Is Popcorn Time Legal, and Should You Use It?

Popcorn Time is a free, open-source application that lets you stream torrents of movies and TV shows for free. The software uses BitTorrent’s P2P technology and enables you to stream content without having to wait for the download to complete, making it easy for you to watch your favorite films and television series. The content is downloaded in a secret folder on your hard drive and gets deleted on system reboot.

The application presents thumbnails and film titles much like the way the popular subscription-based content streaming service Netflix does.

popcorn-time-home

There are two major categories to choose from: Movies and TV Series. The app also lets you filter results based on genre and other factors like popularity, updated, year, and name. Click the gear icon located towards the top right corner to choose the quality of the stream, the language of the default subtitle and the size, as well as set options for Internet connection.

To start using the app, just click on any of your favourite movies or TV series, and it will show you a brief overview of what you’re going to watch. There is also an option watch the trailer.

popcorn-time-overview

Click on the “Watch Now” button at the bottom, and the content will start downloading. But as promised, the app will begin streaming within a few seconds.

Popcorn Time was developed by a Buenos Aires, Argentina-based group who believed that piracy was a service problem created by an industry that portrays innovation as a threat to their antique recipe to collect value. Given the kind of service the app provides, and that, too, without any ads or premium account, it was just a matter of time before the app started gaining media attention. But, not every body was thrilled with what the app was doing.

After receiving wide coverage from media outlets, the app was shut down back in March this year, with creators claiming legal threats from the companies who owned the content. Being an open source project, the “Napster for movies” or the “Netflix of pirated content,” as it was popularly called, made a comeback, with many groups forking the project. Chief among them was the torrent site YTS that took over the project.

Well, that’s not an easy question to answer, but we at Make Tech Easier feel that it’s our moral responsibility to let you know the risks of using the app. The first thing that you should keep in mind is that most of whatever you view through Popcorn Time is pirated. Secondly, the application uses your system to seed the movie to others once you are done watching it. So, depending upon where are you based, that could be illegal and may attract a fine (or even a jail term).

For example, in the US, the Copyrights Group monitors bittorrent swarms of selected movies, records IP addresses of the file sharers, files suit in order to obtain subpoenas to force ISPs to release the identities of the users, and then sends out letters to these users threatening to sue and offering settlements in the $1,000 to $3,000 range. On the other hand, there are countries like Canada where it’s legal to download or stream content provided that you don’t try to reproduce it.

Although developers of Popcorn Time say that there is nothing illegal about the application as it just acts like a search engine to find content that is already available publicly, experts believe that the biggest legal problem is that the app encourages users to stream pirated content, making it legally liable for distributing unlicensed content (see Inducement rule).

With all the legal issues behind you, if you are looking forward to trying the app, you can download the latest version from the popcorn.io website. The application is available for Windows, Linux (both 32 bit and 64 bit), and Mac. The package comes as an archive, and you just have to extract it and run the binary file. We tested Popcorn Time version 0.3.2 beta on Ubuntu 14.04.

Pros

  • No wait time – plays movies instantaneously
  • Impressive UI

Cons

  • Still in beta phase – expect some bugs
  • Could eat up a big chunk of your monthly bandwidth

While we do not encourage using Popcorn Time, the final decision is obviously yours, as the risk the application brings depends completely on the country you are based in. Should you decide to try the app, the least we can ensure is that you won’t be disappointed by it – after all who doesn’t want free movies streamed instantly in HD?

Let us know what you think about Popcorn Time, and if you will use it.

18 comments

  1. It’s about time that average internet users grow up and learn about web anonimity and privacy, so they can do what they want when their government is a whore of the corrupt entertainment lobby. Internet is per definition anarchistic and that’s what it should become again. Btw I think Time4popcorn.eu is better then the .io version that may have issues with loading/playing. Cheers ;)

  2. Be forewarned that in fact this is illegal and it is easy to trace the IP addresses for the client downloading the content. The legal owner can then demand that your ISP tell them who you are and how to contact you. Which they will and if you are lucky all that will happen is you will get a warning. More times than not however you will find yourself in court and probably playing stupid like you did not know it was wrong. To which you will still be fined and ordered by the court to pay up or go to jail! I know this because it has happened to me and really the only alternative is to cowboy up and pay for what you watch like the rest of us or try and hide with a proxy (which only works if you know what you are doing).

    Everyone should be aware that prosecuting these cases for the movie industry has become the cash cow for them much like parts and services that have made car companies filthy rich. They know this is where their money really is…. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

  3. Must be lots of industry spammers on here.The MPAA while 100% against downloading would not lower themselves to the levels that the RIAA used to many years ago to sue individual downloaders. especially since those caught were never hard core pirates usually single moms who’s kid found a kewl app to watch movies and listen to music. If you really want to know who is being sued and for what check ray Beckerman’s blog “recording industry vs the people”

    While there is an argument that when you use bit torrent you are seeding while downloading, and the seeding is where the IP may lead to trouble (as it did years ago with the RIAA cases) Bit torrent is a bit different when in most cases you do not have the entire movie/show, no one can download the entire movie/show from you, so proving that you violated copyright would be nearly impossible (technically) The RIAA abandoned their lawsuites years ago as it was a losing proposition, most never replied, and then they started losing in court, the costs estimated at about 30 million over a few years was deemed an expense not worthy of the deterred downloaders they were hoping for.

    This topic is fascinating and much more complex than “you donwload so your a thief” Go out and investigate for yourself, check out slyck and other news sites.

    Until you see real cases about popcorn tv I’d enjoy it while it lasts…

  4. i wouldn’t use it if it is illegal because you can go to jail. its new movies for free. they are some of them still in theaters. when i read, i deleted it immediately.

  5. I just got a warning from at@t about which movies I downloaded warning me they would disconnect my service and possible lawsuit from the movie makers

  6. Hey i’m 15 years old and even I know that this isn’t safe. I just had a whole talk about popcorn time with my mom and the fact that you can get sued for $5000 dollars should tell you right there that this is an illegal program that should NOT be used. So I strongly advise that the people who are downloading popcorn time get a real job and pay for Netflix! It’s only seven dollars a month!! Anyway, if you want the makers of these illegal downloaded movies to higher lawyers to find your IP address and come after you in court then you should probably think twice about downloading popcorn time. It’s illegal for a reason and for the people who are investing and making these movies are losing billions of dollars because it’s being illegally downloaded instead of being payed for.

  7. Popcorntime is great!
    But I found a new way of watching latest movies on all my devices and share my media with my friends. It is not free of charge, but for unlimited cloud and a fast downloadserver i ❤ to pay!
    Maybe see you soon on upcbox.com and we become friends!

  8. As a practical matter, using popcorntime is like doing 70 in a 50 zone. Eventually, you’ll be stopped and ticketed. In the world as it is currently constructed, there’s no free lunch.

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