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Is Kodi legal? As users rise, so do questions


Kodi (formerly XBMC) is increasing in popularity. The free, elegant, well-regarded media center platform is steadily gaining users and industry cache. But many wonder about the legal issues surrounding the software and, in particular, some popular Kodi add-ons. 

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When Kodi first debuted as XBMC, which stands for Xbox Media Center, it found its audience among gamers. Xbox users were looking for a way to use their systems to not only play video games, but also to watch TV and stream other media.

Kodi filled that role. It did it so well that the platform soon expanded. Today, anyone can download Kodi—for free—for use on a variety of operating systems and devices to better organize and enjoy one’s media collection.

Kodi also works with TVs and remote controls to play all kinds of content—movies, TV shows, pictures, music—on a TV screen. It is a popular choice over Windows Media Center for Home Theater PCs. The platform can be personalized and customized in a wide variety of ways.

Watch a demo of Kodi and other popular media gizmos:

There are thousands of Kodi add-ons and plug-ins available to further enhance its function. That includes accessing media streaming services like YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and much, much more.

In 2014, Kodi (then still XBMC) was awarded “Best Media Player” by Lifehacker. It’s popularity has risen steadily since then.

Kodi is not only free, but also open-source. Developed by the XBMC Foundation, a non-profit consortium, the platform is meant to be available to anyone to use and enjoy. But the fact that it’s open source has opened the door for some questionable uses.

The legal, and sketchy, ways some people use Kodi

One of the most compelling features of Kodi is that it can fill the role of a media streaming device. Users can stream TV shows and movies onto a TV using Kodi—which is perfectly fine provided one has a subscription if the service is paid (like Netflix or access to cable channels).

The problem is that the open-source development platform means anyone with the know-how can create add-ons and plugins for Kodi. There are some very popular ones that run toward the gray area of legality.

Specifically, these are the extensions that enable users to watch copyrighted content without the required subscriptions. A simple YouTube or web search will reveal just how much interest there is in this, and how many add-ons are available.

But that doesn’t make Kodi illegal. As the argument goes, Kodi is no more illegal than a computer. It could be used in illegal ways. But the technology itself doesn’t violate any laws.

That’s true to an extent. One major exception could turn out to be versions of Kodi that contain—without a commercial license—certain software snippets that can unscramble the Content Scramble System with which many DVDs are encrypted. That does put Kodi at risk of violating the U.S.’S Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But so far no one has stepped up to take any legal action.

Whether the developers who create the questionable add-ons, or the people who use them, are in violation of any laws is another big question. Copyright holders would certainly say yes. But it can be difficult to pinpoint the precise offense per today’s laws. Plus, simply locating violators can be a headache, as most developers use anonymous screen names.

Kodi does take care to discourage users from installing suspect add-ons. It provides a list of blacklisted add-ons on its website.

For anyone who wants to use Kodi in the standard, sanctioned ways, there are no legal concerns to worry about. There’s just an amazingly versatile, user-friendly, free platform to enjoy.

Learn more at kodi.tv

Visit the wTVPC Cord Cutters Club™ for tips, demos, reviews and more.
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In Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, piracy via live-streaming could be a tough battle


The upcoming fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will be one of the biggest sports events of the decade—and most-watched boxing match the sport has seen in far longer. But with today’s live-streaming technology, profits from at-home viewers could take a hit.

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Mayweather and Pacquiao will finally meet glove-to-glove on May 2. To say the fight between boxing’s best has been eagerly awaited by fans is a gross understatement. Even people who aren’t big boxing followers have been waiting for the day the two would meet in the ring.

The matchup is being billed as “The Fight of the Century,” and it doesn’t seem like just a bunch of marketing hype. In terms of money, it has already made history.

Each fighter will take home a paycheck somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million. Experts predict total revenue will be $300-400 million. Of that total, ticket sales will bring in plenty, with prices ranging from $3,500 to $250,000. The 1,000 public tickets that went on sale were all sold within one minute.

See More of Today’s Sports News

Pay-Per-View sales are expected to bring in millions and pummel all past records. The PPV price will be $90 to $100. That’s just enough to squeeze out a lot of people who’d love to watch the action live. And that creates a market for piracy.

