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‘Former pirate’ hit with $19.5 million fine for piracy

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It doesn’t pay to be a pirate

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Adam Lackman, the self-described “former pirate” behind the Kodi add-on repository TVAddons, has agreed to pay $19.5 million ($25 million CAD) to a group of Canadian telecom giants over copyright infringement, according to a report from TorrentFreak.

As noted by TorrentFreak, TVAddons was still accessible up until last week before going offline (seemingly) for good. In its heyday, TVAddons was a site that allowed users to upload unofficial add-ons for Kodi, the open-source media library you can install on streaming devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Google Chromecast. While Kodi itself is legal software, third-party apps, like TVAddons, can direct people to pirated content.

A copy of the judgment (PDF) ruled that the Montreal-based Lackman “directly or indirectly” participated “in the development, hosting, distribution or promotion of Kodi add-ons that provide users with unauthorized access” to copyrighted content.

Some of the biggest telecom providers in Canada, including Bell Canada, TVA, Videotron, and Rogers, first filed the lawsuit against Lackman in 2017 — which even involved a raid of Lackman’s home — as part of a broader crackdown on pirated content. Around the same time, Lackman was sued by satellite television provider Dish in the US for copyright infringement. He reached a settlement with the company in 2018, requiring TVAddons to prioritize Dish’s copyright complaints.

“The lawsuit is now officially over and I can move on with my life,” Lackman said in a tweet. “It wasn’t the outcome I had hoped for, but an outcome nonetheless.”

Although TVAddons had a solid fanbase at one point — amounting to about 40 million active users per month in 2017 — many took issues with some of its shadier practices. As Kinkead Tech points out (and a number of Reddit users), TVAddons would sometimes auto-install the Indigo add-on, which apparently blocked the use of certain other add-ons and repositories, as well as launched a pesky ad for a VPN service when opening Kodi. The lawsuit also addresses this — it prohibits Lackman from “participating in the development, operation, maintenance, updating, hosting, distribution or promotion or Infringing Add-ons,” including Indigo and FreeTelly.

In an interview with Vice in 2018, Lackman noted that he wanted TVAddons to be a hub for legal content — he said it was supposed to contain apps that scrape content from free but legal platforms like PlutoTV. Despite this, Lackman told Vice he didn’t really police the add-ons that were uploaded on his site, which inevitability led to pirated user-generated content.

Over the years, apps that house pirated content like TVAddons have given Kodi a reputation for piracy, with a lot of people I know personally who wrongly think the software is downright illegal — because let’s face it, who doesn’t know someone who has (or had) a hacked Fire Stick with Kodi on it? Heck, even Google banned search autocomplete for the word “Kodi.” According to data compiled by Comparitech, Google searches for “Kodi” are actually on the decline, likely due to cases like this and Europe’s ban on the sale of streaming boxes with piracy software. As legal pressure continues to mount, Kodi pirates may have jumped ship, but they have found a new vessel to sail through Plex, a fellow descendant of Xbox Media Center.