The popular Kodi add-on repository TVAddons was dragged into two seperate lawsuits in recent months, in both Canada and the United States.
TV broadcasters such as Bell, Rogers, and Dish accuse the platform of inducing or contributing to copyright infringement by making ‘pirate’ add-ons to the public.
TVAddons itself has always maintained its innocence. A site representative recently told us that they rely on the safe harbor protection laws, available both in the US and Canada, which they believed would shield them from copyright infringement liability for merely distributing add-ons.
“TV ADDONS is not a piracy site, it’s a platform for developers of open source add-ons for the Kodi media center. As a community platform filled with user-generated content, we have always acted in accordance with the law and swiftly complied whenever we received a DMCA takedown notice.”
While both cases are still in an early stage, TVAddons is receiving support from Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), who warn against abusive lawsuits targeting neutral add-on distributors.
According to the digital rights group, holding platforms such as TVAddons liable for infringement users may commit after they download an add-on from the site goes too far.
“The lawsuit against TVAddons seeks to skirt that important [safe harbor] protection by arguing that by merely hosting, distributing and promoting Kodi add-ons, the TVAddons administrator is liable for inducing or authorizing copyright infringements later committed using those add-ons.
“This argument, were it to succeed, would create new uncertainty and risk for distributors of any software that could be used to engage in copyright infringement,” EFF adds.
The US case, started by Dish Networks, tries to expand copyright liability according to EFF. This lawsuit also targets the developers of the Zem TV add-on. While the latter may have crossed a line, TVAddons should be protected by the DMCA’s safe harbor when they merely host third-party content.
“Vicarious copyright liability requires that the defendant have the ‘right and ability to supervise’ the conduct of the direct infringer, and benefit financially. Dish claims only that the TVAddons site made ZemTV ‘available for download.’ That’s not enough to show an ability to supervise,” EFF notes.
The complaint in question goes a bit further than the “download” argument alone though. It also accuses TVAddons’ operator of having induced and encouraged Zem TV’s developer to retransmit popular television programs, which is of a different order.
However, EFF informs TorrentFreak that this allegation is not specific enough for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss. If TVAddons’ operator indeed took some purposeful, knowing action to induce copyright infringement, it should be spelled out, they say.
According to the digital rights group, the goal of the current cases is to expand the borders of copyright infringement liability, calling on copyright holders to stop such abusive lawsuits.
“These lawsuits by big TV incumbents seem to have a few goals: to expand the scope of secondary copyright infringement yet again, to force major Kodi add-on distributors off of the Internet, and to smear and discourage open source, freely configurable media players by focusing on the few bad actors in that ecosystem.
“The courts should reject these expansions of copyright liability, and TV networks should not target neutral platforms and technologies for abusive lawsuits,” EFF concludes.
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