Andy Greenberg: Inside Popcorn Time, the Piracy Party Hollywood Can’t Stop

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Popcorn Time’s BitTorrent-for-dummies approach has become the virtually undisputed future of video piracy

 reports: Popcorn Time was an instant hit when it launched just over a year ago: The video streaming service made BitTorrent piracy as easy as Netflix, but with far more content and none of those pesky monthly payments. Hollywood quickly intervened, pressuring Popcorn Time’s Argentinian developers to walk away from their creation. But anonymous coders soon relaunched the copyright-flouting software. Today, Popcorn Time is growing at a rate that has likely surpassed the original, and the people behind it say they’re working on changes designed to make the service virtually impervious to law enforcement.

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 “We’re like Google. scraping for new content all over the internet.”

— Popcorn Time’s anonymous developer, known here by the popcorn-box mascot name “Pochoclin”

As Popcorn Time celebrated the first anniversary of its rebirth, WIRED chatted via email and instant message with a software developer from Popcorn-Time.se, one of the most popular of several reincarnations of Popcorn Time. (The anonymous developer asked us to use Popcorn Time’s smiling popcorn-box mascot “Pochoclin” as his or her pseudonym.) Popcorn Time’s masked spokesperson says the streaming movie and TV app is flourishing—in defiance of many of the world’s most powerful copyright holders and EURid, the domain registrar that seized the original site’s web domain last year.

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“After everything we went through, this will be our sweetest revenge.”

— Anonymous Popcorn Time spokesperson

Popcorn-Time.se, Pochoclin says, has millions of users and is growing at the mind-bending rate of 100,000 downloads per day. He or she also hinted that a forthcoming switch to a peer-to-peer architecture will make the service far harder for copyright cops to attack. “We’re at the threshold of one of the most exciting times since we started this project,” Pochoclin writes. “Making all our data available via p2p will mean that Popcorn Time will no longer rely on domains and centralized servers but only on its user base.”

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“After everything we went through,” Pochoclin said, “this will be our sweetest revenge and our biggest victory.”

When Popcorn-Time.se started responding to WIRED’s questions in November, Pochoclin said the reborn project already had 4 million users. But it had taken a serious hit a few months earlier, when Brussels-based domain registrar EURid revoked its website domain, Time4Popcorn.eu. At its new Swedish domain, it’s only recently returned to that earlier adoption rate. (Pochoclin wouldn’t reveal the size of its current user base for fear of drawing more attention from law enforcement or copyright holders.) “[EURid’s domain seizure] was just a small setback … a small but painful kick to the balls,” the spokesperson says. “We’ve grown this project tremendously since we picked it up … The numbers just keep rising.”

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A chart of Google searches for Popcorn Time over the last year, showing its quick growth since the shutdown of the original site in March of last year. (Source: Google Trends, which shows only relative search trends rather than absolute numbers of searches.)

For any other year-old startup, those numbers would seem ludicrous. But Popcorn Time is giving away Hollywood’s most valuable content for free, and making that piracy easier than ever. Download Popcorn Time’s app and in seconds you’re offered a slick menu of streaming TV shows and movies at least as easy to navigate as Netflix or Hulu—but with higher-quality video and hundreds of recent movies and TV shows paid services don’t offer. Read the rest of this entry »


Eye Candy: Eva Green on Sin City 2 Poster Controversy: ‘A Lot of Noise for Nothing’

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LOS ANGELES, June 6 (UPI)–Actress Eva Green said the MPAA ban of her sexy poster for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is “a lot of noise for nothing.”

“I find it really sexy, actually. It’s kind of beautiful. But if it shocks people, I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t want to upset anybody…”

The Motion Picture Association of America rejected the poster of the actress, clad only a white dressing gown, that reveals her full silhouette beneath.

“…You have so many more violent things in the movie business and this is kind of soft. I’m not naked. It’s suggested.”

— Actress Eva Green

The MPAA denied the movie poster of character Ava Lord due to nudity, saying the “curve of under breast and dark nipple/areola circle visible through sheer gown” as grounds for rejection.

Green told Vanity Fair she didn’t see what all the fuss was about.

“Oh, my God, I heard about that,” she said of the rejection. Read the rest of this entry »


How Hollywood Can Stop Suing Downloaders and Capitalize on Piracy

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Jake Rossen writes:  Jack Valenti, the late president of the Motion Picture Association of America, once warned that a new form of distribution might kill his industry. It would empty theaters and drain studio coffers. Why would anyone venture out to multiplexes when films could be disseminated virtually free and viewed in the convenience of your own home?

Valenti was referring to videocassette recorders, the big boxes rolling out of Japanese factories circa 1980 that could make or play copies of movies at minimal cost. He called them a “parasitical instrument” and told Congress in 1982: “The VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston ­Strangler is to the woman home alone.” Filmmakers heeded him: Steven ­Spielberg refused to release E.T. to the home video market for six years. The debate was so fierce that it took a 1984 Supreme Court ruling to guarantee a consumer’s right to record someone else’s intellectual ­property.

Despite Hollywood’s nervousness, box office revenue jumped in the decade of the VCR. It rose from $2.7 billion in 1980 to over $5 billion in 1990, an increase of 16 percent even when adjusting for inflation. Years later, DVDs—the successors to videocassettes—would account for roughly 50 percent of studios’ overall profits. Paramount Pictures executive Barry London observed that the convenience of home video was “re-exposing people to movies who had stopped going.” Read the rest of this entry »


Study: Studios Need to Offer More Movies Online to Curb Piracy

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Ted Johnson writes: Adding to a growing body of competing data on who bears the blame for rampant online infringement, two George Mason U scholars unveiled a website that claims that few of the most pirated movies are even available online legally.

Shorter windows would help counter piracy, the authors say, though theater owners are unlikely to agree with changing windows substantially in the near future.

The site — piracydata.org — shows that of the top 10 most pirated movies in the past week, none are available for streaming, three were available for digital rental and six were available for digital purchase. The authors of the study, Jerry Brito and Eli Dourado from GMU’s Mercatus Center and developer Matt Sherman, relied on data from TorrentFreak and Can I Stream It. The top pirated movie, “Pacific Rim,” was available only for digital purchase, their study showed.

The study showed that over the past three weeks, 53% of the most pirated movies have been available legally in some digital form. In the same period, only 25% have been available for rental or streaming, and 0% have been available on a legal streaming service.

Read the rest of this entry »