The ever-popular Kodi media center is in the press every week, usually due to complaints from the entertainment industries that it poses a threat to their businesses.
Nevertheless, enthusiasts know that Kodi has plenty of other uses, not least that it can bring the consumption of legal content under one roof. Through the use of innovative addons that are not designed to infringe copyright, Kodi users can enjoy many legitimate services without having to leave the Kodi platform.
For the majority of services accessed in this manner, Kodi users are a welcome addition. However, it’s clear that not all companies are happy with people using unconventional consumption routes, even when they’re already paying to access a platform.
The latest case involves Crunchyroll, an online video service that has built a reputation for offering the best in Japanese anime and Asian entertainment. For a fee, Crunchyroll is accessible via a wide range of devices from iOS, Android and Windows, to Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, and gaming consoles.
Until recently it was also available, albeit unofficially, via a dedicated Kodi addon. Users needed to have a premium subscription already, so piracy wasn’t a factor. However, the company has now flexed its considerable muscles and forced its creators to withdraw it from the public on copyright grounds.
In an email sent to development platform Github, anti-piracy outfit Remove Your Media explained that it is authorized to act on behalf of Crunchyroll and that the addon was infringing the video company’s rights.
“The works in question is copyrighted source code developed by CrunchyRoll Inc. Code has been reversed engineered, in bad faith, to disrupt owner’s rights,” the email reads.
“I have a good faith belief that the items or materials listed below are not authorized by the above owners, their agents or the law and therefore infringe the owner’s rights. Please act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the infringing material.”
What followed was a list of URLs operated by two Github users – Yoshiofthewire and MattRK. All are now unavailable after the repos were deleted.
Writing on the official Crunchyroll and Kodi forums, Yoshiofthewire explained that if only he’d been asked directly, he would’ve taken the addons down. Instead, he was compelled to take action after Github received a complaint directly.
“It is with a heavy heart that I report that the Kodi (XBMC) plugin to view Crunchyroll has been hit with a DMCA take down,” Yoshiofthewire wrote.
“Over the 4 years of its existence it was used by (as of 2016) 5000 monthly active PAYING users. I stress the Paying part because the version that was taken down, mostly unchanged since 2016, required a paid subscription.”
Noting that the addon worked in exactly the same way as the existing Crunchyroll app, Yoshiofthewire noted that no additional functionality was available.
“While I feel the take down was in bad faith, if I was contacted I would have removed the plugin,” he said.
According to information made available by Github, Crunchyroll’s complaint targeted a subset of code made available on the addon’s repository, not the whole thing.
“In this case only certain files were identified as allegedly infringing,” Github told Yoshiofthewire.
“Since it’s not possible to disable individual files within a GitHub repository, we’re giving you a 24 hour opportunity to remove the content named in the takedown.”
That was enough to kill the project. Instead of fighting, Yoshiofthewire deleted the repository.
The news was met with disappointment on the official Kodi forums, but over on Crunchyroll, the mood was even more critical.
“It’s reassuring to see Crunchyroll caring about its paying customers by not fixing their apps in years, and by DMCA’ing an app extension that actually worked,” one user wrote.
“Well, about time I cancel my premium for end of the payment period then,” added another.
“The Kodi addon worked for me better than the official apps/website, especially under Linux, and was in fact the very reason I even considered premium. Not much reason to continue with it for me any longer.”
In response to the critics, one user pointed former addon fans to Vrv.co, which apparently has an improved official player. However, according to Yoshiofthewire, that too has its issues.
“If we have to use the [Crunchyroll] app or the VRV app, can you fix it so the login doesn’t break once a month?” he asked.
Whether the unofficial addon will raise its head elsewhere will remain to be seen, but in the meantime, it will be missed by those who used it alongside their paid subscriptions.