, we have always acted in accordance with the law and swiftly complied whenever we received a DMCA takedown notice. When you visit any given web site, how can you be certain that every piece of media you see is licensed by the website displaying it? You can make assumptions, but it’s very difficult to be certain. That’s why the DMCA is critical to the existence of online communities.