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How Kodi Took Over Piracy (wired.com) 143

A reader shares a report: For years, piracy persisted mainly in the realm of torrents, with sites like The Pirate Bay and Demonoid connecting internet denizens to premium content gratis. But a confluence of factors have sent torrent usage plummeting from 23 percent of all North American daily internet traffic in 2011 to under 5 percent last year. Legal crackdowns shuttered prominent torrent sites. Paid alternatives like Netflix and Hulu made it easier just to pay up. And then there were the "fully loaded" Kodi boxes -- otherwise vanilla streaming devices that come with, or make easily accessible, so-called addons that seek out unlicensed content -- that deliver pirated movies and TV shows with push-button ease. "Kodi and the plugin system and the people who made these plugins have just dumbed down the process," says Dan Deeth, spokesperson for network-equipment company Sandvine. "It's easy for anyone to use. It's kind of set it and forget it. Like the Ron Popeil turkey roaster." Kodi itself is just a media player; the majority of addons aren't piracy focused, and lots of Kodi devices without illicit software plug-ins are utterly uncontroversial. Still, that Kodi has swallowed piracy may not surprise some of you; a full six percent of North American households have a Kodi device configured to access unlicensed content, according to a recent Sandvine study. But the story of how a popular, open-source media player called XBMC became a pirate's paradise might. And with a legal crackdown looming, the Kodi ecosystem's present may matter less than its uncertain future.
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How Kodi Took Over Piracy

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  • by OffTheLip ( 636691 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @03:39PM (#55458975)
    It's that simple. People want to view content and issues of availability, cost, censorship, convenience figure into individual choice as to whether one uses the app and how one uses to the app.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dslauson ( 914147 )

      It's that simple. People want to view content and issues of availability, cost, censorship, convenience figure into individual choice as to whether one uses the app and how one uses to the app.

      Add "perceived risk" to that list of factors. I have a feeling a lot of the people using these plugins don't realize they are infringing copyright in a way that could put them at legal risk.

      • Agreed. Most people I know think as long as it's stream, it's perfectly legitimate.

        • Agreed. Most people I know think as long as it's stream, it's perfectly legitimate.

          As it should be. My kids (under 10) watch infringing stuff on youtube all the time. Should my kids be liable for stuff that a multi billion dollar company gives out for free? Why is google/youtube not held responsible? Google/youtube isn't even really trying. They play ads and rake in millions of dollars from infringing content. Youtube/Google is likely making more money from pirated content than all the other pirate sites combined. My kids stumble upon it accidentally by typing stuff like "spongebob

    • It's that simple. People want to view content and issues of availability, cost, censorship, convenience figure into individual choice as to whether one uses the app and how one uses to the app.

      I have no problem with paying content creators for the work they do, indeed I subscribe to a number of streaming services, but very often those factors (particularly availability) that you mention come into play. I can watch something when I'm in North America but then when I travel to the UK I can't watch it. Those sorts of restrictions mean people just turn to piracy, it's not necessarily a lack of willingness to pay, it's a lack of willingness of the content provider to offer that option. Somebody else o

    • Primarily I use it to view YouTube videos. Using the Firefox addin called "send to kodi" I can load a YouTube page in Firefox and then send the video to kodi. In conjunction with my tablet I can fine tune my viewing experience.

      There's an enormous amount of legitimate freely accessible content that using kodi to view is perfect.

      According to the US Supreme Court if the device has a legitimate use then it isn't illegal. Wired knows this. It is fraudulent of Wired to misreprent how people are using the kod

  • by fibonacci8 ( 260615 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @03:40PM (#55458983)
    Is this the same Sandvine whose business model included spoofing data packets to discourage bittorrent activity, regardless of whether the content being torrented was legal?
    • "Is this the same Sandvine whose business model included spoofing data packets to discourage bittorrent activity, regardless of whether the content being torrented was legal?"

      Sandvine is a network equipment vendor, their business model is to provide technology and services (consulting, support etc.) to ISPs that allow the ISPs to manage the utilisation of their network.

      Their products are quite comprehensive and flexible.

      For example, their products also support integration with bittorrent caching/acceleratio

  • Et tu, Slashdot? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 30, 2017 @03:47PM (#55458999)

    Kodi is an extensible media player. Piracy happens in separate plugins which are neither produced nor endorsed by the Kodi developers. If Kodi took over piracy, so did the OS it runs on, because that too effectively serves as a base for the piracy plugins. Kodi is not piracy software!

    • so-called addons

      Like they're not real addons...but it's a Wired article, what do you expect? If they can't even decide on calling them addons or "so-called addons" then why do you expect they'd be able to differentiate the platform?

