After taking the Internet by storm earlier this year, Popcorn Time needs very little introduction. The subject of dozens of news articles, this application massively simplifies the viewing of videos online via a Netflix-style interface.
Even after several controversies, including the retirement of both the original team and the developers who subsequently took over the project, the software lives on in various forms.
One of the more successful variants, known as Cuevana Storm, is less known in English-speaking regions since it’s presented in Spanish. However, several users in Germany are now dealing with issues arising from its use.
Yesterday, German lawfirm GGR Law reported that three of its clients had received demands for cash settlements from the Waldorf Frommer law firm based on allegations of copyright infringement. However, during discussions all of the recipients insisted that they had never installed a BitTorrent client on their machines. Instead they had used only streaming services.
The use of unauthorized streaming sites came to the forefront in Germany during December 2013 when users of the RedTube site suddenly started receiving settlement demands from the U & C lawfirm. That provoked a government announcement in January this year that viewing pirated streams is not illegal.
So are these latest settlement demands for 815 euros each just another attempt at illegally extorting cash following legal stream views?
Firstly and importantly, the letter recipients believed that the content in question had been accessed via streaming – certainly, nothing had been accessed via BitTorrent. However, this is where the confusion lies.
While the interfaces of Cuevana Storm / Popcorn time give the impression of server-to-client streaming (like YouTube), both have BitTorrent under the hood. This means that while streaming video to the inbuilt player, content is also being uploaded to other users, just as it would in any regular BitTorrent swarm.
“In the warnings from the Waldorf Frommer law firm, Cuevana.tv isn´t mentioned. Also it is not stated that this is a streaming warning letter,” GGR lawyer Tobias Röttger told TorrentFreak.
“The warning letter is the classic standard file-sharing warning letter, which the law firm Waldorf Frommer has used for some time. The culprit was accused of uploading the file via BitTorrent. I suspect that Waldorf Frommer don´t know that the download was made over Cuevana.tv.”
The above illustrates why it is extremely important for people to have at least a cursory understanding of how software on their machine operates. Streaming video server-to-client or server-to-web browser is either legal or at the least non-detectable in most Western countries. Uploading content to others without permission is generally illegal.
For some the difference between the two will only be discovered after receiving a fine for hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars.