Open Source Makes Kodi Add-ons Proliferate — And Hard To Eradicate

from the welcome-to-the-hydra-effect dept

As Techdirt noted a year ago, the entertainment industry has been trying to convince the authorities around the world that “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes, which allow the viewing of unauthorized video streams, are the devil’s spawn, and must be eradicated. That obsession has led to efforts to stop even vanilla Kodi boxes being promoted and sold, despite the fact that the open source software they run is perfectly legal. TorrentFreak has a report about the latest salvo in this war on Kodi, and its interesting consequences.

It concerns a third-party Kodi add-on called “Exodus”, which, like many others, allowed unauthorized streaming videos to be viewed with little effort. The excellent design and resulting popularity of Exodus meant that it was soon targeted by copyright companies. The pressure worked, and the development of the add-on was halted, leaving millions of happy users somewhat less happy. But Exodus had an important hidden feature: it was released under an open source license. That meant that anyone could pick up the code and continue its development independently of the original, without needing to ask permission from anyone. As TorrentFreak points out, that is precisely what has happened, and on a surprisingly large scale. The TVAddons site recently published an article that discusses 12 forks of Exodus, which is only part of the Exodus ecosystem: “Too many Exodus forks are out there to investigate them all.”

This “hydra” effect — chop off one head, and two grow in its place — makes eliminating open-source add-ons for Kodi extremely difficult. Although individual developers may be persuaded to stop working on a particular fork, the code is still out there, and can easily be maintained and improved by others. Since the latter can be anywhere in the world, that makes shutting them down even harder. However, TorrentFreak rightly notes that this doesn’t mean that the efforts of the copyright companies are entirely in vain:

the continued efforts from rightsholders to shut down these add-ons may have a more subtle effect. While hardcore pirates will always find a new fork, there’s also a group of people who will get frustrated by the repeated shutdowns, and give up eventually.

That’s certainly true, but it’s not an insurmountable problem. For example, it would be straightforward for developers to create a common standard for key aspects of their add-ons that would allow simple switching between them. That way, once one add-on was shut down, non-technical users could migrate easily to new ones, perhaps even automatically. When the code is open source, there is no problem with proprietary rights being asserted over programming modules or configuration files — another reason why developers may decide to adopt it when writing Kodi add-ons.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

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Comments on “Open Source Makes Kodi Add-ons Proliferate — And Hard To Eradicate”

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Thad (profile) says:

And of course if it were easier to make Kodi interface with legal streaming services, there would be less (not zero, but less) demand for the illegal ones.

Kodi does have add-ons for a number of legal streaming sites — YouTube, Pluto, and various cable stations’ free streaming options — right out of the box, and with a little bit of work you can get it to stream Netflix and Amazon Prime video. But last I checked, there was no streaming option for Hulu.

I haven’t checked other pay sites like HBO or CBS All Access, as I don’t have subscriptions to them. Not sure if you can access them from Kodi or not.

But keeping Kodi from accessing legal streaming services is baffling to me. I’m paying the same for my subscription whether I watch from a web browser, an official app, or a Kodi plugin.

XcOM987 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That’s what annoys me, I use a forked version of Kodi called OMSC for my media consumption at home, I don’t have traditional TV, I stream everything or buy and download it.

I wish for everything to run through my OSMC box purely because it’s running on a raspberry Pi and I have it integrate in to my home media system and smart home applications which also run on a Pi,

Can I get Netflix to work without issue, can I buggery, a lot of these bodies and companies should be adopting Kodi and releasing their own addons rather than trying to kill it, they would see a bigger benefit with less of an investment.

PaulT (profile) says:

Of course, addressing the reasons why people use the illegal plugins in the first place would also help, which include not only Thad’ comment above, but all the other stuff they pull.

I was listening to a podcast recently where one of the hosts detailed his experience going to see Avengers Endgame. Basically, the venue was so underprepared for the extra influx of people that he ended up getting into the movie 20 minutes late due to the crowds at the concessions. So, after finishing the movie, he pirated a copy in order to see the opening scene he’d paid for but missed.

According to anyone with any ability to grasp facts, that means that he didn’t "steal" anything (he was just completing the incomplete product he was sold) and any future losses in revenue will be down to the terrible experience afforded to him by the cinema. But, according to the industry, he’s just a pirate and that pirated copy wold have led to him buying another ticket if piracy was magically eradicated.

The problems with the plugins discussed are not how they are and distributed – it’s that they give people what they want (and are willing to pay for) but are otherwise either refused service altogether or given an inferior product. Fix that, and the piracy problem fixes itself.

ECA (profile) says:

Just to ask...

Who is/would be responsible for tracking and Stopping the Illegal distribution of Music and video and movies??

This is a company thing, And not the Gov. parlance to deal with. Shouldnt the Corps DO the work of tracking and finding, and then add the police to the job??
I dont THINK our gov. gets paid for doing all the work, so WHY should the gov. Do the foot work? NOPE.

tp (profile) says:

Technology developers should act

If you’re developing technology for the world, it is your responsibility to ensure that your product is not used for illegal or immoral purposes. Once it is known that your product is being used for piracy or copyright infringement, the author of the technology must act and build safeguards and technological limitations that prevent using the technology for such purposes. Note that if open source license for the software makes illegal uses profilerate, then maybe it’s time for the author to reject open-source and use some other license. If they fail to do that, they’re helping pirates and the tech developers can be sued for copyright infringements of their users.

The trolls in the newsfeeds are claiming that kodi itself is legal software, but this claim might not be the truth. If kodi allows plugin development, but does not prevent plugin authors to enable piracy, then kodi isn’t exactly legal software in the first place. Kodi plugins should build technological limitations that prevent piracy well enough that it does not happen in the marketplace. All the entities that are enabling these illegal operations are responsible when the shit hits the fan and the tech is being used for illegal purposes.

While seeing the consiquences of the tech development can be difficult before the problems become visible, quick actions can prevent the problem becoming larger when first indications of illegal activity are happening.

Video playing software especially is in grave danger of falling to the illegal area, simply because there is large piracy population that wants to watch pirated movies. This is why technology developers need to be extreamly careful when building video-playing software. Google has made this process alot more difficult when their browsers are supporting video tags without checking for copyrights, but guess google will be sued once pirates find out how nice video tags are. Ordinary end users writing home software shouldnt assume that they are allowed to do the same operations than what large companies can do. Large companies have billions of money which they can use to pay off some damages caused by their technology, but normal home-based open-source developers do not have that luxury and thus shouldn’t assume that everything large companies are doing are freely available for their development purposes.

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