Dev Journal: Kodi and DRM
Cris Silva (h.udo)
For any of you that might have been living on Planet Mars the last few years and are not familiar with all the talk surrounding DRM, here is the digest version: Digital Rights Management (DRM) refers to a broad range of technologies, techniques, and standards, many of which are constantly evolving. Whatever the name a particular DRM technology goes by, it all comes down to the fact that it enables content publishers to enforce their own access policies on content, such as restrictions on copying or viewing.
That's the gist of it. It is not the bogeyman, it is not a computer virus, although some people actually think it is worse, it won't eat your computer while you aren't looking or corrupt your precious Goodfellas' Director's Cut backup disk.
What does that have to do with Kodi?
Short answer? Nothing. And everything!
Thanks to a bunch of ill-informed idiots on YouTube posing as Kodi experts and shady vendors looking to make a quick buck off our backs and take advantage of gullible people, Kodi is generally portrayed as a piracy platform. Meanwhile, Team Kodi takes all the heat. Add to that lazy article authors on several news and media sites and we have the perfect storm. Sadly, for many article authors, hearsay is actually a credible source and click bait their living.
Now, add DRM to the above mix. Cue dramatic music and repeat after me: dee-are-em.
Put those three letters in the same sentence as Kodi and suddenly everyone and their Meemaw turns into a concerned Kodi user. After TorrentFreak's article, users started ranting because, yeah, DRM. It's hard to stay rational once you read DRM, especially if the name of your favorite media center software is in the same sentence.
Let's try again and make this crystal clear: Kodi is a free, open-source neutral software. Kodi will never, ever require DRM to work, nor will it ever be a locked software. Ever! Read that a couple more times for good measure. And while we're at it, Kodi is not a piracy platform. It enables piracy the same way Firefox and Chrome do.
That said, here's Team Kodi's formal stance in a few short sentences:
- Kodi will never provide content, DRMed or not.
- Kodi will never stop working with your content.
- We will never prevent you from using Kodi as you so choose.
- We do not condone, condemn, encourage or recommend any particular use of Kodi.
OK, so why all the DRM talk?
We work hard every day to distance ourselves and Kodi from all the piracy related talk. Unfortunately, the buzz surrounding Kodi and piracy is so great that content publishers don't want to work with us. They see Kodi as a piracy facilitator. From our perspective, supporting low-level DRM is a first step to changing that. Basically, what this means is providing some sort of interface to work with the DRM already present on your system. For example, Android ships with software that plays back DRMed content from Netflix. Kodi could hook into this already existing software in Android to playback the same content, so you never have to leave Kodi. As another example, in Windows, there isn't a very good 10-foot interface for Netflix, but if you have installed Chrome, you can watch Netflix from your desktop. Supporting low-level DRM means that Kodi could hook into the binary blob inside Chrome and use it purely for handling the DRM while video playback and control stays with Kodi.
Because the GPL and closed source binary blobs aren't compatible, we can't ship them along Kodi. What we can do is use them to play DRMed content if they are present on your system. Combine that with a specific provider add-on and you could access Netflix, HBO Go or your favorite legit content provider from inside Kodi.
Anyway, we're having a hard time figuring out if being able to play DRMed content in this way would be considered unethical and discussion still goes on internally. As always, you're welcome to join the discussion in the community forums.
A word to the authors writing about Kodi
We get it! Kodi makes for great headlines. Kodi and DRM in the same sentence is a dream come true and has great propaganda value. We just ask you to contact us instead of writing an article about Kodi based on hearsay and self-proclaimed Kodi experts on YouTube. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.