In what could be a landmark case for video streaming and copyright regulations, a UK man has been charged with selling pre-loaded Kodi set top boxes that allowed users to circumvent copyright protections and illegally download pirated materials.

Brian Thompson, owner of an electronic equipment shop in Middlesbrough stands accused of selling pre-loaded Kodi boxes. He said that he intends to challenge the charges which state that the set-top boxes he sold illegally facilitated the circumvention of copyright laws.

Kodi, which began as the media player for Xbox systems, is a software program that is intended to run different media files from a single application. The Kodi software can be run on smartphones, mobile devices or computers, or it can be run on a set-top box that is connected to a television set.

While Kodi itself was created to play legally owned content, it can be modified with a third-party program that allows users to view pirated content, or to access subscription-only channels for free. Kodi boxes that are pre-loaded with modified software that allows free access to copyrighted materials are referred to as ‘fully-loaded’ boxes.

Just last year, Amazon pulled the Kodi media player from its app store due to piracy concerns.

Magistrates contend that the defendant, Mr. Thompson, was selling these ‘fully-loaded’ Kodi set-top boxes when his shop was raided last March. A date for his trial is expected to be set later today.

This case, the first of its kind in the United Kingdom, may prove to be a landmark piracy case regardless of the outcome. Should the court rule against the legality of pre-loaded set-top boxes, a major crackdown could ensue, creating legal issues for buyers, sellers and owners of the devices.

On the other hand, if the Kodi boxes are determined to be legal, the market could be flooded with name-brand and knock-off devices that allow users to stream copyrighted material for free, without violating any legal statutes.

Kodi has stated that it does not support the sale of fully-loaded boxes, and has taken action under trademark law in attempts to distance the Kodi name from devices intended for accessing pirated materials. XBMC Foundation President and Kodi Product Manager Nathan Betzen said:

“Every day a new user shows up on the Kodi forum, totally unaware that the free movies they’re watching have been pirated and surprised to discover that Kodi itself isn’t providing those movies…This means we will issue trademark takedown notices anywhere we think the likelihood for confusion is high.”