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Popcorn Time users – please use VPN!

As regular readers of BestPN will know, we are huge fans of Popcorn Time, the ridiculously easy-to-use, elegant, and smooth functioning ‘Netflix for pirates’ app that is seriously one in the eye for copyright enforcement freaks.

Unfortunately, perhaps because the app is so polished and professional, it seems that some users have forgotten that watching movies using it is in many countries considered copyright infringement (piracy), and may leave users open to criminal or civil prosecution.

This point has been underlined by reports from Germany, where a number of users of a Spanish language fork of Popcorn Time known as Cuevana Storm have received demands for cash settlement over alleged copyright infringement by the law firm Waldorf Frommer.

cuevana storm

The victims contacted German law firm GGR Law, complaining that they had not downloaded any copyrighted material, but had streamed content using Cuevana Storm. Fortunately, in Germany the government ruled in January that watching pirated streamed content is not illegal following a high profile case involving around 10,000 RedTube viewers (although the matter has yet to be decided by the European Court of Justice).

The confusion comes because Popcorn Time (and therefore Cuevana Storm) uses BitTorrent P2P technology to stream movies and TV shows, and traffic streamed in this way looks identical to a tracker to regular BitTorrent download traffic.

The outcome of the demands in Germany is as yet undecided, but as streaming is not illegal there we imagine (and hope) that the accused will be able to use this as a valid defence.

When writing about Popcorn Time in the past we have always been careful to remind readers to always use VPN when streaming using the app (or any of its variants), and following this news again urge users to always use VPN when streaming with Popcorn Time! In other countries the legal status of streaming copyrighted material is a very grey area, and the results of legal action highly unpredictable. Even if you can successfully argue that streaming is not illegal in your country, the simple precaution of using a VPN could save you a great deal of money, stress, and grey hairs!


Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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56 responses to “Popcorn Time users – please use VPN!

    1. Hi annemiek,

      Free VPN services exit, but they are very limited (or are dishonest) and almost none permit P2P (which PT is). I’m afraid that realistically you will have to pay for a decent VPN service, but there are some very cheap ones around.

  1. i live in Switzerland and use Zen mate (free version) VPN. Will that protect me or do you recommend to upgrade to a paid VPN service?

    1. Hi Lola,

      I believe Zen Mate Free to be a browser extension, so it will not protect you when using Popcorn Time. To be honest, though, you live in one of the very few countries where downloading content for personal use if legal! If Popcorn Time is the only reason you want to use a VPN, then I probably wouldn’t bother. Switzerland is very much an exception to the rule.

  2. Hi i watched ( stream ) 1 movie on popcorn time app on my android device and now i got letter from WALDORF■FROMER
    sending me bill for 1.700 euros to pay or 1000 euros if i pay right now Please advise me im scared 🙁

    1. Hi Robert,

      I’m sorry to hear that – it really can’t be stressed strongly enough that PT users (and all P2P downloaders) should protect themselves with VPN. In most cases, refusing to respond to legal threats will (eventually) make the copyright holder (or more likely their “copyright troll” legal representative, as is the case with Waldorf-Frommer) give up and go away, but this cannot be guaranteed. TorrentFreak has an excellent Speculative Invoicing Handbook, which you should read from cover to cover. It is aimed at a UK audience, but most of the points should apply pretty much everywhere.

  3. Hello,

    I’m from Holland and watched many movies on popcorn time. Did not know its illegal, untill I was in Germany and downloaded popcorntime on my friends computer and watched a two movies. My friend received two claims of both EUR 815. Its madness!!! What’s the best thing to do? Ignore the letters? Hire a lawyer? Any recommendations which you can also consult online? I feel very very very bad and trying to find a solution.

    Thank you very much.

    1. Hi Khdija,

      The best resource for this is TorrentFreak’s Speculative Invoicing Handbook which basically recommends that you keep calm and ignore the demand (the Handbook is aimed at UK audieneces, but the advice should be valid for anywhere in Europe). I recommend you give it good read.

