Any fan of Netflix knows that while it has more shows than you have time to watch, it also doesn't have the newest releases. Where do you turn if you want to watch Frozen, Gravity, Hunger Games or Captain Phillips?
Popcorn Time is exactly like Netflix, but it has the latest movies - some still in theaters. However, it's debatable whether or not the site is completely legal.
The site works by streaming torrents, which is what happens on sites like The Pirate Bay. However, the developers call it a free and open-source project, so the legal ramifications of using the site are yet to be seen.
Popcorn Time’s creators are quick to acknowledge the legal dangers. A disclaimer, warning that it may be illegal in your country to download copyrighted material, appears on the Popcorn Time website and again in the app itself. Movie studios have been known to monitor torrent traffic and sue individual file sharers, so Popcorn Time isn’t necessarily safe unless you’re using a virtual private network to mask your whereabouts.
But the creators aren’t particularly worried about the movie industry hounding them. “We don’t expect legal issues,” a developer named Sebastian told TorrentFreak. “We don’t host anything, and none of the developers makes any money. There are no ads, no premium accounts, and no subscription fees or anything like that. It’s an experiment to learn and share.”
Update: In the wake of increased scrutiny and copyright claims, the founders of Popcorn Time decided to shut down the site. From a statement:
Popcorn Time is shutting down today. Not because we ran out of energy, commitment, focus or allies. But because we need to move on with our lives.
Our experiment has put us at the doors of endless debates about piracy and copyright, legal threats and the shady machinery that makes us feel in danger for doing what we love. And that’s not a battle we want a place in.
Update #2: It's back online - for now at least. A new cadre of coders used the Popcorn Time open source framework to construct the next generation of copyright-infringing streaming video player. This time, they claim it "will never be taken down." From the new Time 4 Popcorn site:
In the next few weeks our team and the incredible open source community are going to add some awesome features to the app and to make it almost perfect. Meanwhile, you can download the original app and be sure that file will never be taken down.
Other piracy advocates have made such a bold claim before and been unable to follow through. How long will Time 4 Popcorn last? Only time will tell.