The European Union’s Court of Justice has ruled that selling set-top boxes specifically configured for easy film and TV piracy is illegal. In a ruling published today, the court sided against a man identified as Mr. Wullems, who sold multimedia players through the site Filmspeler.nl. While the underlying technology of the players might be legal, the ruling says, these boxes were configured in a way that promoted piracy — and the fact that they’re for streaming media instead of downloading it doesn’t make a difference.
Wullems’ set-top boxes offered direct links to pirated material, which constituted making a copyright-infringing “communication to the public,” according to the ruling. He had “full knowledge of the consequences of his conduct,” and was selling the boxes for a profit. In some cases, it’s legal to temporarily reproduce a copyrighted work, which is what providing a stream does. But the court says that piracy-friendly boxes don’t meet the requirements for this exemption, because their transmissions adversely affect the actual copyright holder.
As TorrentFreak notes, Filmspeler is one of many services selling Android-based set-top boxes equipped with software like Kodi. While Kodi is a neutral and legal streaming system, there are lots of add-ons that provide pirated media, and it’s a very popular use case for the platform. Filmspeler and similar sites provide “fully loaded” boxes that include these add-ons by default. A Dutch court asked the EU Court of Justice to rule on their legality back in 2015; now, it’s handed down a clear condemnation of them.