Amazon Fire TV Sticks and more recently, Amazon Fire TV Media Players (which as of writing this article (3/22/2017) can currently be purchased for $18/month) have been sold for years, and can be modified to permit the installation and use of the Kodi application. As many tech savvy guys and gals know, Kodi (formerly XMBC) can be used to add pirated content to be downloaded or streamed using the Kodi app.
DANGERS OF USING KODI ON A MEDIA DEVICE
The problem with using Kodi on an Amazon Fire TV (or any media device, for that matter) is twofold.
- You are using a tracked device that you likely registered to your Amazon.com account.
- Kodi when installed on the Amazon Fire Stick uses the wireless connection provided to it, exposing the user to copyright infringement lawsuits.
YOUR AMAZON FIRE TV STICK IS TRACKED BY AMAZON.COM
This is a no-brainer. To activate the Fire Stick, you need to register it with your Amazon.com username and password. Amazon knows this device belongs to you, and in a number of cases, it even comes pre-programmed to your Amazon account, so why would you use it to view copyrighted software without a license?
All that would need to happen to sue an Amazon Fire Stick user is for a copyright holder to file a copyright infringement lawsuit against a John Doe, and then have the court authorize expedited discovery to allow the copyright holder to send a subpoena to Amazon.com asking it to disclose the identity of the owner of the Amazon Fire Stick. Amazon would happily comply just to stop you from using their device to pirate or stream copyrighted content without a license.
Of course, there are ways to factory reset the device or deregister it from your account, but that is outside the scope of this article.
KODI, WHEN INSTALLED ON YOUR AMAZON FIRE TV DEVICE, USES YOUR WIRELESS CONNECTION TO RETRIEVE THE PIRATED CONTENT
When you set up your Amazon Fire TV Stick, you enter your wireless username and password. That way, your Amazon Fire Stick can connect to the internet automatically as soon as you plug it in.
The problem is that any apps you use (here, Kodi), ALSO USES THAT SAME WIRELESS CONNECTION. This connection has your real IP address exposed and shared with the internet.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that they can file a copyright infringement lawsuit against the website providing the content, and force it to hand over the web site logs or analytics for a particular page hosting the copyrighted movie you connected to with your exposed IP address when you used your Kodi-enabled Amazon Fire Sitck to view or download that copyrighted movie. And once they have your exposed IP address, they now have TWO WAYS to sue you in a copyright infringement lawsuit:
- Subpoena the ISP who owns that exposed IP address and have them expose the identity of the account holder (the typical way a “John Doe” lawsuit is filed), or
- Subpoena Amazon.com to have them expose the account information of the customer who purchased that particular Amazon Fire Stick.
NO, TECHNOLOGY DOES NOT *YET* MAKE IT EASY TO SUE USERS VIEWING ILLEGALLY STREAMED CONTENT
Technology in its current state does not make it easy or convenient for a copyright holder to go through the hassle of suing Icefilms, Putlocker, or any of the MANY providers of copyright-infringing content. Many of these providers are out of the U.S., and as such, it is difficult (not impossible) to get them to comply with a US-based court order signed by a US federal judge.
Also, it is difficult to determine whether these sites even keep analytics or website logs to determine which IP addresses visit any of the pages on their websites. As soon as users start getting sued, no doubt these companies will shut off all website logging and analytics, thwarting any copyright holder’s attempts to identify the IP address of the Kodi / Amazon Fire Stick user.
Lastly, it is an uphill battle for a copyright holder to fight a website provider to turn over the website logs exposing who is visiting their websites. This is why you do not see ANY copyright infringement lawsuits suing John Doe Defendants for the unlawful STREAMING of copyrighted content from software sources such as XBMC or KODI.
For this reason, at the time I am writing this article, I cannot see how a user would realistically be sued for using Kodi on an Amazon Fire Stick. However, as technology advances and tracking methods improve to the point where a copyright holder will be able to identify the IP address accessing a website containing copyrighted materials, the threat of being sued for streaming content will increase.
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT POPCORN TIME: Popcorn Time is a piece of software that uses BITTORRENT to acquire the movie title in order to serve it for free to their end user. Bittorrent lawsuits account for most, if not all of the copyright infringement lawsuits, and thus Popcorn Time (even though it streams movies) is not included under the category of “hard to catch users for infringement.”
COMMON SENSE. DON’T USE KODI ON A FIRE TV STICK.
Even though I just told you that you will likely NOT be sued for using your Kodi-enabled Amazon Fire TV Stick to view pirated content, I still caution strongly against using it without some additional steps.
