The Freedom of Choice
One of the main tenets of both Kodi and open-source software in general is freedom of choice. By making the software freely and publicly available without charge, users are able to try the software with no financial outlay or risk. As the source code is also available for inspection, the risks of “hidden nasties” such as covert information gathering and other data mining can also be alleviated. Anyone can download, review and audit any part of the software that they wish, as well as submitting any updates, improvements and bug fixes that they may make.
This notion of user choice is also key to the operation and support offered by Team Kodi, both through GitHub and the web forum. One common question is why we don’t do more to combat piracy, especially given our zero tolerance policy towards support (or lack thereof, aside from attempts to completely remove from infected systems). The simple answer is that we believe in user choice, and that if the user makes the conscious and informed decision that they want to use Kodi for such purposes then that is up to them. Similarly, any resultant technical or legal problems which may arise are also down to them, and there’s no liability or responsibility on Team Kodi for what a user has chosen to do.
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An Informed Choice
Key to that stance, though, is that the user has made an informed choice. This is the reason why third-party repositories are not usable by default in Kodi. The user has to make a specific action to enable their usage, complete with a warning pop-up message about the risks and liabilities involved. We take responsibility for our official repository and what we we allow into it, and content is reviewed and audited before it is included. Any fork of Kodi which seeks to override or remove this default setting would immediately be blacklisted by the team, and no support for it at all would be offered by any official Team Kodi outlet.
Similarly, this is why the team does not allow forks with pre-installed add-ons to be made without complete rebranding and disassociation from Kodi, and why no “builds” are supported. By “build”, here we use the term in the common user parlance (as can be found on many of the third-party YouTube videos and parasitic “fan” websites that we would rather did not exist) for collections of add-ons either grouped into an “all in one” installation, or even images of Kodi with such add-ons pre-installed. This obviously completely removes the user choice element, aside from the choice to install the build in the first place.
The main issues here are twofold. Firstly, whilst such builds tend to install popular piracy add-ons, they often also quietly install other code under the hood with little or no visibility to the user. This can range from scripts that try to maintain the installation (given the limited lifespan of such add-ons) to ones that aim to sabotage or remove those of rival suppliers – and, in the extreme, even to malicious malware scripts to form botnets, mine digital coinage or perform other nefarious actions behind the user’s back.
Secondly, such builds tend to be advertised on websites and in videos as being official, legal and legitimate. This is often deliberately done to confuse the naive user that they are getting something for nothing and a good deal. Of course, a moment’s thought and common sense should tell anyone that if media providers such as Sky, HBO and Disney charge people what they do for their officially-provided services, then offers of them for free cannot be above board. Similarly, sources or add-ons offering media that wouldn’t normally be available, such as movies that are still in cinema theatres, should also ring alarm bells in the head of any consumer.
Uncommon Sense, or Stating the Obvious?
Unfortunately in this day and age such common sense does not seem to apply to the internet. We often see this on the forum when new users request support for such installations and then apologise with “sorry, I didn’t know” or similar when we decline to assist. They completely miss the point that it was their choice and basic greed that led them there, and a moment’s thought should have given them pause. For some reason users seem to willingly accept the most obviously dodgy deals on the internet, ones that they wouldn’t touch if offered in a pub car park, car boot sale or other “real world” environment.
Our simple advice is to apply the same judgement to your Kodi installation as you would to anything else in life. If the deal you’re being offered seems too good to be true, it quite probably is and there will be a catch somewhere. The team works hard to provide the Kodi software and also to curate the official repository. Both of these can be safely used when obtained from our official site. However, beyond that, the principles of caveat emptor apply. We expect and enforce that users are responsible for their own actions and the repercussions from them.
So before using any third party repository or add-on, take a moment to consider what you know about the authors, their reputation and what they are offering. Don’t be fooled by false promises and dodgy deals – in the end the person responsible for your devices’ safety and security is you.