Just having a market, though, isn’t enough. Without the means to transmit the fight live, would-be lawbreakers would have their hands tied.

The live aspect is key, both in terms of garnering views and in thwarting arrest. Sure, someone always posts copyrighted fight videos on YouTube, which stay up for a short while—sometimes very short—before being removed. That’s small-time piracy and pretty easy to contain.

The bigger threat comes from live-streaming the action as it happens. It would extremely difficult to catch the culprits. And there could be a big potential audience.

Unlike during any of the previous decades’ mega-fights, live-streaming technology today is advanced and available to the masses. There are not one, but several live-streaming apps on the market—free, easy-to-use, and anonymous.

Anyone can now live-stream video via Twitter using Periscope or the Meerkat app. What’s to stop someone from doing so as a boxing match, or anything else, plays out live on TV? Nothing really.

Of course, that doesn’t mean someone will. It’s all unchartered territory But with Twitter followers being treated like currency, there is (at least perceived) value in having a bigger number. That could be all the motivation someone needs to try to attract new followers by live-streaming copyrighted content.

Of all the copyright infringements, mainstream piracy has the biggest potential to do damage. Will it be a long, drawn-out battle between copyright holders and Internet pirates? Will it be a knockout? Will it never get off the ropes? The world will be watching when the bell rings on May 2.

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Fans can finally watch sports without cable as Internet TV, standalone channels open new options


As alternate ways to watch TV have been gaining popularity, access to live sports events has presented a major obstacle. But all that is finally changing.

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For sports fans, the scant coverage outside a cable TV subscription has remained a deal-breaker for customers who would otherwise cut the cable cord. But with increasing demand and a definite trend in the direction of ditching high-priced cable packages, fans are finally seeing sports coverage available from alternative TV sources.

A big breakthrough in busting sports out of the cable/satellite TV box was Sling TV. Sling TV is an Internet TV service from DISH Network Corp. that launched earlier this year. It delivers TV to subscribers over the Internet, instead of via cables or satellite dishes. The basic package includes 19 popular cable channels for $20 per month.

Notably, top sports network ESPN is included in the Sling TV standard lineup. This makes Sling a pioneer in being able to offer customers access to live sports events from all the major US leagues.

Just to drive the point home, ESPN2 and ESPN3 also come as part of Sling’s basic “Best of Live TV” package—along with TBS and TNT, which broadcast men’s college NCAA basketball games during the March Madness tournament. Plus, the Internet TV service offers a $5/month add-on sports package, which includes another nine sports channels.

Sling TV doesn’t include CBS, home of CBS Sports, but the network has seen to it that fans can have access even without a traditional cable subscription. CBS started offering a standalone subscription this year for $8/month.

HBO also started offering access to all of its content as a standalone service for around $9/month. HBO features a number of original sports shows, including ‘Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’ and extensive boxing coverage and commentary. The upcoming Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight on May 2—already destined to make history—has garnered a lot of viewers for HBO. Though the fight will be available via PayPerView, HBO has covered the extensive lead-up with many viewers watching through a standalone subscription or via HBO GO.

WhereverTV is another Internet TV provider that offers sports access. Sports channels include Eurosport offerings and a handful of WTV Sports listings. It’s not the mainstream coverage that will be needed to lure US sports fans, but it’s a start. Wherever TV recently appointed a new CEO, so changes are in the works for the service.

Media streaming devices also offer unique sports channels. For example, RedBull TV plays on Roku devices. Other specialty sports channels, like Tennis Channel, are still only available with a cable TV subscription. Yes, even though Tennis Channel made a big push to promote its new availability on Roku players, viewers still have to sign in with their cable provider.

Nonetheless, for sports fans the options are finally starting to look good enough to compete with cable TV. The day is close when sports will no longer hold customers back from cutting the cable cord.

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The new, old, and original titles coming soon to Netflix’s ‘Fuller’ lineup


Netflix customers will soon be able to stream some all-new TV shows, some titles new to Netflix, and some old shows that are getting a new spin.