  4. Hey, I’ve been living in Germany for several months now and I’ve been watching a lot of stuff on imtv [dot] cc. Do you know how things are there regarding using a p2p client? I haven’t received any letters demanding money yet but I’ve been wondering if it’s okay to keep using that website. Any info or links to info would be highly appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Hi murdzhi,

      BitTorrent (including Popcorn Time) users are easier to track than people who just stream directly from a website (which is why using a VPN is important.) However, imtv[dot]cc does not use SSL encryption, so your ISP can see everything you watch. Streamers are currently much less likely, though, to be targeted by copyright holders than downloaders.

  5. I have been living in Germany for a couple of months. I am pretty stressed right now because the other day I tried to watch a movie in Cuevana, and I am not sure if what I did could cost me a very big amount of money. I actually didn’t watch the movie because the internet was so slow so I only saw a minute of it and then closed it… If I were fined, how soon would I receive this letter? My doubt is that I didn’t download anything of course it was “streaming” but then I am not sure if Cuevana uses P2P.

    Thankyou so much in advance.

    1. Hi Maria,

      Please relax. No criminal cases have been yet brought against downloaders in Germany, and since streaming remains an even greyer area (Cuevana does not use P2P), you should not worry about being fined. You could in theory be sued by the copyright holder of the content you viweed, but the chances of this actually happening are very very low! You might want to look at my article on 5 Best VPNs in Germany for more information.

  6. Hello.

    I was wondering, do you know if popcorn time is illegal in Denmark. I saw your comment about Sweden but i’m not sure about Denmark.

    Best regards.

    1. Hi Anreas,

      I am not 100% sure (in fact it’s possible that no-one is until a case comes to court!). In theory it is legal to download content that you already own for non-commercial purposes, and it seems that the Danish government is preferring an educative rather than punitive approach to copyright piracy. However, it also seems that Denmark is taking a quite aggressive attitude to those who help distribute copyrighted content (including Popcorn Time websites.) It’[s your call, but as usual I would strongly suggest protecting yourself with a VPN, just in case (6 months subscription to AirVPN , for example, works out at just €5 per month!)

    1. Hi Jajsksn,

      In April 2014 the EU Court of Justice ruled that downloading copyright content from illegal sources was illegal, and the Dutch parliament implemented the ban immediately. This ruling may not technically apply to streaming via Popcorn Time, but streaming via PT looks exactly like downloading to an outside observer… In practice, most people in the Netherlands continue to download/stream without any problems, but just to be on the safe side I would still recommend using a VPN.

  7. If I used a vpn and changed my iP to NL will I get any warning yo pay … are you sure that if I used a vpn I won’t be in danger

    1. Hi aaa,

      Yup, as long as you use a VPN that permits P2P you should be completely protected as long as the VPN is running. Do use a provider that includes a VPN kill switch in its client, or use one of the methods outlined in this article to ensure that you VPN connection does not droop while streaming, and therefore leave you exposed.

    1. Hi Fourat,

      The copyright law in Tunisia dates back to 1996 and is enforced by the Tunisian Body for the Protection of Copyright. How strong this enforcement is I have no idea, but atg least in theory streraming can land you in trouble, including civil and penal actions, imprisonment from 1 to 6 months (only in case of repetition of infringement), and fines (more info available in English here). To be on the safe side I strongly suggest protecting yourself using a good VPN service…

  8. Hi!
    I moved to Germany a month ago. I have been using Popcorntime before in Denmark and I didn’t had any problems at all. But today I got a letter from ‘Waldorf Frommer’ saying that I need to pay them 1090 euro, because I have seen 5 episodes of a TV-show on popcorntime .. Do you know if there is any possible way to find a way out of this? Because I’m pretty stressed now..

  9. a quick post to confirm it is the “io” version I’m using, (only my opinion but I’ll stand by the original PT as the development team seem to take user privacy more to heart – only my opinion so please don’t shoot me down if I offend someone) and to say thanks for your support and advice concerning PT, (reading my last post it reads as if I’m thanking you for PT itself, sorry about the bad grammar there 😉

  10. Hi there, I have been using and enjoying popcorn time for a while now and always use a VPN but can you clarify something please? Even with my VPN running when I go into the settings on PCT I can see the checkbox for a VPN under features but no other info, under that in “remote control” it shows my REAL “local” IP address! Is that normal or is the app circumventing the VPN tunnel?

