Popcorntime.io, probably the most popular iteration of slippery movie piracy app Popcorn Time, is back — sort of. Earlier this week, part of the team apparently behind popcorntime.io announced a comeback, four months after being shut down and hit with a lawsuit from the MPAA. Like its predecessor, the new service offers sleek streaming-video apps that play a large selection of pirated movies, all distributed via Bittorrent. But it's being launched at the new popcorntime.sh domain with a more visible awareness of the legal risks its developers are taking.
As noted by Torrent Freak, signs of the new Popcorn Time started popping up earlier this month, with strong evidence that it was created by team members from popcorntime.io. A blog post titled "We Are Officially Back" appears to have confirmed that news. "After the 'MPAA incident,' we're a little diminished, and we've chosen a new direction," the post reads. That new direction is moving away from "active development" of Popcorn Time. The apps will now rely on Butter, a version of the Popcorn Time streaming system that doesn't offer pirated material, for its core infrastructure. Butter was developed by members of popcornteam.io, and it doesn't present the same legal problems, letting developers work on the technology without the threat of more lawsuits.
"We're a little diminished, and we've chosen a new direction."
Besides this shift, popcorntime.io is indirectly addressing a controversy from last year: the addition of a paid VPN anonymizing service alongside its free movies. Some team members left over the decision, fearing that it was turning Popcorn Time into a commercial operation — and, by extension, a more vulnerable target for anti-piracy crackdowns. This time around, the developers say they will "not accept any donation and have no interest in monetizing Popcorn Time by any way: our philosophy hasn't changed."
Popcorntime.io is only one fork of the original Popcorn Time, which was launched in early 2014. The creators quickly shut down the service under legal pressure, and its code was used in a plethora of Popcorn Time clones, including a short-lived web version. But popcorntime.io was endorsed by some of the creators, and until being shut down in October, it was probably the most "official" Popcorn Time. Not all clones are so well-received, and the team has complained before about copies laced with malware or paywalls. "The last four months have been chaotic," say the popcorntime.sh developers now. "We've seem some forks keeping up the good work and others who just wanted to attract users into a trap of adwares and malwares."