      As far a Slashdot...well, this is what the users have chosen in the Firehose.

    • Kodi is an extensible media player.

      Kodi is the name given to a black box that people buy. It's the name that flashes up on bootup. All your talk of extensible blah addon blah is meaningless.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        ...and the article already mentions that this "black box" often doesn't do piracy on it's own. It has to be altered by the user to do piracy. It's just like any other general purpose computing device.

    • Slashdot has long been merely a corporate repeater. Look at the stories it picks to point to, the views expressed here (including the editorializing by way of direct comment, iconography, and one-liner comments just underneath the headline): they're all no threat to power. That's what makes sites like /. less free than older discussion forums on Usenet. Certain topics and views are simply outside the allowable limits of debate or marginalized for no good reason.

      If established power wants to posit that Kodi

  • There's a fix. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pecosdave ( 536896 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @03:50PM (#55459011) Homepage Journal

    If content creators don's want people pirating their content they can make it more easily accessible.

    I would LOVE to have a Netflix plugin that works with Kodi so I didn't have to switch inputs and start my Playstation.

    I USED to have a an app that could play Amazon video without having to switch inputs and turn on my Playstation, but Amazon actively thwarted the software that only worked if I paid my Prime anyways.

    I would love it if I could just watch Hulu from Kodi without having to switch inputs and turn on my Playstation.

    Really I could just leave my Kodi box running and watch all of the movies I paid for by streaming it from the Kodi box to the Playstation, but let's face it, Kodi has a great interface.

    I CAN play a bunch of PBS stuff legally on my Kodi box, I can play some random stuff from various local TV stations that have an accessible on-ramp, including some national networks,100% legally. That's not quite as slick as using the Playstation, but it's not horrible.

    TO fix the problem you don't have to start giving everything away for free, but not being pricks about APIs would fix a lot of it.

    • Re:There's a fix. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 30, 2017 @04:19PM (#55459163)

      If content creators don's want people pirating their content they can make it more easily accessible.

      Publishers could aid that goal by being less asshats about their content as well.

      One huge problem I have with them, is they squarely and firmly label me a pirate, despite in reality not pirating and purchasing all of my media.

      I do have a form of Kodi system (It's actually the older form of Kodi, still named XBMC) but I don't have and never have had any streaming add-ons
      I've only ever in fact had one add-on, to allow for an http API for remote control commands, which has since been part of the base software.

      My DVD collection however is ripped to my local file server to watch from any TV in my home.
      For this convenience I am labeled a criminal and categorized as a pirate.

      All of those DVDs were purchased legally, most all of them brand new, and even the pre-owned used ones are still in the jewel case with original disc, original paper jacketing, and with the (sometimes annoyingly placed) "used price" sticker with either a "blockbuster" or "family home video" branded price label.

      But the fact I choose to store them in digital form all in the same place for my own ease of use is, despite the betamax court case being long over, still labeled a copyright violation.

      It's only the coincidental fact that you would never know of my actions via monitoring my Internet usage being the only reason I have little to no risk of being sued.

      Now, on top of my preferred media storage method being deemed a crime, my favorite media player interface is now being deemed an illegal device.

      It's no wonder so many people have said fuck it to the game and refuse to play along.

    • by Desler ( 1608317 )

      If content creators don's want people pirating their content they can make it more easily accessible.

      Or you could just avoid their content if it’s not released under terms you agree with?

      • It's why I've yet to see a single episode or Star Trek Discovery or Constantine, despite the fact Constantine ties into shows I'm watching now, and Discovery ties into shows I watched once upon a time.

      • This is an unrealistic counterargument. The point is, if you know the human nature, you also know the vast majority of the populace wants entertainment, wants it as cheap as possible, and wants it in an easy, accessible way. They want that, whether it's legal or not, and a considerable part of that same populace will try to get it, legally or not. that's just a fact. One can come up with all sorts of legalities and moral judgements, but it still is and remains a fact. That's why the 'war on drugs' never su
    • You come off as an entitled, whiny little bitch. Sounds like you should just leave the fucking Playstation on, it seems to play everything.
      • except for h.265

        When has anything ever changed to accommodate your wishes by shutting up, sitting in a corner, and ignoring the possibilities? I've already mentioned changing code to get plugins to do what I want, so I'm willing to do it myself. Right now the ball is in the court of some other people - did the horrible "Must have the Kinect hooked up to use your XBOX One" [kotaku.com] requirement go away because nobody said anything or did it get done because everyone bitched?

        Why am I feeding this fucking troll?

      • I've read some of your comment history.

        You do much poking with a stick, you do little in way of contribution.

