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Piracy App Popcorn Time Ordered Blocked by U.K. Court

Popcorn Time — the piracy app that’s as easy to use as Netflix — has been dealt a blow, although it’s surely not fatal.

On Tuesday, a United Kingdom chancery court approved an order requiring major U.K. Internet service providers to block access to four Popcorn Time variants.

The Motion Picture Assn. of America cheered the ruling. “As stated in the written judgment, Popcorn Time has no legitimate purpose and it only serves to infringe copyright,” the MPAA said in a statement. “Court orders are a proportionate and effective measure to tackle sites dedicated to facilitating and promoting online copyright infringement.”

The MPAA continued: “The film and TV industry is comprised of hundreds of thousands of men and women working hard behind the scenes to bring the vibrant, creative stories we enjoy to the screen; content theft undermines that hard work.”

Netflix, for one, is paying attention to Popcorn Time. In its fourth-quarter 2014 letter to shareholders, the company included a link to this graph on Google Trends, showing a surge of searches for Popcorn Time in the Netherlands relative to Netflix and HBO starting last fall.

“Piracy continues to be one of our biggest competitors,” CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells wrote, calling the search data “sobering.” Worldwide, Google searches for “Popcorn Time” have been trending upward over the past few months, but there hasn’t been a dramatic increase.

The ruling this week applies only in the U.K., so the battle continues.

For media companies, stamping out Popcorn Time has been a virtually impossible task. The free, open-source apps, originally created by an anonymous group of developers in Argentina, are now hosted on multiple sites and allegedly have several hundred volunteer programmers working on various iterations, including mobile versions of the apps.

“We aren’t sponsored by anyone, we don’t have a paid team of people behind the project, we aren’t a business, and we don’t have any affiliations,” someone calling himself “KsaRedFx” wrote in a blog post last month. “We are a community.”

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