‘Popcorn Time’ App Facilitates Piracy … With a Disclaimer

By Chris Tribbey

Hollywood has seen its share of recent successes in the fight against online piracy, with the successful shutdowns of file-sharing sites Megaupload and Hotfile.

But while those sites were culpable of copyright infringement — blatantly hosting copyright-protected files — a new app-based offering could prove to be the toughest test yet in the industry’s fight against online piracy.

Launched earlier this month, Popcorn Time is an open-source app (available for both the Windows and Mac platforms) that makes it easy for consumers to stream pretty much every movie currently out there online. Instead of hosting the content itself, Popcorn Time streams content pulled from all torrents available online. The app removes the pop-up advertising, wait times and downloading hassles for people seeking illegal online content.

Those who do download and use the app become “seeds” of the content, hosting and uploading the content they’re watching, while they watch.

The creators of Popcorn Time seem blatant in their disregard for copyrights: the FAQ on the site assures users “your movies will stay buried in a secret folder somewhere in your drive until you restart your computer. Then it will be gone for good.” And in an attempt to get around any legal issues, the site falls back on this: “We’re using torrents, so if you really care, you’d better Google what the legal situation around these protocol [sic] is where you live.”

First-time visitors to the site see movie posters for films that are in the public domain (Night of the Living Dead, The Silver Horde, etc.), instead of advertisements for the latest Hollywood films.

Another sign that Popcorn Time’s creators know their endeavor is shady: There’s no contact information offered. Attempts to contact Popcorn Time’s creators via the site’s Facebook page were unsuccessful.

A Popcorn Time app developer named Sebastian, hailing from Buenos Aires, did talk with online BitTorrent reporting service TorrentFreak, saying the app is meant to simplify torrent technology for online consumers. And accessing copyright-protected movie content is absolutely part of the plan, he said.

“We don’t expect legal issues. We don’t host anything, and none of the developers makes any money. There are no ads, no premium accounts, and no subscription fees or anything like that. It’s an experiment to learn and share,” Sebastian told TorrentFreak. “We hate that we don’t have the chance to watch some movies at home. Popcorn Time is an experiment to show that you can do something better for the users, and that you can do it with BitTorrent.”