Premier League gets Kodi piracy court order
The Premier League has secured a court order to help tackle rights-infringing video streams of football matches via so-called Kodi set-top boxes.
The order gives the league the means to have computer servers used to power the streams blocked.
Until now, it could only go after individual video streams which were relatively easy to re-establish at different links.
A spokesman said it could now target pirates in a "precise manner".
"For the first time this will enable the Premier League to disrupt and prevent the illegal streaming of our matches via IPTV, so-called Kodi, boxes," he added.
Football fans are urged instead to get a Sky Sports or BT Sport subscription, or watch games at a venue that pays for access.
The Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) declared that the use of Kodi software to watch pirated streams was becoming an "epidemic" last September.
Since then, there have been several arrests of people selling set-top boxes pre-installed with both Kodi software and additional third-party add-ons that make it possible to watch copyright-infringing film and TV streams.
According to a recent survey commissioned by the security firm Irdeto, Kodi boxes are particularly prevalent in the UK.
It reported that 11% of Brits that admitted to watching pirated streams in a survey said they did so via a Kodi box.
There is confusion about whether doing so is illegal.
Derbyshire County Council trading standards officers recently said users would not break copyright laws by doing so.
"Accessing premium paid-for content without a subscription is considered by the industry as unlawful access, although streaming something online, rather than downloading a file, is likely to be exempt from copyright laws," they said.
But the Intellectual Property Office has taken a different view.
"It is a criminal offence to knowingly receive subscription broadcasts without paying for them, and there are also provisions restricting the manufacture, sale or use of equipment designed to circumvent the encryption that protects many TV broadcasts," said Matt Cope, deputy director of intellectual property enforcement.
What are Kodi boxes?
Kodi is free software, built by volunteers, that is designed to bring videos, music, games and photographs together in one easy-to-use application.
Some shops sell set-top boxes and TV sticks known as Kodi boxes, preloaded with the software.
The developers behind Kodi say their software does not contain any content of its own and is designed to play legally owned media or content "freely available" on the internet.
However, the software can be modified with third-party add-ons that provide access to pirated copies of films and TV series, or provide free access to subscription television channels.
"Streaming boxes have steadily increased in popularity in recent years," said Ernesto van der Sar, from the news site Torrentfreak.
"Most use the entirely legal Kodi software, but some are augmented with illegal third-party add-ons.
"Nowadays people often prefer to stream pirated content instead of using traditional torrent sites."