Updated: Netflix-Killing Program Killed (Not By Netflix)

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popcorntime1-2Photo: Via TechCrunch.
Update: Annnnnd it's gone. Instead of fighting it out with lawyers, the government, and, yeah, us in the media, Popcorn Time has shut down and left the building less than a week after it became a buzzy talking point. As the creators said in a statement quoted at Business Insider, "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 a battle we want a place in." Yeah, we feel you. And yet, we also know that the end of this particular effort to make viewing pirated content easier and more intuitive, won't be the end of the issue. Someone will come along in Popcorn Time's footsteps and studios and legal streaming services are now aware and ready to meet them. This isn't over.

You know, the sirens' song of free, pirated movies and television has always called to us. Why pay for a third viewing of The Kids Are All Right when we could just download a ripped copy and watch Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore make out without having to pony up to Netflix, Amazon, or the evil cable company? Frankly, it was always the tech and logistics of setting up the various programs and clients needed for content theft that held us back, not our skewed moral compass.

Well, a new program in development, Popcorn Time, may make that temptation all the more irresistible. The technically legal application takes all those purloined digital copies of movies and TV shows and displays them in a format absolutely familiar to Netflix users. Basically, Popcorn Time heads out to the world of torrents files — those uploaded, tagged folders of content — and streams them through an intuitive interface, more or less bypassing the need for a subscription service.

As TechCrunch says, the media catalog is impressive. Everything from first run movies to classics like Hook are available to watch." They continue, "All the videos are free. And slightly illegal." The "slightly" part is actually not slightly at all. The torrents are illegal, though streaming them is, as of this writing, not. Basically, you can't get in trouble for using it yet, but there are some very qualified people working on that.

Now, as TechCrunch says, "Popcorn Time is not perfect, but it’s damn close. Video playback is occasionally jittery and the files do not seem to support advance audio codecs." Translation, the experience isn't as seamless as Netflix, but it's good enough to make you consider chucking your monthly subscription and taking your chances with the law. Will Popcorn Time and its eventual, inevitable competitors cut into Netflix viewership. With something this easy to use, it's very likely that it will. The only question is how quickly the lawyers can get in the way before people start taking illegal streaming as a serious option. (TechCrunch)