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‘Firestick that s–t’ is how illegal TV, movie streaming went mainstream

Image: Ambar Del Moral, mashable 

Firestick that shit.

It’s a phrase I picked up last year, but I’d assumed it was just another passing internet colloquialism related to using Amazon’s Fire TV Stick.

Oh how naive.

Over time, I quickly began to glean that this was in fact the new slang for using a Fire TV Stick to somehow pirate movies and TV. But I’ve run across scores of piracy trends over the years, all of which usually fade into the background after a few months when some new piracy tool comes along.

But this one is different for a couple of reasons.

First, we’re currently in what is widely acknowledged as the “golden age of TV,” and prestige TV. There have never been more ways to easily and affordably enter the world of OTT via services like Netflix and Sling TV and devices like the Roku and Apple TV. In such an environment, you’d think piracy would lose some of its underground, rule-breaker cool cachet, but it’s role as an illegal practice even by the least tech savvy among us has only gained traction.

The proof of that came from an unlikely source: Jamie Foxx. Last month, the Oscar winning film and music star (Baby Driver, Collateral, Ray) appeared as a guest on the Joe Rogan podcast. During the interview, Foxx was candid about his personal life, describing the value of having friends around who might tell him one of his movies sucks, and that they might have to “Firestick that shit” [34:30 mark] instead of paying to see it in the theater.

Similarly, rapper 50 Cent recently went to see the Tupac biopic All Eyez On Me and, disappointed, took to Instagram to say “Man I watched the 2Pac film … that was some bullshit. Catch that shit on a fire stick.”

When an Oscar-winning celebrity is casually talking about people who choose to watch his movies on a “Firestick,” on a podcast with millions of listeners, and one of the most famous rappers alive does the same, it’s time to take closer look at what’s going on here.

A quick search on Twitter reveals that “Firestick that shit” is an incredibly common a phrase among many film and TV fans.

And while “Firestick that shit” does refer to the popular, low cost device from Amazon (at $40, it’s one of the cheapest OTT hardware options you can find), the Fire TV Stick is by no means the only hardware used to execute this latest form of movie and TV piracy.

It turns out that people have been using Kodi (free, open-source software that’s been around since 2002) in conjunction with the Fire TV Stick (released in 2014) and other many other, lesser known devices (usually Android based), for several years to stream pirated content to their televisions.

Back in 2015, Amazon finally decided to ban Kodi (formerly known as XBMC). Kodi, which is a legal app, runs on a wide range of platforms Android, Linux, Windows, OS X, and iOS. The people behind Kodi maintain that the software isn’t meant to facilitate piracy, but there are nevertheless third-party add-ons that have been created (and constantly updated) to run on Kodi by third-party developers that facilitate illegal streaming of films and TV shows.

One of the most popular means of obtaining a piracy-ready Fire TV Stick is by purchasing what is called a ‘fully loaded Kodi box.’

Although you can load some of these add-ons yourself with a little effort, one of the most popular means of obtaining a piracy-ready Fire TV Stick is by purchasing what is called a “fully loaded Kodi box.” A “Kodi box” is a loose, unofficial term used by sellers of the devices that refers to a streaming media box, or a removable device (like the Fire TV Stick) running Kodi. The “fully loaded” term is to let you know that the device has been modified with third-party add-on software for illegal streaming. To be absolutely clear, Kodi just makes the open source software, and the company takes great pains to point out that the sellers of so-called “Kodi boxes” aren’t associated with or approved by Kodi the company.

Despite admonitions from Kodi, the sellers continue using the Kodi name when selling these boxes and media sticks, which has led to some confusion with end users. (Yes Kodi is legal. No, what third-party sellers are doing with it is not.) Regardless, buying “fully loaded” Kodi boxes has become so popular that the European Court of Justice banned the sale of such devices back in April.

Because Kodi doesn’t track the use of illegal add-ons to its software, it’s difficult to nail down the number of people using Kodi boxes to stream illegally, but a recent survey claimed that nearly 5 million people in the UK alone are using illegal Kodi boxes (including modified Fire TV Sticks) and apps to stream pirated film and TV content.

Although we dont have much evidence of end users being prosecuted for using Kodi boxes (yet), it’s a different story for those selling the “fully loaded” devices. In February, five sellers of Kodi boxes were arrested in a series of raids, and UK authorities carried out another high profile arrest of a Kodi box seller just two weeks ago.

Unlike torrenting, the relatively passive nature of the streaming piracy facilitated by these Kodi boxes might give some a false sense of security regarding the illegality of their use. So far, most Kodi box legal cases have involved either the content producer or studio going after an ISP hosting a site distributing illegal streams, or authorities pursuing specific Kodi box sellers.

So while authorities are busy chasing down the websites and sellers of these illegal Kodi boxes, the end users, particularly those who use VPNs, continue to openly use these illegal streaming methods without much fear of prosecution (even though using them is technically illegal because you’re violating copyright laws). Additionally, major websites including eBay, Amazon, and even Facebook have banned the sale of these Kodi boxes. But like the internet always finds a way, and all it takes is a Google search to surface a wide range of independent sites that still sell Kodi boxes.

Based on the current landscape, and the unending flow of new TV series and blockbuster films, it doesn’t look like “Firestick that shit” is about to fall out of use anytime soon, no matter what device used to illegally stream. Luckily, competition among OTT providers like Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV and others is only heating up, which is driving prices down, and making cross platform availability nearly ubiquitous.

Therefore, at this point, with all these easy options on the table, if you’re still “Firestickin’ that shit,” you’ll probably never pay for TV unless you’re forced to. But enjoy this time, because that “forced to” day is probably coming sooner than we all think.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/08/09/kodi-box-firestick-that-shit-illegal-streaming-piracy/

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