Popcorn Time is a multi-platform, free software BitTorrent client that includes an integrated media player. The applications provide a free alternative to subscription-based video streaming services such as Netflix. Popcorn Time uses sequential downloading to stream video listed by several torrent websites, and third party trackers can be also be added manually.
App UI from March 2014
|Original author(s)||(Federico Abad et al)|
Beta 0.3.10 / October 31, 2016
|Operating system||Linux, OS X, Windows, Android, iOS|
|Available in||44 languages|
|Type||BitTorrent client / Peer-to-peer|
Following its inception, Popcorn Time quickly received positive media attention, with some comparing the app to Netflix for being easy to use. After this increase in popularity, the program was abruptly taken down by its original developers on March 14, 2014, due to pressure from the MPAA. Since then, the program has been forked several times with several other development teams such as the Butter Project to maintain the program and produce new features. The original Popcorn Time team endorsed the popcorntime.io fork, and picked it as the successor to the official Popcorn Time as of August 2015. In October 2015, the MPAA obtained a court injunction from Canada to stop the Canadian programmers of popcorntime.io, and later obtained the domain name, although the project reappeared on a new website popcorntime.sh.
The Popcorn Time interface presents thumbnails and film titles in a manner similar to Netflix. This list of media can be searched and browsed by genres or categories. When a user clicks on one of the titles, the film is downloaded via the BitTorrent protocol. As with other BitTorrent clients, as soon as Popcorn Time starts to download a film, it also starts to share the downloaded content with other users (in technical terms, it seeds the torrent to others in the BitTorrent swarm). It continues to make the downloaded content available to others until the movie is deleted, which is normally done automatically once the application is closed.
Popcorn Time was developed "in a couple of weeks" by a group from Buenos Aires, Argentina who elected "Pochoclín" (derived from pochoclo, which means he popcorn in Buenos Aires parlance) as their mascot. They believed that piracy was a "service problem" created by "an industry that portrays innovation as a threat to their antique recipe to collect value", and also argued that streaming providers were being given too many restrictions and forced to provide inconsistent service between countries, noting that streaming providers in their native Argentina "seem to believe that There's Something About Mary  is a recent movie. That movie would be old enough to vote here."
Made available for Linux, macOS, Windows and Android, Popcorn Time's source code was downloadable from their website; the project was intended to be free software. Contributors localized the program into 44 languages.
Popcorn Time became the subject of mainstream media attention for its ease of use, with PC Magazine and CBS News likening Popcorn Time to Netflix, and noting its obvious advantages over Netflix such as the size of its library, and the recent selections available. Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post said Popcorn Time may have been an attempt to make the normally "sketchy" ecosystem of torrents more accessible by giving it a clean modern look and an easy-to-use interface.
The legality of the various Popcorn Time clients matched that of all other BitTorrent clients plus the additional issues that applies to sites like The Pirate Bay and YTS itself, due to the explicit linking to movie content; its website claimed that the software was possibly illegal depending on local laws.
In the UK a court order was given in April 2015 to ISPs to block URLs that provided either the Popcorn Time application software (PTAS) or "sources of update information" (SUI), i.e. pointers to torrent-indexing sites. The court found that, unlike previous cases concerning indexing sites directly, neither websites providing the PTAS nor the SUI could be construed to be "communicating a work to the public", since neither contained any specific information about any specific work. It considered it entirely probable that both the providers of the PTAS and the SUI could be held to be "authorising acts of infringement" by users, but this was not the case that the claimants had raised at the hearing. Instead, they had claimed that the providers had been authorising acts of infringement by content-hosting websites, but then that claim had not been made out.
The judge, however, found that the Popcorn Time suppliers did "plainly know and intend" for the application to be "the key means which procures and induces the user to access the host website and therefore causes the infringing communications to occur"; and on this basis had "a common design with the operators of the host websites" and therefore shared a joint liability for the copyright infringements (joint tortfeasance). It was therefore appropriate to order the ISPs to block the websites as provided for by section 97A of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
On May 20, 2015, the government of Israel blocked all access to the official downloads of Popcorn Time, following a lawsuit from its biggest cable and satellite providers for copyright infringement. Although the download sites have been blocked, internet users still possessing a copy of the installation file and/or the program will not be affected, and there are other sharing sites that can distribute installation files. Less than a month later, the government reversed the ban.
On August 17, 2015, the Danish website popcorntime.dk was shut down by Danish police and two arrests were made. The case has caused controversy given that the website is not affiliated with the Popcorn Time developer teams but only distributed information about the service.
As with other BitTorrent clients, the IP addresses of users of the original app or its forks can easily be determined by third parties. In early 2015 many German Popcorn Time users received demands for damages of €815. The high amount was justified by the fact that the application not only downloads but also distributes movies, a fact that not all users were aware of.
