About a year ago, an app called Popcorn Time appeared on the markets, bringing the filmmaker copyright issue to the top of the headlines in online media. Popcorn Time makes watching the latest movies for free an easy and streamlined process for your mobile devices. There is no tedious searches and purchase processes; you just find the move you like and press Play.
Watching illegitimately distributed movies online on mobile devices has never been so easy as Popcorn Time makes it and basically, this application makes what Napster once did to song downloads. This app is the Hollywood’s worst nightmare.
The developers behind the original Popcorn Time emphasized that the application is perfectly legal because neither users, nor the application itself holds the movies – the Internet holds them. Once you install the application, it displays a warning screen, making the user to agree that the overall process is somewhat shady, though.
Legally speaking, piracy is equally as stealing an act as taking an image of the artwork to later reproduce it. Is it illegal – yes. Is it only a representation of the large-scale process – absolutely.
When Napster was invented, the RIAA spend a mighty fortune trying to fight the Napster-grown generation of users until Apple came up with iTunes and converted pirates to buyers. Apple iTunes made it easy to get hold of the trendiest music anywhere on the go, and Apple created a generation of music fans who at least knew they could easily buy instead of ripping.
The state of movie streaming, on the other hand, is focused on distribution where consumers demand a fair price for the content. The staggering success of Amazon Video, Hulu and Netflix proves the point. However, these perfectly legitimate service providers do not offer brand new top-tier content other then their own productions, however users are looking for movie content recently released. If you want a Disney movie, you go to Netflix, but where do you go if you want the top-notch blockbuster? You either go to the store and buy a DVD, or download it from a shady resource, a method preferred by millions of users all over the world because it’s fast, free, and it gives you an opportunity to make your own opinion about the movies without buying them. Notably, this approach seems quite fair to many, because many blockbusters do not deserve to be bought because they are utterly crappy, but hugely advertised. Alternatively, you could wait till the movie shows on HBO months later.
Popcorn Time and the likes is only the beginning for mobile devices and it is by far not the first app that provides an easy way to watch movies online. Any developer can now access the entire program code placed on the github, and create an alternative program based on Popcorn Time. In addition, the program focuses on API released to open access by a popular movie website that has managed to evade the wrath of MPAA so far. Roughly speaking, Popcorn Time is yet another representation of a multimillion community of users, and what Hollywood can do about it, yet remains unknown.
There is no particular identity behind the program that filmmakers’ lawyers can attack. The developers remain faceless and can lay low while continuing distribution of their creations under different names. Since the app is free and is not add supported, Popcorn Time is just a perfect Napster for movies, without greedy business entities trying to monetize it. It is the apotheosis of user denial of turning the cinematography from art to an industry, greedy and cynic.
Popcorn Time is not alone in this, with a couple dozen apps appearing like mushrooms after rain on Google Play store. A website called FliXanity basically copied Netflix design and streams movies to mobile devices, even though the resolution is quite low. Another Android app called MovieHive works according to the same principle as Popcorn Time, even though the selection and ease-of-use is not even close to the original Popcorn Time, and it is ad-driven, but yet it works and it streams Hollywood movies for free.
There are many other applications and they continue appearing as you read this. Popcorn Time has already been taken down after the developers ceded to an extremely growing pressure and attention this app was generating in the media. And yes, the program was just that good.
“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 the battle we want a place in,” wrote the unknown authors of the app.
Once major media giants publicized the app, its usage skyrocketed, and so did the angry rhetoric from the Hollywood. Hence, the download of the app was interrupted, but earlier this year it has been restored because the website of the app had been changed.
Whether filmmakers like it or not, streaming is the future for movie distribution, both legitimate and illegitimate. If Popcorn Time has been taken down, another program will emerge and will probably be even better than the first one. The only thing that can impede its rise is if Hollywood takes full control of the streaming. How they are going to do it yet remains to be revealed.
For the time being it seems that after free music and free books we now can enjoy free movies.