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Netflix announced some new TV and movie titles that will be available for streaming, some as soon as next month.

‘Grace and Frankie’ will join the Netflix lineup in May. The show follows longtime rivals ‘Grace,’ played by Jane Fonda, and ‘Frankie,’ played by Lily Tomlin, after their husbands reveal they’ve fallen in love with each other and plan to get married. The movie ‘Legally Blonde’ starring Reece Whitherspoon as a girly airhead turned Harvard law student.

Aziz Ansari has gotten the green light from Netflix for his new comedy series. Ansari co-created the sitcom with his old producer pals from ‘Parks and Recreation.’

He has released two stand-up events as Netflix exclusives — ‘Buried Alive’ and ‘Live at Madison Square Garden.’

Netflix has signed on for a spinoff of the TV series ‘Full House.’ Full House ran from 1987 to 1995. John Stamos, who starred as ‘Jesse’ in the show alongside Bob Saget and Dave Coulier, announced the sequel show on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live.’ Titled ‘Fuller House’ it will focus on ‘D.J.’, played by Candace Cameron, all grown up and the mother of two sons with a third child on the way. Like her father in the original series, D.J. is a widow. Sister ‘Stephanie’ will be trying to make it in the music business. D.J.’s best friend ‘Kimmy’ will also play a central role as the mother of a teen daughter.

Netflix has ordered a 13-episode first season. ‘Fuller House’ will premier sometime next year.

Netflix is clearly moving more toward ownership of original shows. The company is facing increasing competition in the media streaming space. It’s betting big that having exclusive content will help it win out with both customers and investors.

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Android TV is coming soon to a living room near you


Google’s Android TV has been pretty under-the-radar. But that may change very soon. Android TV is now poised to take over TV sets across the country. 

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Google first announced Android TV in June of 2014. After watching Google TV flounder and fail, the company regrouped with a better plan to get into people’s living rooms.

Android TV is basically a software system for modern “smart” TVs to make them even smarter. Google is billing Android TV as the solution to the TV search problem.

On smart, Internet-connected TVs, with access to lots of online videos and media streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, searching for something to watch can be a frustrating and time-consuming task. Android TV will act like a search engine, and recommendation engine, installed on TV sets to make it easier to find shows, movies and other great stuff to watch.

Android TV rolled out on Nexus Players (from Google and Asus), which pretty much meant that the user base would be small. But now Google has taken its plan to the next step. Their partnership with Sony to build Android TV into Sony’s latest TV models is finally bearing fruit.

Sony has announced that it’s latest line of smart TVs includes sets running Android TV. TVs also have 4K and HDR support, so images will be more vibrant and life-like than ever.

The price tag won’t be cheap, though. Sony’s new TVs are expected to retail for $4,000-8,000.

The cost will certainly limit the market for Sony, and thus Android TV. The biggest movement in entertainment today is toward cutting the cable cord and cable bill. Millennials and other consumers are fed-up with the high prices and low flexibility of traditional cable services. While Android TV will appeal to consumers who use media streaming services and devices (Google’s platform is being promoted as “Google Cast Ready”), it will need to be available in a more affordable package before it’s widely adopted.

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Live from space: Watch the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft detach from ISS


NASA will live stream the release of the SpaceX/Dragon Cargo Craft from the International Space Station (ISS) for the world to watch.

SpaceX-Dragon

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft approaching the ISS. NASA will live stream the vessel’s release Tuesday, April 21.

 

The International Space Station, which orbits the Earth conducting research and making observations, has been enjoying freshly delivered cargo from the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. On Tuesday morning ISS will say goodbye to the vessel as it detaches and departs for Earth.

ISS is manned by a crew of six astronauts, who typically live on the ISS for four to six months at a time. In order to get food and supplies to the crew, regular deliveries are required.

In 2008, NASA awarded a contract to SpaceX, a commercial space flight company, which called for 12 flights to the ISS carrying cargo. The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft is the vessel currently being used for cargo deliveries. In 2012, it became the first commercial spacecraft to take cargo to the ISS. Dragon has since made several successful subsequent deliveries.

