Useful Tool, or Theft?

Streaming TV has taken over cable or satellite for millions of people, and it definitely is convenient to go to Hulu or Netflix to watch your favorite shows when you used to have to pay a lot more money to get that content from other providers.

You’re still paying for that content, of course, and that means that the people who own the rights to that content are getting paid for it.  That might not be the case when it comes to TickBox, a new streaming device that doesn’t necessarily grab content from those paid sources.

In fact, TIckBox can seemingly grab content from anywhere on the Internet.  The $149 device is powered by Android and uses the Kodi application to let you view streaming content over your TV.

With this device, the makers say that you can watch pretty much anything that’s downlodable from the Internet.  It’s easy to hook up, with an eithernet connection and multiple USB ports, along with an HDMI port and an SPDIF output for digital audio output.

The TickBox also comes with both a remote and a keyboard.

So, for the most part, the TickBox looks a lot like an Amazon Fire TV or a Roku, or any one of a number of other streaming devices that you can use to watch TV at home.  What’s the big deal?

The big deal, according to Amazon, Netflix, and several major movie studios, is that the TickBox will also allow you to access pirated content over the Web.  While you can use the device to watch Netflix or Hulu or other paid services, it’s not required, and the TickBox Website even says that “we think that within a few days of using Tickbox TV™ you will find you no longer need those subscriptions. But you can add them no problem.”

tickboxIn a complaint recently filed by several companies, the TickBox is basically a device that will allow you to watch stolen content at home.  This includes, but is not limited to, movies that are still playing in theaters, sporting events, and who knows what else.

The makers of the device claim that they’re not actually engaging in copyright infringement, and that they’re just selling a device.  What the owners of those devices do with them, they say, is not within the company’s control.

That may be true, though courts have rarely ruled that way (except, oddly enough, when it comes to YouTube, which has a staggering amount of copyrighted material available for viewing at any time of day.)

There’s a difference between using your computer or tablet to search for copyrighted content on the Web and using the TickBox, however.  TickBox actually has a search feature that lets you search, for example, for films that are “In Theaters.”  That suggests right there that the device knows that it’s looking for content that should not be available for streaming.

Of course, I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t have a pony in this race.  It remains to be seen how this device will be viewed by the courts.  Still, it does seem to have a useful feature that other streaming devices such as the Roku or Fire TV do not have – the ability to search the Web for content.

Stay tuned, as they say.