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Anonymous Users of Popcorn Time: Does 1-11Edit
This article was cited in a civil complaint in Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Anonymous Users of Popcorn Time: Does 1-11. Rec. Doc. 1 at 5, Case No. 3:15-cv-1550 (D. Or. 2015) (attempting to distinguish Popcorn Time from "other software programs" by asserting, that Popcorn Time has no legitimate purposes; the only evidence cited in support of this claim was the "Popcorn Time" Wikipedia article). The complaint alleged that users illegally downloaded copies of the Adam Sandler movie The Cobbler.
On March 8, 2016, Norway's police unit for economic crimes, Økokrim, seized the Popcorn-Time.no domain name. The site did not host the Popcorn Time application but instead had articles and links to sites that offered the application. The seizure is being contested by the Norwegian member organizations NUUG and EFN.
On March 14, 2014, Popcorn Time's original website and GitHub repository were abruptly removed, with the developers stating that despite the unexpectedly positive media coverage that the software attracted, they simply wanted to move on, and that "our experiment has put us at the doors of endless debates about copyright infringement and copyright, legal threats and the shady machinery that makes us feel in danger for doing what we love. And that's not a battle we want a place in". It was later revealed by the Sony leaks that the MPAA did indeed prevent the original developers of Popcorn Time from continuing to work on the program. At the time, the MPAA considered themselves to have "scored a major victory in shutting down the key developers of Popcorn Time" via an action that required collaboration on three continents, intended to prevent Popcorn Time from becoming a "major piracy threat".
The developers claimed that the majority of their users were those outside of the United States, and that it was "installed on every single country on Earth. Even the two that don't have internet access," by users who would "risk fines, lawsuits and whatever consequences that may come just to be able to watch a recent movie in slippers. Just to get the kind of experience they deserve". They also praised media outlets for not antagonizing them in their coverage of Popcorn Time, and agreeing with their views that the movie industry was anti-consumer and too restrictive in regard to innovation.
After its discontinuation, the Popcorn Time application was forked by various different groups to continue development of the project. On August 8, 2015, the website of the original Popcorn Time application was redirected to the popcorntime.io website. A few days later, members of the original Popcorn Time project announced that they would endorse the popcorntime.io project as the successor to the original discontinued Popcorn Time.
After the original developers discontinued the program, a couple of teams forked the original Popcorn Time source code and continued development independently. These groups continued using the name "Popcorn Time", but other than the Popcorn Time project, these forks are not associated with the developers of the original application. The developers of the original Popcorn Time had members join the Popcorn Time project, and endorsed this as the successor to the discontinued old Popcorn Time.
PopcornTime.sh (formerly popcorntime.io)Edit
Popcorntime.sh is a free software fork of the original Popcorn Time program. The code is directly based on the original Popcorn Time, and the source code is available for viewing and editing on GitHub, and is licensed by the GNU General Public License.
On September 17, 2014, the fork at popcorntime.io added support for Chromecast and AirPlay devices. Also, on November 6, 2014 the popcorntime.io developers launched a Remote Control API. On December 25, 2014, a mobile version for Android 4.0.3 and up was launched, and initial support for built-in VPN access by VPN.ht . In October 2015, PopcornTime.io was shut down, along with YTS.
On November 3, 2015, the popcorntime.io domain was obtained by the MPAA after winning court orders in Canada and New Zealand. This came about after winning an injunction on October 16, 2015, to shut the website down.
On February 16, 2016, the app received an update from the update server, and a new version was released from a new website, popcorntime.sh. This project updated its social media pages, and released a new version of its source code on GitHub.
Popcorn Time Community EditionEdit
Following the shutdown of popcorntime.io, users of Popcorn Time created a series of fixes that modified the original software and got it working again. The fixes were added to the Popcorn Time installers and named Popcorn Time Community Edition, giving credit to the community of users that resurrected the software.
Time4Popcorn (formerly Time4Popcorn.eu, Popcorn-Time.to)Edit
This Popcorn Time fork was originally launched with the web domain time4popcorn.eu. The domain time4popcorn.eu was suspended by Eurid, as a result of a legal investigation against time4popcorn.eu. The programs that rely on the time4popcorn.eu domain temporarily stopped functioning, but the program and website was updated to a new domain popcorn-time.se. As the original time4Popcorn.eu domain was forcibly removed, the team moved to the popcorn-time.se website. On May 13, 2014 the fork released a mobile version for Android phones and tablet devices. In addition, popcorn-time.se added built in VPN on June 9, 2014, provided by Kebrum. The popcorn-time.se developers later added Chromecast support for desktop and Android. On July 30, 2014, popcorn-time.se developers added support for the Apple TV to their desktop app; on September 30, 2014, an app for jailbroken iOS devices was released.
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when the 'Netflix for Pirates' celebrates
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