Popcorn Time, a free app that makes watching pirated hit movies as easy as using Netflix, refuses to die.
The original Argentina-based developers behind the free app shut down the project last month, shortly after Popcorn Time gained worldwide attention. The group, in a statement, alluded to legal threats and said “we need to move on with our lives.”
This week, a new website cropped up — Popcorn-time.tv — which says the open-source app is developed by “a bunch of geeks from All Around The World.” According to domain name registry eNom, the website was registered April 2 to a P.O. Box number in Panama.
The re-emergence of Popcorn Time shows just how difficult — if not impossible — it is for Hollywood to fight global piracy, especially among a group apparently not looking to make money from their efforts.
Popcorn-time.tv currently includes this disclaimer: “Downloading copyrighted material may be illegal in your country. Use at your own risk.” Site solicits donations from users via Bitcoin to “help to pay the hosting service or tip a beer.”
In an email from firstname.lastname@example.org, one of the anonymous members running the new site said it was launched Wednesday “after we lost contact with the developer managing our previous website. We cannot tell you where it is hosted.” This person declined to reveal his or her whereabouts, either.
A trace of the Popcorn-time.tv address shows that the traffic terminates with San Francisco-based CloudFlare, a website-security firm; a company rep said it does not actually provide web-hosting services and that its policy is to not confirm any CloudFlare user without the user’s permission.
CloudFlare has described its service as a “reverse proxy” that lets customers route website 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 company’s service was used by WikiLeaks in 2012 to bring that site back online after an extended attack.
File downloads from Popcorn-time.tv are currently hosted on Bintray, a platform for developers to publish and share open-source software. Bintray is a service of JFrog, an Israeli-based startup with U.S. offices in Santa Clara, Calif. (JFrog did not respond to a request for comment.)
While Popcorn Time has achieved some level of media buzz, usage of the app has appeared to be tiny compared with other piracy apps. Popcorn Time usage represented less than 1% of total torrent-related client downloads in March, according to German piracy analytics firm Excipio, far behind traditional clients like Vuze and BitTorrent.
Unlike regular BitTorrent or other file-sharing software, Popcorn Time begins streaming titles seconds after a user clicks on them, pulling the movies from piracy websites.
Following the shutdown of the original website, the Popcorn Time app had been available to download at sites including popcorn.cdnjd.com and getpopcorntime.com, but both of those sites have gone dead.
TechCrunch previously reported the launch of the new Popcorn Time site.