(Bloomberg) — Popcorn Time, the once-popular app that made watching pirated movies and television shows almost as easy as using Netflix, shut down.
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The app debuted in 2014 and within a year became one of the most popular services for accessing illegal video content. In 2015, Netflix Inc. warned investors about the rise of Popcorn Time in a financial report, and Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings declared, “Piracy continues to be one of our biggest competitors.”
Popcorn Time’s creators deserted the service shortly after its introduction, and emails released after a hack of Sony Group Corp. indicated law enforcement may have played a role. But the app’s code was open-source, and other developers jumped in to release new versions.
In 2015, a developer associated with Popcorn Time told Bloomberg that the service wasn’t responsible for piracy because it didn’t host any stolen material itself. The software instead offered a link to computers around the world hosting the content through the file-sharing system BitTorrent. “The torrent world was here with millions of users way before us and will be here with BILLIONS of users way after us,” he said at the time.
On Tuesday, the group behind the app emailed reporters declaring its end. A goodbye note posted by Popcorn Time, with an illustration of a bag of movie-theater popcorn with X marks for eyes, proclaims “R.I.P.” at the top of the page. The site also contains a chart of interest over time measured in online searches for the app, similar to the one Netflix sent to investors in 2015.
Movie piracy is still a problem for Hollywood. It was exacerbated during the pandemic after many films skipped theatrical releases and went straight to digital. Movie studios maintain an aggressive legal approach to piracy; still, many alternatives to Popcorn Time have taken its place.
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