Anyone typing the simple phrase “free movies” into eBay will be overloaded with many thousands of results. A large proportion offer hardware that has been customized to receive unauthorized online video.
The software these devices run is very often XBMC, or Kodi as its now known. The software in its basic form is an entirely legal media player, around since the days of the original Xbox (XBox Media Center).
However, XBMC/Kodi is compatible with third-party addons that can turn the player into a piracy powerhouse providing free access to movies, TV shows and live sports. With the advent of XBMC/Kodi for Android, eBay is now flooded with ready-built and configured ‘pirate’ boxes that anyone can operate.
A typical ‘pirate’ XBMC Android Box Listing
This week TF received information that eBay has been taking down listings for these devices, apparently at the behest of the XBMC Foundation, the organization behind the XBMC/Kodi software.
“The rights owner or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the rights owner, XBMC Foundation, notified eBay that this listing violates intellectual property rights. When eBay receives a report of this type of violation, we remove the listing to comply with the law,” eBay told a disappointed seller.
When emailed about the takedown, XBMC Foundation responded: “Your listing was removed because it violates our brand policy by altering the XBMC(tm) / Kodi ™ installation by including extra add-ons which are against our general brand policy or piracy general piracy policy.”
To discover more about these developments, TorrentFreak spoke with Kodi Project Manager Nathan Betzen.
“First, let me say that we have no copyright claims or interests in addons developed by third parties. The form provided by eBay is unfortunately over broad and says quite a bit more than we want it to say, but we work with the tools we’re given,” Betzen told TF.
“The requested takedowns are based entirely on trademark issues. All of the listings targeted so far have explicitly connected XBMC/Kodi with addons that enable piracy, resulting in eBay listings with phrases like, ‘XBMC lets you watch all the free movies you want!’”
Betzen informs TF that the Foundation not only controls the XBMC trademark in the US (and wherever else common law trademarks are recognized), but is also in the process of registering the name ‘Kodi’ with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Once obtained, that trademark will be extended internationally using the Madrid Trademark Protocol.
“We believe that these [eBay] sales are causing confusion for our users about what XBMC/Kodi does as a vanilla program. The clearest evidence of this may be found among several of the sellers themselves who are surprised and unaware of the fact that XBMC has absolutely nothing to do with the development of the piracy-related addons included in their sales pitch,” Betzen says.
“Upon being contacted by the sellers, we only request that they not associate the XBMC/Kodi name with the act of piracy described in their listings. This is possible by rebranding the software, which is permissible under the GPL.”
Betzen notes that simply refraining from mentioning piracy features is also enough to avoid an eBay takedown.
“Either way, they are welcome to post the sale again the moment they follow either of these paths or otherwise creatively solve the issue of associating the name XBMC/Kodi with piracy,” Betzen says.
Despite the takedowns, the XBMC Foundation told TF it takes no stance on piracy. Users are free to use their software how they like within the constraints of the GPL v2. However, that freedom ends when people indicate to the public that the Foundation is taking sides in the piracy debate when its goal is to remain out of the argument entirely.
“To put it simply: We are happy to remain software developers. And we are happy to let other groups stand for and against piracy,” Betzen concludes.