Identifying the risks of installing and using Kodi software on an Amazon Fire TV device, and specifically, how a copyright holder can sue for copyright infringement is the subject of this article.
We are able to forecast and predict with accuracy what movies will be the subjects of future lawsuits. We are able to predict trends based on filing patterns of which copyright holders have sued, where they have sued, and how their attorneys will react based on legal precedents in a particular court or with a particular judge.
And, we have been proactive with developers of software, even getting into public heated arguments with the developers (e.g., with the Popcorn Time software developers as to why they put their customers at risk for being sued (at the time, for promoting a fake VPN feature which masked the browsing of copyrighted titles, yet exposed the IP address of a user of that software during the actual acquisition or streaming of that same movie).
This ability to forecast the future with some accuracy is not based on genius, insight, or brainpower, but it is simply based on hard work, analyzing the data, watching the trends, and understanding the technology and seeing where things can go wrong causing people to be sued.
How copyright holders can catch those using Kodi on an Amazon Fire TV Device.
In March of this year (2017), I wrote about the Dangers of Using Kodi on an Amazon Fire TV Stick device. I actually did this analysis as a favor to one of my readers who asked me whether it was safe to do so.
For the last 60 days, literally thousands of you have read my article, either because you were interested in the topic, or were considering doing so on your own Amazon Fire TV device. The conclusion of the article was that you likely would not be sued for copyright infringement from using Kodi on your Amazon Fire TV device, but doing so (even with a VPN on the router) still exposed your identity to copyright holders because Amazon.com tracks every device of theirs and links them to the account holder who made the purchase of that device. And, even IF Amazon was trustworthy in that it protected the privacy interests of its users, I expect that they would comply with a subpoena for that same information when it is signed by a federal judge in a copyright infringement lawsuit.
Yet some of you have asked me to further elaborate on the topic, namely, how can someone actually get caught using Kodi on an Amazon Fire TV device.
QUESTION: How would the copyright holder know that an Amazon fire TV stick had been used to access the copyrighted content?
FACTOR #1: GOOGLE ANALYTICS
It took me a few seconds to think through your good question. My whole premise in the “WHY INTERNET USERS CAN GET CAUGHT VIEWING STREAMED TUBE-LIKE CONTENT” article is that copyright holders can make use of Google Analytics to determine the IP addresses of those who have viewed and streamed copyrighted video. One of the features that makes Google Analytics dangerous is that it can tell a lot of information about what kind of ‘machine’ was used to connect to the offending web page containing the copyrighted content. Was it a PC? a Laptop? a Tablet?
The “Why I would not put Kodi on an Amazon Fire TV Device” article was a bit forward thinking, in that I am addressing a problem that has not yet happened (some would say this has been the strength of our entire site — seeing a problem and reacting to it before it actually becomes a problem).
So far, I don’t think you WOULD get caught using Kodi on an Amazon Fire TV Device. But because your Fire TV device uses your internet connection, it exposes your ISP and your IP address to the copyright holders. Through that, they can subpoena the ISP to obtain the account holder who was assigned that IP address, along with other information RELATED TO the offending device. E.g., the MAC ADDRESS of the device used to make the connection to the pirate site.
While Google Analytics does not yet identify specific devices other than “Computer,” “Tablet,” “Phone,” they are always advancing their technology to provide ever more specific demographic information about the internet user who is visiting a particular site. And as much as I love the Google Analytics platform, I trust Google ‘as far as I could throw them.’ Meaning, I wouldn’t think twice before being cautious that Google would respond to a subpoena from a copyright holder and provide demographic and device-specific information in response to a subpoena signed by a federal judge.
FACTOR #2: AMAZON TAGS ALL ITS HARDWARE AND ASSOCIATES ALL TAGS WITH AN AMAZON ACCOUNT.
Also, in the above paragraph, I mentioned the MAC ADDRESS of the Amazon Fire TV device. With the MAC ADDRESS, you can identify what make and model of the device is being used. Is the device a network card in a computer? A USB dongle attached to a computer? An Amazon Fire TV device? See my point?
