Are “jailbroken” Amazon Fire TV devices legitimate, or completely bogus? Our guide will call it like it is and explain how you can safely, and legally, get Kodi on Fire TV to stream personal media and online video to your big screen TV.
We’ll start by explaining why you shouldn’t buy bogus “jailbroken” Fire TVs.(Spoiler: You could expose your home network to malware and may be breaking the law) Then we’ll review Amazon’s Fire TV and Kodi before explaining how to get Kodi running on your Fire TV.
Bogus “Jailbroken” Fire TV’s
Lately, there has been a wave of products offered on eBay and other marketplaces that offer “jailbroken” Fire TVs. The sellers promise all of the features of Kodi’s home theater interface plus the ability to stream “free” video content that you would ordinarily have to pay for.
These shady after-market offerings install Kodi along with add-ons that Kodi refuses to distribute through its own marketplace. In short, they’re just Amazon Fire TV sticks that are pre-loaded with Kodi and pirate Kodi add-ons. These sorts of shady streaming devices are commonly known as a “Kodi boxes”.
The Kodi team made a clear statement of what they think about Kodi boxes: “They are criminals who profit from piracy.”
From the bogus “jailbroken” marketing claims to the risk of prosecution and malware, buying one of these after-market Fire TV devices is a bad idea. Let’s dive into why in more detail.
They aren’t “jailbroken”
The first thing that should set your warning signals going is the way these sellers use the term “jailbroken”. That term is usually used to mean bypassing the manufacturer’s system that stops you from loading apps outside its own app store.
Apple’s approach to the iPhone, for example, is notorious among a certain set of people for only letting you run apps that Apple has approved. Bypassing that system requires a lot of digging into the way iOS works and finding loop holes that hackers can hook into. There is an on-going battle between Apple and hackers – no sooner does a jail break go live, than an iOS update shuts it down.
The Fire TV, however, is based on Android. Google designed its operating system to be much more friendly to people who want to run the apps they want. Amazon’s version has the same ability to “sideload” apps that all Android devices share. Amazon may prefer that you get apps through its app store, but it has not done anything to the Fire TV version of Android to stop that from happening.
The claims that these after-market Fire TV devices are “jailbroken” is really just a bogus attempt to make it seem like you’re getting something special. In fact, you can load Kodi onto a Fire TV yourself. We’ll show you later on how to sideload Kodi onto a Fire TV without having to pay some shady character.
Kodi box prosecutions
Hollywood has not been aggressive, so far, about prosecuting people who watch pirated content. They prefer to target the sites that host pirated content as well as those who help people pirate content. In an interview with Variety earlier this year, Motion Picture Association of America Chairman Christopher Dodd called out the “illegal use of the Kodi platform” as a new front in the fight against video piracy.
In the United States earlier this month, six movie studios – 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros. – as well as Amazon and Netflix have sued the makers of TickBox, a Kodi-based streaming device. The Hollywood Reporter posted the full legal complaint which says “What TickBox actually sells is nothing less than illegal access to Plaintiffs’ copyrighted content.”
Authorities in the United Kingdom arrested Kodi box seller Brian Thompson last year. This month a judge handed down an 18-month sentence. The prosecutor, quoted in The Guardian, said that while “Kodi boxes are not illegal per se” when you use Kodi boxes to gain unauthorized access to content “they become illegal”. The Independent reported that media watchdogs could soon target Kodi box users and not just the sellers.
Pirate Kodi boxes and streaming from pirate Kodi boxes are illegal in Europe. With full support from Kodi, the European Union’s Court of Justice ruled in May that selling a Kodi box that links to pirated content is as much a violation of copyright laws as pirating that content. It also ruled that streaming pirated content is illegal. Some people (usually with no legal background) claim that streaming pirated content doesn’t violate copyrights because it does not make a permanent copy. The Court of Justice declared that unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content violates copyright laws.
Kodi box security risks
If the fact that sellers of “jailbroken” Fire TVs operate at the fringes of the law isn’t enough to scare you off, you should also consider that they may contain malware.
Kodi has warned its customers about rogue repos that install adware and delete files. A “jailbroken” Fire TV could introduce tracking software and other malware into your home network.
In early 2017 cyber-security firm Check Point warned of a security threat in Kodi and other media players. Attackers created movie subtitles that actually contained malicious code. When Kodi processed the subtitles, the code executes. According to Check Point, this new technique means “hackers can take complete control over any device running them.”
It’s a waste of money
The final question you should ask yourself is “Why bother?” Installing Kodi on a Fire TV or Fire TV Stick is really easy. If you have what it takes to use Kodi, then you will have no trouble sideloading Kodi onto a Fire TV. We’ll walk you through the process a little later on. The main point here is that paying somebody to do it for you just doesn’t make sense.
Just walk away
NVIDIA and Dell sponsor Kodi as do half a dozen other companies. Google and Microsoft distribute Kodi through their app stores. The Kodi team even attends CES to meet with technology companies. Yet the all-volunteer team developing Kodi struggles to combat the impression that they support piracy:
“We are tired of being told by companies that they don’t want to work with us because we are selling pirate boxes.”
