‘Free Netflix’ streaming app Popcorn Time returns as COVID-19 forces millions to stay home
As millions across the UK, Europe and the United States self-isolate and work from home, “free Netflix” rival Popcorn Time has re-emerged. The piracy streaming service quickly gained traction back in 2015 before it suddenly shuttered – presumably because the authorities clamped down on the app.
For those who don’t know, Popcorn Time offers access to hundreds of blockbuster movies and TV shows for free. Like Netflix, there’s no need to download any files – everything is available to stream from your web browser. This led many to compare the service with Netflix. However, unlike the Californian popular video on-demand app, Popcorn Time is illegal.
If you’re thinking the timing of the return – just as millions will be spending more time indoors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across the population – is an extraordinary coincidence, it’s not. Popcorn Time has deliberately chosen this time, when people are looking for more and more content to stream at home to avoid theatres, cinemas, and other crowded places, to relaunch its controversial service.
In a tweet from the Popcorn Time account, it states: “Love in the Time of Corona Version 0.4 is out.”
While there are plenty of competing services for pirates, Popcorn Time gained popularity due to its polished interface which looks much closer to an official video on-demand service than the often sketchy piracy websites that requires users to click through a slew of links or downloads.
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By comparison, Popcorn Time has an elaborate menu, large high-resolution images for every show or movie.
Behind the scenes, the service still relies on the same BitTorrent technology as The Pirate Bay and other torrent-based websites. But instead of downloading the file to your computer, it is streamed to your device instead. This means there’s less technical know-how than other popular torrent websites, which require users to download a standalone torrent manager, like uTorrent, to start downloads.
In the UK and a number of other countries around the world, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) block access to known torrent websites, including The Pirate Bay, KickAss Torrents, and more. Since Popcorn Time relies on the same technology to power its streaming option, it is also blocked automatically in a number of territories worldwide.
Torrents themselves aren’t illegal – these small files are simply a way of downloading content from a network of users across the world who already have the file and are willing to share. Torrents are the map that plans out which bytes you’ll be able to download from each person in the network.
If you’re sharing your own photo collection on torrents: that’s fine since you own the copyright. However, peer-to-peer networks and torrents have become synonymous with downloading copyright-protected material, including television shows from paid-for networks, like Sky Atlantic or Netflix, as well as Hollywood blockbusters.
Kieron Sharp, CEO of FACT said “During these exceptional circumstances, it is completely understandable that the demand for content will increase.
“However, it is essential to remember that the only legal way of watching content is through the official providers. If you are accessing content in any way that does not remunerate the content provider, this is not a grey area: it is illegal.
There is now more choice than ever for consumers and we encourage everyone to watch only via official providers as this does not only guarantee the best quality viewing, it guarantees that you’re not putting yourself and your family at risk of malware, inappropriate content and electrical safety risks.
“FACT will continue to monitor and will work with members and industry to crackdown on illegal activity.”
Despite a common misconception, there is no difference in the eyes of the law whether you’re streaming or downloading the content. If you’re accessing paid-for material for free without permission from the rightsholder – it’s illegal.
If you’re self-isolating at home twiddling your thumbs, video on-demand services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, NOW TV, Apple TV+, and (from next week) Disney+ should provide more than enough bingeable boxsets to keep you occupied without breaking the law.
Published at Thu, 19 Mar 2020 06:45:00 +0000