With free access to thousands of movies and TV-episodes it’s natural to wonder if it’s illegal to use Popcorn Time. This article isn’t meant to be used as legal advise but as general information for users who’ve asked the question. If you want to be 100% sure you should seek legal council on the matter.
Popcorn Time uses filesharing
Popcorn Time uses torrents to distribute content which means the files aren’t streamed from servers but downloaded from other users. It also means that if you’re watching something with Popcorn Time you’re sharing that particular video file with others.
This way of distributing data is called filesharing or P2P for “Peer to Peer” and the BitTorrent protocol is the most used method of file sharing today. The main benefit of P2P technology is that it doesn’t rely on expensive servers but also that the decentralized structure makes it very resilient.
Popcorn Time is brilliant but it’s really just a fancy and very user friendly BitTorrent client. Thus, to answer the question we must turn towards the legal issues of P2P filesharing.
Is filesharing illegal?
No, filesharing as such is 100% legal. In no US state or in any other country in the world is file sharing illegal. However, if you’re downloading and sharing copyright protected content with others without permission, this is considered illegal.
Since most of the content in Popcorn Time is in fact copyright protected, using it to watch and consequently share such content is thus illegal. However, since Popcorn Time can also be used for other purposes, the software isn’t illegal per se.
The courts of the UK and Italy disagree and have both ordered ISPs to block access to Popcorn Time claiming that it is designed specifically for copyright infringements. A similar ruling was passed in Israel but has since been revoked.
How do I know if something is copyrighted?
A good rule of thumb says that if you would normally have to pay to watch the movie or TV-show, it’s most likely copyrighted. It’s possible to find indie movies and TV-series on Popcorn Time that are legal to watch and share but for the most part that unfortunately isn’t the case.
If you wish to err on the side of caution you shouldn’t use Popcorn Time!
What happens if I still decide to use Popcorn Time?
That depends on your local laws and, of course, if you get caught. However, a good example of what could happen is a fine for each movie or episode you’ve downloaded and shared. If you’ve watched a lot of movies and shows, this could be a substantial fine if found guilty on all accounts.
Piracy is a big deal for the movie- and TV industry and some of the copyright holders are quite vigilant about protecting their investment. Getting caught is thus a very real scenario if you decide to watch copyrighted content with Popcorn Time.
The process of finding and prosecuting filesharers violating copyrights is big business and several companies are specialized in the matter. They have a sophisticated monitoring system that constantly scans the public BitTorrent network and detects whenever someone is downloading or sharing copyright protected material.
The IP-address of the user is logged along with proof of the violation and can be used as evidence. Unless a VPN is used, the IP-address can easily be used to track down the user through their ISP.
This isn’t a rare occurrence and thousands of torrent users have been identified and fined.
How can I avoid getting fined?
Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. In other words, don’t use Popcorn Time at all if you don’t want to run the risk of getting caught. An effective way to avoid being traced is to hide your public IP-address by using Popcorn Time with a VPN.
However, we encourage you to support the industry by only using legal streaming services.