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

popcorn

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.

BW-strange-TV-retro

 “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.

TV-gif

“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.”

ElvisTV

“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.”

Screen-Shot-2015-03-16-at-2.01.47-PM

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 »