Lastly, as much as I love Amazon for their amazing services offered to their Prime membership members, I also wouldn’t trust them with my personal information. Specifically, they tag EACH AND EVERY AMAZON DEVICE THEY SELL. Thus, if my Echo (“Alexa”) device were stolen and found, they know that device was sold to me. They also link my account information to each and every Fire TV device and E-book reader I purchase, so even if I wipe the device, root it, and reprogram it with a better operating system, the HARDWARE (INCLUDING THE MAC ADDRESS) would not change. Thus, if I committed a crime with that Fire TV device (or stick, or e-book reader, etc.), Amazon would immediately know that device that was involved in the ‘crime’ was sold to me via my Amazon.com account.
ANSWER: A copyright holder can, through the courts, gain access to 1) Google Analytics, 2) your ISP, 3) your Amazon.com account, or any combo thereof to identify you as being the owner of the infringing device.
In sum, I am not saying you will be caught today if you put Kodi on your Amazon Fire TV device. I am saying that the technology is lining up in a way that a person CAN be caught using Kodi on their Amazon Fire TV device in the near future. The tech is already in use. The companies already are known to be working with authorities to comply with subpoenas and other identifying information about their users. It is only a matter of time before Amazon Fire TV stick users start calling me (like Popcorn Time users are now) asking me to represent them in a lawsuit because they have been sued for copyright infringement.
How, hypothetically, could I get tracked and sued using Kodi on my Amazon device?
NOTE: I don’t like doing this kind of analysis, because invariably, some enterprising ‘troll’ attorney will follow my instructions and will start suing based on how I said it could be done. However, because the steps to do this are tedious, and since a federal judge would be reluctant to allow a copyright holder to engage in what is called a ‘fishing expedition,’ obtaining the approval to send out these subpoenas would no doubt be met with skepticism and resistance.
If I were a copyright holder, I would identify the Kodi links to the servers or websites which are sharing my copyrighted content. I would then file a lawsuit naming those companies or websites as defendants, and ask a judge to have them turn over the Google Analytics data surrounding those particular pages sharing my client’s copyrighted content. Step 1.
Then, using the Google Analytics IP address data (technology currently available and in use), I would see the IP addresses and the demographics of which IP addresses are visiting that particular page (or downloading copyrighted content from it). Seeing the IP addresses, I would have the judge authorize me to send subpoenas to the ISPs to discover the identities of the subscribers that were assigned those IP addresses on those particular dates and time. Step 2.
I would then have the ISPs provide the MAC ADDRESSES of the network cards assigned to each subscriber (I do know ISPs have the capability to provide this, as 1) I have seen it provided in certain bittorrent lawsuits over the years, and 2) my own Comcast ISP goes so far as to have “Station IDs” or names of computers which have connected to their network routers, along with identifying information about the machines which have connected to their router. I know this when I was troubleshooting a connection issue on my own router.)
From there, I would sort and identify the device as an Amazon Fire TV device (or an Apple TV device, etc.) based on the MAC ADDRESS or identifier of the device. I would then (with authorization of the court) send a subpoena to Amazon requesting each individuals’ account information, specifically asking 1) who purchased that device, and 2) which e-mail addresses or Amazon.com accounts have registered the device since the purchase. Step 3.
If Step 2 is not allowed, or if the ISP no longer has the information (e.g., if they purged the subscriber data according to their IP address retention policy), I would alternatively get the identifying information of the infringing device from Google Analytics. [As far as I know, as of writing this article on 5/5/2017, this information is not yet available, but the technology to capture it is present.] I would then contact Amazon.com and follow Step 3, above.
No I don’t think you would get caught using Kodi on an Amazon Fire TV device. But because you COULD get caught and sued (now, AND in the future when technology advances, even slightly), why risk it when there are ways of obtaining the same content but taking Amazon 100% out of the picture (eliminating all risk of exposure)? As soon as you introduce the Fire TV stick (or any device registered to a company, whether that is Amazon, Apple, Samsung, or any other manufacturer), you increase your exposure to be sued. This is true, even if you are using a VPN on the router to which that device is connecting to access the pirated content (because the manufacturer still knows that device is registered to YOU).