For more than seven years, Popcorn Time has been a thorn in the side of movie studios large and small.
The ‘Netflix for Pirates’ offers an easy-to-use application that opens the door to a library of thousands of streamable movies and TV shows.
Popcorn Time’s Legal Issues
The Motion Picture Association (MPA) recognized this threat early on and pressured the original developers to throw in the towel. That worked, but it came too late as the open-source project was swiftly revived by others.
Today, Popcorn Time lives on through many project forks. The most popular is PopcornTime.app, which carried on where the original developers stopped, releasing various new features over the years.
Running a project like that is a challenge. Movie companies are keeping a close eye on the project and have explored several options to take it down. Last year, for example, the MPA sent a takedown notice to GitHub, taking down Popcorn Time’s official repository.
This was a setback for the developers, but not something they couldn’t overcome. Popcorn Time successfully filed a DMCA counternotice and after two weeks GitHub restored the project.
Popcorntime.app Disappears After New Lawsuit
A few weeks ago another, perhaps even more concerning problem appeared. In a complaint filed at a federal court in Virginia, several movie companies accused the anonymous operators of Popcorntime.app of massive copyright infringement.
This case is still ongoing and the court swiftly issued a preliminary injunction, ordering the registrar to lock the domain name, so it can’t be transferred. Around the same time, the Popcorntime.app site disappeared.
The downtime coincided with the fact that the site initially redirected to the “goodbye” message the original Popcorn Time developers published in 2014, and led us to believes that the project was done. However, the reality is a bit different.
This week one of the Popcorn Time developers, using the official email address, informed us that a comeback is in the making. The team has lost access to the Cloudflare account which caused some problems, but nothing that can’t be fixed.
Interestingly, the Cloudflare issues are not a direct result of the legal action. Instead, the Popcorn Time representative told us that the loss was caused by “internal” issues.
The team promised that it will share more information on these internal issues when possible and also confirmed that a comeback is being planned. If and how this will happen remains unclear.
GitHub Repo is Online
That said, Popcorn Time never really went away completely. While the site is inaccessible, the official GitHub repository is still online and being updated. This repo features all the latest releases too.
Given the legal pressure, it’s possible that the GitHub repository will eventually be targeted too. The movie studios that sued Popcorn Time have already requested information from GitHub and if they win their case, they may try to get a court order to take the GitHub repo offline.
Thus far, the movie companies haven’t shied away from taking legal steps. VPN provider VPN.ht, which is a defendant in the same lawsuit, had already had its PayPal funds frozen. This week, the court approved another injunction, requiring the US-based Evolve Bank & Trust to freeze the company’s assets.