Not guilty plea in landmark Kodi box trial

By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter

image copyrightTwitter
image captionBrian Thompson's case is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK

Brian Thompson, a shopkeeper from Middlesbrough, has pleaded not guilty in a landmark case, challenging the legality of video-streaming set-top boxes that provide subscription content for free.

Mr Thompson is accused of selling "fully loaded" Kodi boxes, modified with software that allowed users to watch pirated content.

The case will be closely watched by other traders who sell similar boxes.

The trial will begin in May.

Mr Thompson denied two charges of selling equipment that facilitated the circumvention of copyright protection measures.

The case, heard at Teesside Crown Court, was brought by Middlesbrough Council after Trading Standards officers raided Mr Thompson's shop Cut Price Tomo's TV in Middlesbrough in March.

The council bought two of the TV boxes in question from Mr Thompson's shop.

After his first court appearance in September, Mr Thompson told the Northern Echo: "These boxes are available from all over the place, not just me, but it's the downloading of software to watch channels that is apparently causing the problem."

"If I am found guilty and the court rules that I am breaking the law selling these boxes, I want to know what that means for people buying and selling mobile phones or laptops because the software is available for all of them."

Ernesto van der Sar, editor of piracy news website TorrentFreak told the BBC: "The case is likely to determine where the boundaries lie when it comes to offering "fully loaded" Kodi TV devices in the UK.

"While is doesn't affect users directly, it's expected to have a profound impact on sellers in this rapidly growing business."

He added: "While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, there are lots of add-ons available for it that make pirated content readily available. Users often add these themselves at home, but the question in this case is whether shopkeepers are permitted to pre-install them."

Fully loaded boxes, that come pre-installed with the add-ons are fairly common in online stores.

Users can add the software themselves but may require a degree of technical knowledge, said Mr van der Sar.

Kieron Sharp, director general of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) said: "Set-top and IPTV boxes which are 'cracked' or altered with software to allow you access to copyright-infringing apps and add-ons are illegal devices. The sale and distribution of these boxes is a criminal offence and the repercussions could result in years behind bars."

He added that Fact had been working with police forces across the UK to combat individuals selling such devices but did not say whether the organisation planned a similar crackdown on people who installed add-ons at home.

What is Kodi?

  • Kodi is free, legal software that allows users to collect videos, music games and photos in one easy-to-use application.
  • The software can be modified with third-party add-ons that provide access to pirated copies of films, TV series or provide free access to subscription television channels.
  • The developers behind Kodi say that they do not support the use of third-party add-ons that provide access to such content

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