Facebook Bans 'Promotion' Of Kodi Boxes, Even If They're Perfectly Legal
from the somebody-is-clearly-terrified dept
If you haven’t noticed, the entertainment industry has a new, terrifying bogeyman. Over the last year or two, pressure from entertainment industry lobbying groups has resulted in an all-out war on streaming video devices (aka computers) that run Kodi, the video streaming software. Kodi has technically been around since 2002, first as Xbox Media Player, after which it became the Xbox Media Center until 2014. The XBMC Foundation then renamed the software Kodi, and it became popular as an easy way to store and stream content, including copyrighted content, from hardware running Kodi to other devices in or out of the home.
For years now, tinkerers everywhere have built custom-made PCs that use the open-source Kodi platform. In more recent years, outfits like Dragonbox or SetTV have taken things further by selling users tailor-made hardware that provides easy access to live copyrighted content by not only including Kodi, but integrating numerous tools and add-ons that make copyright infringement easier. Driven largely by clearly-terrified entertainment-industry execs and lobbyists, numerous studios, Netflix and Amazon have tried to sue these efforts out of existence.
Even the FCC has tried to help the entertainment industry in this fight, demanding that Ebay and Amazon crack down on the sale of such devices. Since the FCC lacks authority over copyright, it has instead tried to justify its involvement here by focusing on these devices’ illegal use of the FCC approval logo. It’s another big favor to the entertainment industry by the Pai FCC, who you’ll recall killed efforts to help make the traditional cable box sector more open and competitive.
But the fight has also been pushed well beyond “fully loaded” Kodi-embedded devices specifically built and sold with an eye on copyright infringement. Google, for example, has banned the word Kodi from its autocomplete filter despite the fact that the Kodi software is perfectly legal. Facebook has also been piling on, initially updating its commerce policy to ban the promotion of “products or items” that facilitate or encourage unauthorized access to digital media.
Last week, Cordcutter news was the first to notice that Facebook had since tailored its commerce policy further to specifically ban Facebook users from promoting “the sale or use of streaming devices with KODI installed.”:
Facebook hasn’t banned the sale of any devices that are compatible with Kodi-streaming devices (keyboards, remotes). But the specific focus on Kodi remains a problem because, again, Kodi itself isn’t illegal. Nor is building a small custom-PC with Kodi (or any of numerous variants like Plex) installed. Banning users for selling custom PCs that just happen to include software the entertainment industry assumes will be used for piracy is an obnoxious over-reach, but it should make it clear just how terrified the entertainment industry is of such devices.
It’s an age-old story. This “threat” (which again is perfectly-legal hardware running perfectly-legal software) could be countered by offering consumers better, more modifiable, and open products and services. Instead, as we saw with the cable industry’s massive disinformation attack against cable box reform efforts, the goal is always to keep everything unrealistically locked down to the detriment of the right to tinker and consumer choice.