The anonymous crew behind the Popcorn Time movie-piracy app moved quickly to switch to a new file-hosting provider, apparently located in France, after its account was shut down earlier Saturday by the company previously hosting its downloads.
This Wednesday, an anonymous group of developers launched Popcorn-time.tv, registered to a P.O. Box number in Panama. That came after the original Argentine developers behind the free app — citing legal threats — shut down the project last month, which gained worldwide attention.
Popcorn Time makes watching recently released movies, including “Frozen,” “Gravity,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “12 Years a Slave,” “American Hustle,” “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” as easy as using Netflix or Hulu, complete with poster art and synopses. Actually, easier — since you don’t have to pay anything or log in.
Initially, the file downloads from Popcorn-time.tv were hosted on Bintray, a free platform for developers to publish and share open-source software. The app was downloaded 55,420 times between April 3 and 5, according to Bintray’s website. Owned by Israel-based JFrog, Bintray disabled access to the files sometime on Saturday. A Popcorn-time.tv manager, via email, said Bintray had suspended the account.
Several hours later, Popcorn-time.tv updated its download links to point to a new server. The Internet address of the new download site indicates that it is operated on the network of France’s Free SAS, a subsidiary of Paris-based telecommunications provider Iliad SA. “Site updated with new links hosted by a generous contributor!” the group said on its Twitter account. The download links point to the server’s IP address (126.96.36.199) rather than a web address.
The Popcorn Time software downloads torrent files from piracy sites. But unlike regular BitTorrent and other file-sharing software, Popcorn Time begins streaming titles within seconds of a user clicking on them — without requiring someone to know how to hunt down illegal content. The software is available for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, with subtitles available in multiple languages.
Popcorn-time.tv warns users that they might run into trouble with the law: “Downloading copyrighted material may be illegal in your country. Use at your own risk.”
To host its website, Popcorn-time.tv is using the services of CloudFlare, a website-security firm that has described its service as a “reverse proxy” that lets customers route traffic through CloudFlare’s servers to ward off denial-of-service attacks and boost performance — and also mask the actual address of the origin web server. The San Francisco-based company’s service was used by WikiLeaks in 2012 to bring that site back online after an extended attack.