Kodi is a great open-source media center application, that has been around in various forms for over 15 years. It’s light-weight enough to run on minimalist computers like the Raspberry Pi, as well as phones, computers, and tablets. It allows users to organize their media, access media, and view media (movies, TV shows, music, etc.) on all their different screen systems in their home or office. This includes video streams of live events in some cases, as well as dubiously-downloaded or pirated copies of various media.
For reasons mostly pertaining to bandwidth, copyrights, and similar, Kodi is often blocked or restricted in various countries, as well as various jurisdictions, as small as school or office networks. Fortunately, a lot of VPN services are available for Kodi users to overcome these restrictions. But let’s take a closer look at what Kodi is, why it’s blocked, and how to use it when there’s a block in place.
Kodi and Add-ons
Kodi began life as the Xbox Media Player in 2002. By 2014, it was renamed Kodi, and has branched out to work on a variety of platforms. Kodi allows users to store, organize, and access media online, stored locally, or both, including movies, television shows, live TV, music, pictures, and more. It also offers several add-ons and backend services to integrate with cable boxes, satellite receivers, other DVR systems, and so on. In short, it’s a comprehensive, all-purpose media system.
It definitely takes a bit of tech expertise to get Kodi working, so it’s not surprising that a large portion of the users are fairly tech-savvy. Through the add-ons and backend services, users can add content to their system. Kodi itself is a free app, though access to various content and services can come at a cost in many cases. Most of the add-ons are managed and developed by outside developers, and not by the core team behind Kodi, so there is some variability in quality, cost, and so forth. Still, it provides greater functionality than satellite or cable TV service, and rolls it all into a simple interface to keep things organized, categorized, and accessible through multiple screens.
Why Kodi is Blocked
The Kodi service, as well as the many add-on services that may be used, can sometimes be blocked. These are usually either ISP/country-level blocks, or network administrator blocks. Both tend to be for largely the same reasons, which can be broken down into a few key categories. Some of these reasons are unique to Kodi, while others are quite common amongst ISPs and network providers.
Because Kodi allows users to access streaming content, as well as pre-recorded content, there is a myriad of copyright and legal rationales to restrict its use. In some ways, Kodi makes illegal sharing of copyrighted materials a bit easier, which, combined with torrenting, can help spread copyrighted content quickly and easily. At the same time, some add-ons and outside services allow streaming of content that is otherwise restricted to certain broadcasters (such as sporting events). Indeed, this is a main reason why the UK recently attempted to block Kodi, due to illegal streaming of UEFA football (soccer) matches. Of course, most of the reason for the objection, just as for copyright claims, stems from money, and the ability of the copyright holders, licensors, and so forth to make as much money as possible from their content or franchise.
The other reason within this category that ISPs and network administrators use to rationalize blocking Kodi (and often torrenting as well) is to avoid potential legal exposure for the network or ISP’s assets. By taking pro-active steps to reduce or eliminate the potential for sharing or accessing illegally-shared, copyrighted content, the network admins or ISPs remove the legal risk for themselves, and also reduce costs in managing compliance with the kind of cease and desist letters that are often issued by copyright holders.
Bandwidth/Traffic Management Reasons
Many ISPs and network administrators may block or throttle Kodi, due to the heavy bandwidth use associated with it. Any video streaming, whether through a browser on a laptop or desktop, via a console, or through Kodi, can use significant bandwidth. As a result, those who are streaming high-quality video can end up using a disproportionate amount of the network bandwidth, adversely affecting performance. Local network administrators at businesses, colleges, and so forth can have good reason to throttle or block Kodi and/or other streaming to keep their network functioning optimally. That’s also the rationale behind ISPs throttling or blocking Kodi and other streaming services (usually the former, not the latter).
Content Region Restriction Reasons
While not always a primary consideration for blocking, most recorded media content has inherent regional restrictions placed on it by the content distributor. Different licensing schemes, release dates, and similar are quite common, especially in the movie industry, and to a lesser extent with television. Bypassing these restrictions by using Kodi and associated third-party add-ons can violate regional content and licensing agreements. Therefore, much like the first category above, some ISPs, network administrators, or government authorities have stepped in to help enforce content region restrictions, and avoid becoming embroiled in legal issues themselves.
How to Use a VPN to Bypass Blocking
Fortunately, if Kodi is blocked, either on your network, ISP, or by your government, there are ways around the block. The same is true with any of the add-ons or content services that you can access using Kodi. Simply, you can sign up for a VPN service with one of the many VPN providers available. These services allow users to access VPN servers via encrypted tunnels – networks, ISPs, and governments cannot tell what service you are ultimately accessing, or what type of traffic you are transmitting. Therefore, automated algorithms to throttle or restrict types of traffic, or blocks based on server IP addresses and so forth, are overcome.
At the same time, VPN servers are often located in several countries around the world. By accessing a VPN server in a country other than your own, you can effectively bypass geographically-based restrictions on content and services. This is because the ultimate destination servers for your traffic see the IP address of the VPN server, and not your true IP.
So, if you’re in the UK, and access a VPN located in Canada, for example, the ultimate destination server (such as a Kodi streaming service) sees you as being in Canada, and offers the content available to Canadians. This also allows you to bypass geographic blocks put into place by your government. The only downside is that high-speed VPN services can come at a cost, usually $5-10 per month. But, if it allows you to use Kodi where it’s otherwise blocked, it can be well worth the expense.