Time for Popcorn?

There is a new service that came about recently that let’s users watch practically any movie, even new releases, in stunning high definition and for free. While this might sound like a great service to those who enjoy watching movies without either renting them or going to the movie theater, the catch is that this program is illegal. The new service is called Popcorn Time and it serves like Netflix for torrented movies. With a beautiful and simple to use interface it allows users to look through movies and find the one that the user would like to watch. The program does nothing new in reality. It simply provides a user friendly interface, meanwhile the program goes out using a common peer to peer torrenting service, and seeds and downloads the video and allows the user to watch it. The creators of the service Popcorn Time are trying to claim that running the application is safe against the law, since that the user is not actually in possession of the movies and that they are stored on the internet. They are claiming that no one is really at fault.

The same cannot be said for the movie industry. The movie industry is having painful flashbacks to a program called Napster. Napster was a program that made illegally pirating music incredibly easy. Napster was ordered by a court to shutdown a major part of its services. This service was letting music be shared easily through peer to peer file sharing. A brief summary of the court ruling can be determined from this quote from Metallica:

“The 9th Circuit Court has confirmed that musicians, songwriters, filmmakers, authors, visual artists and other members of the creative community are entitled to the same copyright protections online that they traditionally been afforded offline”

The movie industry is trying to shutdown Popcorn Time in the same manner that Napster was shutdown, it is clearly a violation of copyright laws. However, I do not believe that the movie industry will have the same luck that the RIAA had against Napster. When Popcorn time first launched on March 10, 2014 it took the movie industry only five days to “shut it down”. In fact, the movie industry didn’t really “shutdown” Poprcorn Time. The creators of Popcorn Time decided to shutdown production because they “needed to move own with their lives”. This, however, is not the end of Popcorn Time. Before the creators really threw in the towel, they decided to post the source code to their service on Github, a popular open source code sharing website, for anyone to download and create their own service. This is probably the worst thing that could happen to the movie industry since it gives everyone their own means of creating the application. Once they manage to shutdown one service, another one is bound to pop up in no time.

While Popcorn Time is illegal, the creators and some of the users raise valid points as to why they use the program. As stated on Popcorn Time’s homepage

“You know what’s the best thing about Popcorn Time? That tons of people agreed in unison that the movie industry has way too many ridiculous restrictions on way too many markets. Take Argentina for example: streaming providers seem to believe that “There’s Something About Mary” is a recent movie. That movie would be old enough to vote here.
The bulk of our users is not in the US. It’s everywhere else. Popcorn Time got installed on every single country on Earth. Even the two that don’t have internet access.

The creator of the service hits on a major point here. The fact that most countries that provide a similar streaming service to customers are extremely outdated and need to be updated before they can be taken seriously. Why should people in other countries be limited in terms of what they can watch just because of where they are located? We have the technology to provide those services to everywhere, which is evident from the existence of this program, so why are we not doing it? Another quote from the Popcorn Time website sums it up perfectly

“Piracy is not a people problem. It’s a service problem. A problem created by an industry that portrays innovation as a threat to their antique recipe to collect value. It seems to everyone that they just don’t care.

But people do.

We’ve shown that people will risk fines, lawsuits and whatever consequences that may come just to be able to watch a recent movie in slippers. Just to get the kind of experience they deserve.

And maybe, that asking nicely for a few bucks a month to watch whichever movie you want is a bit better than that.”

Another point that I would like to touch on is in comparison with Netflix. As of right now, Netflix users are not able to fully utilize their subscription to the service since most of the major ISP are throttling traffic to Netflix which is resulting in a loss of quality. Meanwhile, from what I have read online, the quality of which Popcorn Time displays movies at is in high definition. Users of Netflix are not receiving the full quality of the service that they are paying for and because of that they are turning to outside sources to get what they feel that they deserve.

I fully agree with what the creator of Popcorn Time has to say about throwing a few bucks a month to watch any movie. While Popcorn Time is fully in the wrong, as it knowingly violates many copyright laws, I do not believe that the program is completely unjustified. The media industry needs to step up and adapt to the times, just like they did in the case of Napster, and create a easy way for people to stream the movies they want when they want it, without breaking any copyright laws. In a way, this service has kind of put it’s foot forward for the pirates, saying this is what we are capable of doing if you are not willing to improve your services. I believe it is time for movie industry to respond to these events.

I believe for this problem to be fully solved, if I can even call it fully solved since people will still always pirate movies, shows, songs, etc., the movie industry needs to step up it’s services. Let the consumers pick what they want to watch. If you allow the consumers to decide what they want to watch and make that available for them to watch I believe that they will have no problem throwing some money the way of the movie industry. This is evident because there are millions of people who pay for access to Netflix so it is already known that consumers are willing to pay for a decent service. Obviously this is not necessarily the outcome and merely my opinion but this is what I believe needs to happen. Until then I believe that services like Popcorn Time and whatever follows it, will be considerations for others to use even though they might face severe consequences.

Works Cited:

Burns, Matt. “Popcorn Time Is Back.” TechCrunch. N.p., 16 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
Burns, Matt. “Popcorn Time Is Hollywood’s Worst Nightmare, And It Can’t Be Stopped.” TechCrunch. N.p., 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
“Goodbye.” Popcorn Time. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
Misener, Dan. “Popcorn Time Is like ‘Netflix for Pirates'” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 11 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
Rowell, Erica D. “Court Rules Against Napster.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 12 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
Schwartz, Eric H. “Popcorn Time Is Back to Streaming Movies for Free, Can Anything Stop Online Piracy?” InTheCapital. N.p., 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.


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