Visit the Popcorn Time website, and it all looks wonderful. “Watch torrent movies instantly!” reads the home page. “Careful when downloading from other sources, as we have the only official ones.”
As Huffington Post reported on March 12, Popcorn Time simplifies the world of torrents for users while making it look legitimate. The user is presented with a list of movies, chooses what he or she would like to watch, and it begins downloading immediately, no questions asked. As the home page claims, these are ‘official’ torrents so everything is above-board.
The problem is that torrents are a common way of downloading data that is typically used for obtaining pirated software or intellectual property, though they can of course be used to transfer legitimate files as well. Movies are typically copyrighted, so downloading one from unofficial sources generally means the user is obtaining an illegal copy of the movie and is liable for copyright infringement.
The Popcorn Time site has already gone down since the news broke according to Variety on March 12, though another one seems to have popped up here. It’s hard to tell if this is the genuine Popcorn Time, as it’s common for opportunists to pick up on something topical as a way to phish for personal data or dupe someone to download a virus or malware.
Checking on the Android Playstore uncovers a Popcorn Time app that claims to do the same thing, but read the comments – while it’s clear that the app does allow movies to be watched, it is nothing like the genuine Popcorn Time.
If you need a popcorn fix, let’s be frank about it: you don’t need Popcorn Time at all. There are other apps which claim to do the same thing, often with non-English interfaces and all claiming to allow the user to watch movies legally and for free, though perhaps the proposition isn’t quite as slick as Popcorn Time’s.
Such apps will exist as long as there is a demand for them. But it is one thing to knowingly take the risk of downloading a movie illegally and another to be duped into enjoying the movie because it is assumed to be legal.
If there is a penalty to be paid for copyright infringement, it is not going to matter whether the user knew if the download was legal or illegal. An illegal download is still an illegal download. As a user, remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, even if you don’t want to believe it.