OK, Amazon, I can sympathize with your plight. As both the legal operator of a massive software distribution service and a TV, movie, and music vendor beholden to various rights holders, you might be tempted to remove anything from your app store that even whiffs of piracy or copyright infringement. Hell, I could help you spot some examples if you want. But that really doesn't excuse booting legitimate, useful apps off of your store without a second thought, as appears to be the case with Kodi Media Center.
AFTV reports that Amazon removed Kodi, a highly technical open-source media manager (formerly called XBMC), from the Amazon Appstore last week. The developers were given no warning or explanation. When they contacted Amazon directly, they were told that, "[Amazon] determined that it can be used to facilitate the piracy or illegal download of content," and asked not to resubmit the app again.
Kodi is a media center app. It plays and organizes DRM-free audio and video files. While the app allows add-ons and extensions, the standard version (the one that Amazon Kindle Fire and Fire TV users would download from the Appstore) doesn't even include a download manager, much less a torrent downloader. Yes, most pirated media is distributed in DRM-free formats, but Kodi is a player, and there are plenty of legitimate reasons to use it to play back your legally-obtained audio and video files. Kodi "facilitates" piracy in the same way that a Ziploc bag facilitates street corner drug sales - IT DOESN'T.
To add insult to injury, the Kodi developers have been incredibly careful to avoid any association with piracy or illegal downloads. Here's an excerpt from the Kodi listing on the Play Store, which just exited private beta yesterday:
- Kodi does not supply or include any media or content.
- Users must provide their own content or install one of the third party plug-ins
- Kodi has no affiliation with any third-part plug-in or add-on provider what so ever.
- We do not endorse the streaming of copyright protected material without permission of the copyright holder.
Even the screenshots on the Play Store feature projects like Sintel, an animated movie that uses the open-source Blender CG animation tool, and licensed images and video under Creative Commons. (Similar apps have been removed just for using stills or posters from movies in screenshots.) In short, the Kodi Media Center team has done everything in their power to offer a legal and ethically sound product to their users... and Amazon has shoved them out the door without so much as a second glance.
This is an impressively douchey move on Amazon's part, but there's hope yet. Earlier this year Amazon pulled the controversial game Postal from the Appstore. After being called out for unnecessary and inconsistent application of its developer policy, the game was reinstated. There are many other popular media players and managers available on the Appstore, so it's not clear why Kodi was singled out. Hopefully someone who actually knows how media players work will see that this mess is cleared up.
- Elias Saba