    • I would LOVE to have a Netflix plugin that works with Kodi

      There already is one in the nightly. Expect a proper working plugin with the next major release version.

      • w00t!

        • Fucking tell me about it. All those people saying that they should just launch Chrome are ignoring the myriad of these systems now running on ARM architectures which lack a Chrome build.

          • I did the Chrome thing back when that system still had Mac OS on it. It's a first-gen Intel Mac Pro. Apple doesn't support it anymore. I moved to Linux not because I prefer it (even though in many ways I do, except for the issues I don't like to acknowledge where incompatibility creep happens with time if you keep the base up to date). What happened was every time I launched Netflix I got a message in Chrome "This version is no longer going to be supported and no new version is available because you're

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's necessary to point out that there is plenty of legitimate use cases in Kodi. For example, playing videos and displaying photo slideshows from a home media server, or allowing me to interact from just about any device in my network with my DVR - watching and scheduling recordings as well as live TV.

    • And BitTorrent can be used to download Linux. Doesn't mean that is the primary use most people have for it.

      • Torrent protocols are also used for file synchronization and by some software to download updates.

      • What something which is legal is used for, even if it's for something not legal, isn't the fault of the legal program, though. The supreme court has been pretty clear about this: if it has legal uses, and it doesn't effectively promote illegal use, it is and remains legal.
  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @03:52PM (#55459021)

    Paid alternatives like Netflix and Hulu made it easier just to pay up.

    I'm pretty sure there's more paying households of Netflix and/or Hulu than there is households equipped with a Kodi box with piracy-enabling plug-ins.

  • I liked the old Kodi/XBMC : a light browsing + viewing media application for my legally obtained/home-made content.

    Since that time it became bloated with plugins that are looking for your videos on web sites (imdb & cie), and doing "god knows what".

    I tried to disable them all, without success.

    I tried to recompile from the source, disabling every useless plugin, but the build process is not very clear (and uses cmake, that I find less user-friendly than a well-made autotools chain).

    In the end I gave up a

    • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @04:09PM (#55459099) Homepage Journal

      Uhmm, say what?

      I pretty much stay up to date on Kodi. I'm running it on hardware I re-purposed, not one of those already setup for piracy boxes from online, in fact I'm running it on an old Mac Pro.

      Not a single bloated plugin doing stuff I don't want it too. Yes - I do have a plugin that matches my file names to online databases the themoviedb.org and thetvdb.com, but I can very easily not use them, I really like my scrapper info being there.

      Even getting into advanced stuff with Kodi isn't necessarily out of reach. I am not a programmer and I've altered plugins I wanted to use that pulled video anonymously or with a shared account to actually put my own paid-for credentials in instead of a generic shared account. That particular program probably should have had a way to do it without editing scripts, but the fact I did and I can't claim to actually know any programming languages means something.

      Kodi is one of the most configurable things I've ever come across, that's part of WHY there are so many piracy plugins for it, they're not hard to make.

      • That's not the point (but kudos for spending time altering code, sincerely).
        Besides installing the default minimal package (Arch), the most I would do with Kodi is ./configure --disable-all-plugins --enable-all-decoders --disable-all-encoders && make && make install
        I'm a dev and I have more interesting things to do in my spare time than trying to understand why some modules cannot be removed physically in a trivial manner. It's not worth it. (I prefer to invest my remaining energy into impr

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Thanks a lot for the advice definitely not MPAA agent.
  • by blackomegax ( 807080 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @03:59PM (#55459059) Journal
    Can't stop the signal.
  • So many choppy sentences starting with conjunctions. I actually had to re-read the last part several times to get what was going on.

    Some of you may find it unsurprising that Kodi has swallowed piracy: a recent Sandvine study projects a Kodi device configured to access unlicensed content in a full six percent of North American households. The story of how a popular, open-source media player called XBMC became a pirate's paradise might; and, with a legal crackdown looming, the Kodi ecosystem's present may matter less than its uncertain future.

  • How about suing the actual content providers who host and serve the pirated copies, Google, dropbox, Amazon? If they can analyze your content to serve ads they should be able to identify pirated videos.

    Oh wait, they have more lawyers than open source coders. Maybe not so good idea then.

  • Lies and damn lies (Score:5, Informative)

    by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @04:24PM (#55459199)

    I resent hyperbolic click baiting media dragging Kodi's name thru the mud with sensational headlines "How Kodi took over piracy" when authors know full well its misleading bullshit.

    • Authors may know, the general public doesn't which is kind of the point. As far as everyone is concerned Kodi is now considered a pirate box.