Buying one of these “jailbroken” Fire TV devices only makes it that much harder for the Kodi team to make their great software even better. Piracy is wrong and illegal. Do everyone a favor. If you want to run Kodi on a Fire TV, install it yourself and only use it for good.
What is Fire TV?
Amazon created the Fire TV product line to compete with the Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Roku streaming media boxes. With Fire TV, you get access to more than 500,000 movies and TV shows from Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix and other streaming services.
Related: The 100 Best Amazon Fire TV Apps in 2017 – Movies, TV, Sports, News
Naturally, the Fire TV integrates with Amazon’s Prime service. Prime members can access all of their streaming benefits including Prime Video and Prime Music.
Related: 26 Reasons Why an Amazon Prime Membership is Worth It
Amazon has also integrated its Fire TV products with the Amazon Alexa system. You can use your Amazon Echo or the Alexa Voice Remote that comes with each Fire TV product to search for content and control playback.
The Fire TV is a small, $70 streaming box that supports a host of premium features, including4K resolution. You can also attach a high definition TV antenna to get dozens of free, local TV stations.
Fire TV Stick
The Fire TV Stick is a small, $40 device that plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI port. It connects to your home Wi-Fi network and can handle 1080p high-definition content.
Fire TV Edition Smart TV
Available in sizes up to 65 inches, the Fire TV Edition Smart TV uses the Fire TV system as its smart TV interface. The screen supports up to 4K UltraHD resolution, but not high dynamic range video. Prices start at $449 for the 43-inch version and go up to $899 for the 65-inch TV.
What is Kodi?
Kodi is a media player app that is optimized for a TV screen. Its built-in features and powerful extensions make Kodi a very capable part of a home entertainment system. Kodi’s developers have ported Kodi to Linux, Mac OS, Windows, iOS, as well as the Android operating system at the heart of the Fire TV.
Add-ons let you add new features to your Kodi system, sort of like apps. They can extend Kodi’s features by adding, for example, support for game controllers or providing album cover art.
Among the most popular add-ons are those that let you stream internet-based content through your Kodi system. Sci-fi channel Comet, Food Network Canada and Sky News are just some of the streaming video add-ons you can get. Kodi can even handle the log-in process for some subscription services.
Kodi is legal
There is nothing illegal about Kodi itself – it’s just a media player, after all. Add-ons themselves are perfectly legal as well. You can think of them as customized web browsers that access the same video feed you would get on your computer but in a format that is TV-friendly. The trouble comes when add-ons point Kodi at sources of pirated movies and TV shows.
Kodi does not allow pirate add-ons into its repo so you can be pretty confident that any add-on you get directly from Kodi stays well within copyright laws. The folks at Kodi are pretty clear on unauthorized add-ons: “expect ZERO sympathy or support.”
Installing Kodi on Fire TV
You can access your personal media library through the Fire TV by adding Kodi to it. That also gives you access to Kodi add-ons for video streams that Amazon doesn’t provide.
The process is straightforward, but complicated by the fact that you can’t get Kodi from the Fire TV’s App Store. Amazon removed Kodi from the App Store back in 2015 for reasons that apply to any web browser.
The following steps will help you get Kodi up-and-running on your Fire TV. If you have trouble with this method, the Kodi wiki has several alternate installation guides you can try.
Get the apk
Before you start installing Kodi, you will need to get the internet address for Kodi’s latest Android file, called an apk.
Go to the Kodi download page and click on the Android robot. The Release version is the one most people will want since it is the most stable. The Nightly version has the features in the middle of development so might be a little buggy.
You will also see multiple options within the Release category. The Fire TV uses a 64-bit ARM processor, so right click on that button and copy the link into a word processor or text editor for reference later.
Enable developer mode
Next, you turn on your Fire TV’s developer settings so you can “sideload” apps that aren’t available in the Amazon Store. Start by opening the Settings screen on your Fire TV.
If you have a current-generation Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, navigate to Device -> Developer Options.
Activate the following options: Apps from Unknown Sources and ADB Debugging.
Now you need an app that can download the Android files from the Kodi website. Go to the App Store on your Fire TV and install an app called ES File Explorer.
Open ES File Explorer and navigate to Tools -> Downloads. Select Add Bookmark and enter the web address for the Kodi Android file that you got earlier.
Open that bookmark. Answer “Yes” when asked if you want to open the Android file and again when asked if you want to install it.
DIY is Best for Kodi on Fire TV
There really isn’t any good reason for buying one of those shady “jailbroken” Fire TVs. You don’t know who the sellers are, how secure their add-ons are, or where their add-ons are sourcing content. That could put your personal security at risk and expose you to the movie industry’s more aggressive prosecution of Kodi-based piracy.
Given how easy it is to buy a Fire TV from Amazon and install Kodi yourself, the DIY approach is the safest way to create a Kodi device to stream legal internet content.
Chris Casper is a former tech industry product manager who escaped from California for New Mexico. Now he writes about science and tech while searching for the perfect green chile sauce.
What happens if I made the mistake of purchasing one of these jailbroken devices, not knowing what it was/entailed until reading this article? I opened it & input my wireless password last night… Can I undo this or did I already open Pandora’s box??