In its most recent mission, Dragon arrived at the ISS on April 17 to deliver a shipment of supplies. After hanging around for a few days, the spacecraft is now ready to depart and head back to planet Earth.

NASA will air live coverage of the vessel’s release from the ISS on its NASA TV channels. To watch live, visit the NASA TV public channel. Coverage will start Tuesday, April 21 at 7 a.m. EST.

The NASA contract is an important one for SpaceX. Founded in 2002 by Elon Musk of PayPal and Tesla Motors fame, the private aerospace company has faced a number of setbacks in its ultimate mission to be able to send private citizens into space. NASA also awarded a contract to SpaceX to develop vessel capable of carrying human cargo to the ISS to transport crew members in a more efficient manner.

SpaceX is planning to launch its first crewed Dragon flight in 2016. The company has successfully launched over a dozen Falcon 9 rocket missions. It currently has at least 30 future launches planned for clients.

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‘Kat’ fight: In the Meerkat vs. Periscope battle, it’s score one for the underdog


Meerkat and Twitter are both betting big that users want to live stream videos of themselves, and watch live streaming videos of others. Now the ‘video selfie’ pioneers are caught in a cat-fight (Kat-fight?) over who will win the market.

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Meerkat’s live video streaming app was the first on the scene before Twitter released their competitor, Periscope. Meerkat skyrocketed in popularity immediately upon release, rapidly becoming one of the all-time most downloaded apps on record.

But Meerkat rose to fame on Twitter. And Twitter had their own live streaming video service in the works, Periscope. It didn’t take long for Twitter to handicap Meerkat on its social network.

It was a tough blow for Meerkat. The company suddenly seemed like an underdog. But now Meerkat is scratching its way back to the top with a big score against Periscope.

Meerkat announced—via Twitter, no less—that they’re now beta-testing their Android app. That means Meerkat has beaten Periscope to the punch on the devices, which make up an increasing percentage of the mobile market. Meerkat started out as an iOS app. The diversification, particularly before Periscope, is critical to its viability.

Taking over-sharing to a whole new level

With the rise of easy-to-use live streaming technology, the ‘selfie’ could quickly go the way of email and DVDs—clunky and antiquated. Why take a picture when you can take a video?

That’s certainly how Meerkat and Periscope are hoping people will feel. The potential for live video streaming for the masses is vast. But is the world ready for all its possible uses?

We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out. Live.

How to watch ‘Orphan Black’ for free online


Amazon is giving TV fans a free gift. The company will let users stream the first season of the hit show ‘Orphan Black’ for free.

Orphan Black

 

The show will be available for free from Amazon Instant Video starting this Friday, April 17. Amazon is hoping the free release of Season 1 will get new viewers hooked on the series so that more people will pay to stream the subsequent seasons.

It’s a play that just might work, given the popularity of the show among those who watch it. ‘Orphan Black’, from BBC America, gained a solid following after its debut in March 2013.

The show, a Canadian science-fiction series, stars actress Tatiana Maslany as ‘Sarah Manning.’ Sarah is a woman with a troubled past who is still trying to sort out her life when we meet her in Season 1.

As an orphan who was passed around to different foster homes in England before being moved to North America by her guard, Mrs. S., along with her foster brother, Felix. Sarah’s already tenuous world comes crashing down when she witnesses the suicide of a woman, Beth, who looks exactly like her.

Sarah is pulled into a vortex of mystery and surprises as she investigates who Beth was and why she killed herself. Sarah eventually learns that Beth was her clone—and that she’s not the only one.

With Season 3 just starting, the timing of Amazon’s free giveaway is perfect. Fans will have a chance to see the story’s beginning, and then binge out on Season 2 to catch up to the show’s current episodes.

Amazon is surely also hoping to grab some more Amazon Instant Video customers with the freebie. With competition among streaming media services and devices so tight now, it’s a smart move to lure new users with free TV. To stream ‘Orphan Black’ for free, visit Amazon’s website.

The high-speed Internet wars: Today’s winners, losers, and up-and-comers


The demand for high-speed Internet has service providers scrambling to both satisfy customers and beat the competition. 

high speed Internet

Internet users across the country hungry for high-speed Internet, and so far the field of service providers is locked in a very close race. The faster Internet gets, the faster customers want it to be. As soon as one company ups their speeds, a competitor leapfrogs past them.