Why would you use a device that is registered to your name? Do you think that Amazon.com is your friend and would protect you if they realized you were using their device to pirate movies and music?
And, why would you use a device that could expose your IP address to the world? Your connection to the internet would create a trackable line between your internet account and the server hosting the pirated content. Do you really think that your ISP isn’t snooping on you to see whether you are using their bandwidth for legal or illegal purposes? If somehow copyright holders figure out how to get the list of IP addresses who downloaded or streamed a particular movie, do you really want to risk being sued for $150,000 for copyright infringement?
Common sense. Even if you will likely not be tracked or caught, DO NOT use devices which connect to the internet without using an encrypted connection. Your Kodi-enabled Amazon Fire TV Stick is one such device.
WAYS AROUND THE IP ADDRESS EXPOSURE PROBLEM (USING A VPN)
Obviously this article is meant to alert users as to the dangers of using a Kodi-enabled Amazon Fire TV devices. It is not to teach you how to break the law and enable Kodi on your device. (I cannot believe Amazon is actually selling this ebook).
For common sense purposes, if you are going to do anything that exposes your IP address to the public, use a VPN. A VPN is a Virtual Private Network which allows an individual to obscure his real IP address by connecting to the content desired by way of one or more servers. I will not go into how they work here, but for reputable VPN companies who do not keep logs on your activities, TorrentFreak writes a report every so often, and that report is a good resource.
VPNs that keep your identity and your IP address private are PAID VPNs. Free VPNs have been known to turn over their user’s account information (as have various paid VPNs as well, which is why I suggested TorrentFreak’s list).
If you were willing to learn how to program your router to route your internet connection through your VPN (most VPN providers teach their customers how to do this), then using your Kodi-enabled Amazon Fire TV device would be safe, and a user who uses this method would not need to worry or fear about being sued for connecting to the internet using the Fire Stick.
Of course, keep in mind that it is still a dumb idea to register that same Amazon Fire TV Stick with your real Amazon.com account information. There might come a time where technology advances to the point where Amazon start ‘not liking’ their users using their Fire Stick for piracy purposes. Thus, if you were to deregister the Fire Stick, or to purchase it without connecting it to your account (e.g., checking ‘buy it for someone else’) when you check out, that will stop Amazon.com from preprogramming the Fire Stick with your account information. But still, you should still be cautious using an Amazon Fire Stick with Kodi (even with a VPN) because Amazon themselves might devise a way to track their own devices (if they have not done so already).
In summary, Amazon Fire TV Sticks and better yet, Amazon Fire TV Media Players are wonderful pieces of technology. I own one, and current Amazon Fire TV Sticks even have Alexa built into them (a cool feature). With an Amazon Prime Subscription (we replaced our Netflix subscription with this to get the free shipping and other benefits), you can view literally THOUSANDS of videos from the Fire TV Stick or Media Player.
The Fire TV Stick itself is HDMI enabled, which means that it can plug into any old monitor, and that monitor will become an Amazon movie studio. We can even connect our Bluetooth speakers (think, Amazon Echo or ‘Alexa’) to the Amazon Fire TV Stick, and we have theater-quality movies and binge worthy TV shows, all available to be played in our living room.
If I were a pirate, I would probably NOT put Kodi on my Amazon Fire Stick, even if I set up my router to route all internet traffic through a paid VPN. I personally simply don’t trust Amazon.com that they will not at some point become proactively ‘anti-piracy’, and I wouldn’t want to be the recipient of a subpoena letter indicating that I was sued for using my Fire TV Stick in an unlawful way.
Nevertheless, if you are a regular reader of the TorrentLawyer website, you would not either. However, hopefully this article will somehow go out to people searching for “Kodi-enabled Fire TV Sticks,” and we will at least teach them that watching Kodi this way is a bad idea.
Final Note, and Off Topic: I am not a Roku guy, simply because my Amazon Fire TV was given to me as a gift and I love the device. However, if I were to purchase a device anew, I WOULD probably choose the Roku Premiere+ Streaming Media Player simply because Roku is known to upgrade their devices every year, and Roku is simply a better company focused on making Roku Media Players (similar logic: I would go to a Chinese Food Store to buy Chinese Food). If I was just comparing an Amazon Fire TV Stick (considering that it has Alexa on it) and a plain Roku, since I have do have unlimited Amazon movies through Amazon Prime, and the Amazon Fire TV devices are supposedly faster, I’d stick with the Amazon. If I did not have Amazon Prime, I’d go with the Roku. Whichever device I had, however, I WOULD NOT PUT KODI ON IT.