  • So, I'm at work, and a lot of sites are normally blocked (not even worth clicking on half of them), but how do these plugins work? Are they user-friendly torrent interfaces? So they're torrents under the hood? Do they troll through newsgroups? Or are there illicit http sites out there providing the data? Or something else entirely? I couldn't figure it out skimming TFA... did I miss something?

    • Re:What is it? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ottothecow ( 600101 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @04:52PM (#55459435) Homepage
      Generally the way these things work is that they just have a bunch of connections to illicit streaming sites...and the nicer ones include ongoing updates and customer support to keep you ahead of the inevitable site shutdowns. They aren't really tied to the Kodi project other than the fact that they found a really good free media player that they could attach their addons to.

      That being said...Kodi probably wouldn't exist without piracy. I'd wager the majority of Kodi users have amassed at least some of their media collection through illicit means. There are so many ways to set up kodi with automatic usenet/torrent downloaders, and the built in library parsers are great at figuring out what you have from standard scene naming conventions...for every person who has filled their library solely with purchased and ripped DVDs...there are probably 10 who have a bunch of torrented stuff (especially since most non-physical-media ways of purchasing content are not compatible with Kodi).

      Although I once stayed at a hotel that had a customized kodi installation on a box attached to the back of their TVs with the usual sort of hotel menu options. It wasn't branded Kodi, but I noticed the sound effects were familiar and I restarted it to watch the bootup sequence. I googled the company that made it a bit and could find very little info...I strongly suspected that they were probably in violation of the GPL, but never followed it further. The closest I got was some guy posting in search of technical support with pasted log files that contained the company name in some file paths (and the guy's name showed up on linkedin as an intern at the company).

      • most work over http and the plugins just scrape the sites. a few even use torrents but even they warm you to use a vpn.
    • The plugins generally stream from file locker type http content hosts.

      The plugins use the file locker APIs to find the. Since it's just file lockers stuff gets taken down all the time by DMCA, but people are uploading new copies of the content as fast as or faster than they are taken down so there is generally always a few working content results for a given title.

  • The real reason bittorrent "piracy" traffic is down is because bittorrent sites have been taken down and also Comcast started blocking access to torrent search sites in certain areas. You CAN control the Internet with enough effort. Monopolies and walled gardens make it even easier.
    • the real reason for a time was stuff like Netflix was offering a decent paid alt. but as there library steadily shrinks due to all the content providers pulling a me to killing off the market hulu pay walling everything and so forth people have moved back to piracy.
  • Having read it twice, I still don't understand the point the summary is trying to make. It says piracy is much lower now than in 2011. It says Kodi "took over" the piracy arena and made it easier than ever before to access unlicensed content. It says a full 6 percent of households have a Kodi box. So what the heck is the point the summary is making? Piracy is down because Kodi makes it so much easier to access unlicensed media? That makes no sense at all. Or is this all past tense and Kodi has been sto

  • It's interesting that Kodi gets blamed for this. Showbox is side-loadable and *way* easier to use than any streaming plugin in Kodi. Also there are tons of free steaming video sites. There is way more to this than Kodi.
    • yep i know some sites that have been up longer then piratbay and never have a problem. they can try and blame kodi but sense they dont make those plugins good luck with that.
  • What's next? "How Slashdot took over fake news?"
  • Kodi did nothing of the sort. That's like saying VCRs took over piracy. Kodi is a tool.

    Why is wired misrepresenting this? The general public likely doesn't understand the nuance here.

  • I can't stand the typical user... they bitch about their "Android Box" when the problem is really Kodi or the plugin... but they're too fucking stupid to differentiate between them. Most of them don't even understand that what they're doing is piracy, and have no idea where the sources are coming from... the whole thing is just a septic tank of stupid users.
  • ITunes, Spotify, made me actually finally pay for music? why? unlimited and I can say "Whoever" play xyz. I think the only solution is to do what music has done. Charge 9.99 a month(hell we pay for real-redbird for dedicated streams, some even pay for vpns). And I can say, Sirii, Cortana, Whoever, play “Goodfellas” No playing with inputs, no finding streams, no vpns, not dedicated servers, no setup, no downloading etc. My brother in law has apple tv, its kodi without the setup, and of cou
  • There are some titles that donâ(TM)t interest me and I will NEVER watch them (especially if I have to pay for them), but sometimes I might be bored and looking for something different and watch the odd titled for a change of pace. I wouldnâ(TM)t pay for it either way, but it makes that impress me enough that I might pay for the next one. In either case itâ(TM)s a zero sum loss, they lose nothing by charging (because I wonâ(TM)t watch it) and lose nothing by my not being able to watch i

If a thing's worth having, it's worth cheating for. -- W.C. Fields