Tag Archives: Dangers of using Kodi on Amazon Devices

Future-Pacing Copyright Infringement Tracking Amazon Fire TV Devices.

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.

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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?

Pornhub lawsuit exposes the dangers of Google Analytics

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.

Amazon Tags Devices With User Accounts
geralt / Pixabay

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.

In Summary

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).

Why I would not put Kodi on an Amazon Fire TV Stick.

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 putting Kodi on an Amazon Fire TV Device

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.

  1. You are using a tracked device that you likely registered to your Amazon.com account.

  2. 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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.

Click here for more details on the topic of “Can I be caught and sued for copyright infringement for streaming movies.”

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

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.