The product customers want is obvious: super-fast Internet capable of streaming media (movies and TV shows) without disruptions, and supporting seamless online gaming, at a low cost. The trouble is that the broadband and wireless companies in the running are having a hard time meeting that demand.

But there are some current winners and losers in the arms race to win the high-speed Internet war. There are also some interesting dark horses — up-and-comers to keep an eye on for a good deal as they roll out their services.

Google Fiber vs. Time Warner

Google has been experimenting with its super-fast fiber optic network, Google Fiber, for a couple years. In the last few months, though, plans have become a reality. Google Fiber offers Gigabit (1000 Mbps, or 1 Gig) speeds, which is 25 times faster than the minimum broadband speed. The service is rolling out in 18 new cities in the Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville and Raleigh-Durham metro areas.

Close on their heels, Time Warner announced it too will offer higher Internet speeds to customers in these same markets. Time Warner says their new Internet will be six times faster than it has been. The company has also started offering free speed upgrades, from the current 50 Mbps to 300 Mbps, to customers in Charlotte (a Google Fiber city).

That’s not terribly close to Google’s 1000 Mbps. But, if Time Warner can step up the speed, then given the fact that it already has inroads in many more cities and metro areas around the country, it could end giving Google Fiber some competition instead of only the other way around.

Plus, given that Google Fiber is still a work in progress, Time Warner is looking like the current winner. Even if only by a hair for the time being.

Comcast and AT&T

The other big names in the Internet Service Provider space, Comcast and AT&T, are also feeling the pull of the fiber.

AT&T was forced to lower its gigabit Internet service by $50, from $120 to $70 per month, in North Carolina after Google Fiber moved in.

Comcast has announced that they’ve actually one-upped Google. The company says they will begin offering households Internet speeds twice as fast as Google Fiber’s fastest, and a whopping 200 times faster than most Americans have today. The catch is that it won’t be available until next year, and geographic restrictions and price will probably bump it from most customer’s short list.

Don’t discount the independents

It isn’t just big-name and billion-dollar companies that are entering the high-speed Internet race. Small towns are also throwing down and trying to gain a subscriber base.

In Oregon, even though Google Fiber is slated to arrive on the scene, several local towns are researching the possibility of building their own independent network capable of delivering a comparable service.

Portland suburbs, including Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Gresham and West Linn, are in the process of assessing their options to build a fiber-optic network with similar mega-speeds. If it’s possible to do so, and to offer the service at a lower cost than Google Fiber or other big companies, then towns could have a winner on their hands.

Other dark horses and start-ups waiting in the wings will have to overcome some serious disadvantages. But they just might find a way to meet a rapidly growing demand, from average households to mobile users to those interested in cutting the cable cord.

 

VIDEO: Reserve cop mistakes real gun for stun gun, shoots and kills man (Graphic Content Warning)


In Tulsa, Oklahoma a reserve police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man after the officer allegedly mistook his gun for his stun gun. (WARNING: Video contains graphic content)

The officer, 73-year-old Bob Bates said he used his gun ‘by mistake’  instead of using his stun gun. “I shot him, I’m sorry,” said Bates.

The victim, Eric Courtney Harris, was pursued by police after he was caught selling a weapon to an undercover officer during a sting operation. At least two police vehicles were on the scene to detain Harris. Harris began to flee on foot, at which point the officers exited their vehicle and gave chase.

Officers caught up with Harris in only a few seconds and got him down on the ground. The officer tells Harris to roll on his stomach, and then a gun shot is clearly audible in the video. The shot is followed by the reserve deputy’s statement “I shot him, I’m sorry.”

Harris’s cries are also clearly visible as he yells “Help me!” and “He shot me!” Officers continued to keep Harris restrained even after the shooting. A deputy can also be heard on the video cursing Harris.

Harris later died of his injuries. A Tulsa investigator has said that Bates and the deputy were not in their right state of mind during the incident due to the stress of apprehending Harris.