A seller of "fully loaded" Kodi boxes in the United Kingdom has avoided jail -- for now -- in a landmark case which muddied the waters of copyright law.
As reported by TorrentFreak, Middlesbrough trader Brian Thompson was raided by Trading Standards and law enforcement in 2015 following a complaint from the local council concerning his sale of Kodi boxes.
Kodi is a legal streaming service in itself. The problem stems from third-party Addons which can be downloaded to access and stream pirated content, such as movies, television shows, and geolocked media.
These so-called "fully loaded" boxes have been sold for a number of years as it takes a relatively technical hand to set up, and so vendors willing to complete this part can make a markup that consumers are more than willing to pay.
However, as the boxes do not host pirated content themselves but rather provide an access point, the legality of such boxes is still up for debate.
Between July 2015 and January 2016, Thompson sold fully loaded Kodi boxes through his company, Cutprice Tomo TVs, and made roughly £40,000 in proceeds.
The 54-year-old was charged with two criminal counts of selling devices "designed, produced or adapted for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of effective technological measures."
According to this vague area of UK copyright law, originally intended to cover encryption standards, "a person commits an offence if he -- in the course of a business -- sells or lets for hire, any device, product or component which is primarily designed, produced, or adapted for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of effective technological measures."
Thompson pleaded not guilty in the beginning, insisting that he simply wished to know whether or not his operations were illegal.
"It's a grey area but I want it in black and white," Thompson said at the time.
However, Thompson later pleaded guilty to both charges. While eradicating the need for a drawn-out and complex court case, this change of heart potentially set the standard in the UK and answered the question of whether loaded Kodi boxes can be considered a way to commit piracy.
When Thompson appeared at Teeside Crown Court on Friday, he was given an 18-month prison term, suspended for two years.
As reported by Gazette Live, the judge in charge of the case, Judge Peter Armstrong said, "If anyone was under any illusion as to whether such devices as these, fully loaded Kodi boxes, were illegal or not, they can no longer be in any such doubt."
"I've come to the conclusion that in all the circumstances an immediate custodial sentence is not called for," the judge added. "But as a warning to others in future, they may not be so lucky."
The sentence may be lenient but was likely considered as a way to answer the legality question while avoiding a lengthy court case and potential appeals.
Should Thompson have ended up in jail, his defence could have argued that the archaic nature of UK copyright law clashing with today's technological innovation has created an area where the general public may be confused as to what is legal and what is not -- but by passing a suspended sentence, there can be no more doubt.
Fully loaded Kodi boxes may now be deemed illegal -- at least as a product for sale -- in the United Kingdom, and the next seller to be charged may not get away so lightly.