- Popcorn Time is a free BitTorrent client with a media player where users can watch various television shows and movies. A team of anonymous Argentinian developers created the platform in 2014.
- Popcorn Time was shut down two weeks after launch, but the platform’s open-source nature meant other developers quickly created new forks. Like most torrent sites, Popcorn Time disappeared and reappeared on various new domains before authorities shut them down too.
- Traffic on the platform decreased because individual users were wary of legal action and heavy financial penalties. Many users simply migrated to streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix. Popcorn Time continues to be available today.
The story of Popcorn Time
Popcorn Time is a free BitTorrent client with a media player where users can watch various television shows and movies.
The platform was created by a team of anonymous Argentinian developers in 2014, with only one member, Federico Abad, so far identified.
Abad created Popcorn Time because he grew tired of waiting six months after a cinematic release for a film to be available in his country.
The platform was eventually launched in March 2014, with hundreds of thousands of users downloading it in the first two weeks.
Inevitably, however, Popcorn Time attracted the ire of movie producers and was shut down and reborn several times over the years.
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Some of the stories of what happened to Popcorn Time are told below.
Two weeks after launch, a team of lawyers assembled by Warner Bros.
The film studio managed to find the developers and their respective LinkedIn profiles.
Abad and his counterparts became nervous about an impending lawsuit similar to those experienced by LimeWire or Napster.
As a result, Popcorn Time was, at least in theory, shut down.
But the project’s open-source nature meant that GitHub developers soon revived and relaunched it.
Chief among them were members of popular torrent site YTS, whose API the platform utilized.
From domain to domain
In much the same way as The Pirate Bay, Popcorn Time would be shut down and re-appear on a different domain.
The first relatively successful move was to time4popcorn.eu, which released an app for Android and jailbroken iOS devices.
However, domain authorities in Europe shut the site down, and Popcorn Time was moved to popcorn-time.se.
Another version, popcorntime.io, released a VPN in November 2014 and became one of the first forks to monetize the already illegal service.
Further regulation and dwindling traffic
In May 2015, the U.K. High Court ruled that several ISPs would be required to restrict access to any page associated with Popcorn Time.
As the year wore on, increasing numbers of film studios threatened to sue users on the platform, with Danish police also heavily penalizing two individuals for running an explainer site.
Ultimately, the fear of heavy fines and potential lawsuits caused traffic to decrease.
Many forks suffered because of developer disagreements, while others were simply abandoned altogether.
The emergence of streaming services and legal action
The platform became even less palatable in 2017 after reports surfaced that subtitle files were infected with malware.
The Movie Picture Association of America – instrumental in initiating lawsuits earlier in the piece – then sued GitHub for violating copyright. While the source code was taken down, it reappeared two weeks later because the code itself was not subject to copyright law.
Today, Popcorn Time continues to be available.
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