Popcorn Time Reality Check: Usage of the Piracy App Is Actually Tiny

For all the buzz being generated by Popcorn Time, usage appears relatively small today, compared with other piracy apps.

The original Argentina-based developers behind this free app, which makes watching movies from pirate torrent sites as easy as clicking on the image of a movie poster, pulled the plug on the project last Friday. The group, in a statement, alluded to legal threats and said “we need to move on with our lives.”

But since then, the software has appeared on multiple “mirror” websites. As of this writing it is available to download on sites including popcorn.cdnjd.com and getpopcorntime.com. The cdnjd.com website is registered through an Australian hosting provider, while the latter is registered in Panama.

Over the weekend, the Popcorn Time app was posted on GitHub, a San Francisco-based hosting service for software development projects. The source code to the software was still available on GitHub as of Monday afternoon. But links on a project page at GitHub pointed users to download compiled versions of the files via cdnjd.com. (GitHub reps did not respond to requests for comment.)

Still, while worldwide searches for “Popcorn Time” have skyrocketed since March 10, according to Google — peaking last Wednesday, relative to activity prior to last Monday — the amount of piracy traffic moving through it remains tiny compared with overall usage. Popcorn Time usage represents less than 1% of total torrent-related client downloads in March, according to data provided by Excipio, a German piracy analytics firm.

Usage of Popcorn Time was dwarfed by traditional clients like Vuze and BitTorrent, the data from Excipio shows. That’s not a surprise to some degree, but with all the attention it has gotten in recent days, it’s worth noting that it’s not quite the phenomenon the app is being made out to be.

Even though the Excipio data also takes into account non-film content as well, movie-specific measurements of Popcorn Time usage for hot titles such as “Dallas Buyers Club” still comprise less than 1% of total activity. That said, usage could increase if Popcorn Time gains more traction.

Popcorn Time simply creates a new way to access pirated movies, which have been available through torrent-based piracy sites like The Pirate Bay for years — with copyright owners unable to stamp out the phenomenon.

Instead of requiring users to download files via a BitTorrent client, the Popcorn Time software begins streaming titles a few seconds after a user clicked on them. Popcorn Time, described as a Netflix for pirated films, offers a menu of movies with official movie-poster art, including recent releases like “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “American Hustle,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Frozen” and “Dallas Buyers Club.”

The original Popcorn Time app was removed last Wednesday by the Buenos Aires group’s hosting provider, New Zealand-based file website Mega, evidently for violations of the terms of service, a few days after it was featured in several articles. Mega is run by Kim Dotcom, the notorious mastermind behind Megaupload, a cyberlocker that U.S. authorities shut down in January 2012.

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