We need to have a serious talk about Kodi.
Whether you know it or not, you've heard about Kodi -- either from friends in real life who love streaming free stuff and telling you about it, or by way of social network pals who promote the boxes that make it possible. Or maybe you've read my feature story on the subject matter last year.
Even so, here's a refresher: Though Kodi, itself, is well-intentioned software, it's marketed by bad actors not associated with the company as the cord-cutter's free-for-all magic content machine.
Technically, Kodi is just a media center; it's software that offers access to all of your digital files: purchased or downloaded music, shows, movies and games. Like an Internet browser, Kodi can also connect people to whatever web-based content they want to view on their smartphones and televisions.
Here's where the magic happens: Because the Kodi software is open source, third-party developers can and do build add-ons that serve as gateways that link people to troves of copyrighted files, which have been uploaded by anonymous online pirates.
The XBMC Foundation, which is the nonprofit technology consortium that developed the Kodi software, has banned those add-ons, making them difficult for the average person to find. But they're out there.
Thus, an entire industry has emerged around folding the bad in with the good, and simplifying the process of streaming anything you want -- live sports, movies still in theaters, pay-per-view extras -- free of charge.
There are, for example, a number of Android box makers who sell devices that merge Kodi's software with other software, ultimately making it easy to find any TV show, sporting event or movie.
Then, there are your average Joes and Janes, our neighbors and acquaintances who buy dozens of off-the-shelf Amazon Fire TV sticks, add Kodi's software to them and also pre-install the most popular pirate add-ons -- say Exodus or Genesis. These so-called Kodi sticks are sold at a markup offline or through online classified sites.
"We keep a list of who (the good guys) are," said Nathan Betzen, the president of XBMC Foundation. "But companies pop up over night, making it almost impossible to keep a list of the (bad actors)."