Is Kodi Legal?

Is Kodi Legal?

You may have been told by a friend that there’s a way to get free shows and movies for no monthly fee.  They are probably talking about Kodi and you are probably wondering, is Kodi Legal?  I will explain what they are talking about and how it works.  From there, you can make your own decision.


Kodi is free, open source media center software.  I want to discuss it because it’s the best and most popular.  Just know that there are at least a dozen other products that are similar.  It is compatible with a number of hardware platforms and operating systems.  You can even run it on your phone.

It started out in 2002 as the Xbox Media Player and would only run on an Xbox.  A year later it was renamed to the Xbox Media Center (XBMC) and was expanded to run on a number of other systems.  It became known as Kodi in 2014.

Kodi itself is a very versatile media player.  It can be loaded on a Fire TV, an old PC, an Android TV box, a phone and more.  It’s extremely customizable through skins that change its appearance and a number of plugins.  Plugins are add-ons to software that add new functionality.  They can also be called modules or extensions.  If you read our post about passwords, you were introduced to LastPass.  LastPass installs a browser plugin to handle passwords for you.  Plugins are used frequently in software to reduce the size of the base application.  Plugins are developed by the original developer to add features and enhance the base application.  In the case of Kodi, it’s some third-party plugins that make this a complicated topic.

Is Kodi legal?

Yes.  Kodi by itself is perfectly legal.  It’s actually a great product.  It’s how it’s used that can be problematic.  Part of what makes it great is that you can use plugins to add new functionality.  The problem is that there are also plugins that are made to use unofficial streaming sites.  These are sites that host movies and other shows for streaming, but don’t own the rights to do so.

Kodi tries to shut down the plugins that are made to use the unofficial streaming sites.  Since it’s open source, it’s easy to develop new plugins.  By the way, open source just means that the software source code is freely available.  Kodi disables these plugins, but new ones quickly replace them.  The problem for Kodi is that completely closing this loop takes away its biggest feature, which is its customization.  This cycle just repeats and repeats.

It’s up to you

Kodi and similar media centers were designed to organize and play personal video libraries.  There is no question that this purpose is okay.  The confusion comes in when you can stream a movie that’s still playing in theaters.  There are plugins for Kodi that allow this.  There are also set-top boxes that you can buy already set up to do this.  I’m not a lawyer, so I’m going to refer you to this Business Insider post on the subject where they discuss the legality of it.

They wrote “When the user downloads even part of a file — called “pseudo-streaming” — it counts as a copy of copyrighted material, which is illegal.”  During streaming, something called buffering is done to keep the video playing smoothly.  Some amount of the video is downloaded ahead of when it’s played.  If there is a temporary slowdown in the video stream that buffered video is played and you don’t notice the slowdown.  The opposite happens when the video can’t be streamed fast enough.  The video will pause until there’s a large enough buffer to play a small amount of smooth video.  In both cases, part of a file is downloaded.

If you’re using Kodi as a media center, it’s perfectly legal.  If you’re using it to stream video you don’t own ,it seems clear, but it’s up to you.

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