    1. Hi despicable-me,

      That is normal. To remote-control PT you need to know its true IP address… not VPN servers’ address. BTW, it does help if readers state which version of Popcorn Time they are using (in this case I believe you are using PT.io).

      1. Thank you Douglas for putting my mind at ease there. To be honest I’m not sure about the version “io” I’m using, I think it’s the old PT but defiantly version 0.3.8-5. Thanks again for your support & for a great service!

  11. Hi.
    I arrivred to germany few month ago and didnt know its illegal here.
    I used popcorn few times on friends house, with their wifi, and now they got a letter from this waldorf firm that they need to pay 815€.
    They wrote the name of the movie i saw and the date and time.
    First question is what should i do now? Is there a way not to pay this?
    And second, i used popcorn more then once in this place. Will i get more letters like that?
    Looking forward for any help…
    Thanks

    1. Hi Gal,

      The general advice is to simply ignore this kind of speculative invoicing and deny everything (proving wrongdoing of this kind in court is very difficult, and most such letters are hoping to just make a quick buck from frightened victims). Your situation is somewhat complicated by the fact that it is your friends who have been threatened. If they ignore the problem it will probably go away, but this situation could put strain on your friendship. You will therefore you will have to decide on how to proceed (or consult a lawyer.) Using a VPN will protect you in future, as long as the VPN provider permits P2P. Check out our list of 5 Best VPNs for Popcorn Time, and good luck.

    1. Hi Val,

      I am not familiar with the details of Croatian law (especially as Croatia has so recently joined the EU), but my response to other users’ comments on this article likely apply to Croatia as well.

    1. Hi Kiki,

      The Popcorn Time program is not, in itself, illegal anywhere… it’s just what you do with it! Downloading (or streaming via PT – as far as an outside observer is concerned it all looks the same anyway) is not a criminal offence in the UK, but those caught doing it may face penalties from their ISP, and are liable for civil prosecution from copyright holders (which may result in very high damages plus court fees being leveled against them). I strongly recommend using a VPN to protect yourself!

  12. Hi I’m form Switzerland and I have a Swiss computer I’m in Germany since 2 week and I watched about 15 movies on popcorn time, I didn’t know it was illegal here and I red some stuff on Internet where people told that they have like 850€ to pay by movie they watched, I don’t have vpn because I didn’t know it was illegal but he’s everybody have to pay ? Because I’m pretty stress now

    1. Hi Max,

      Please do not stress yourself. Copyright piracy is rampant, with hundreds of millions of internet users regularly downloading ‘illegal’ content all the time. The chances of any negative consequences happening to you are very low, although in future it would be wise to protect yourself with a VPN service.

  13. In Germany, the people get a so called Cease and Desist Letter (German: „Abmahnung“). The opposing party – a copyright holder which is being represented by a specialized law firm – claims that people have infringe and/or offended the German Copyright Act (“Urheberrechtsgesetz” – UrhG). They claim that they have either downloaded a copyright protected file from the internet and/or have made available such file for download in the internet. Most people don`t know, that there ist a torrent client behind popcorn time.

    1. Hi Karsten,

      Yup, PopcornTime streams torrent content, so looks to an outside observer exactly like a standard torrent download. Please always use VPN to protect yourself.

    1. Hi Joe,

      I am not an expert on Finish law, but in general using PT is not a criminal offence, but leaves you open to punitive measures by your ISP, and civil action by copyright holders. Recommended European counties for VPN are Sweden, the Netherlands, Romania, and Switzerland because these counties do not require VPN providers to keep logs (in Switzerland downloading for personal use is also fully permited.)

  14. Is PopcornTime and Showbox legal in Maryland? Worried. I didn’t know using these sites could be a crime. I just downloaded the PT app but never used. I saw one movie on Showbox.

    1. Hi KD
      In most cases using Popcorn time is illegal since you are watching content that you haven’t paid for in any way. Since the US has the DMCA, we recommend you use a VPN.

  15. Is Popcorn Time illegal in Sweden. Because I would like to get it but I just really want to know if its illegal in Sweden before I start doing stuff with the program?

    1. Hi Pizza,

      As far as I can tell, streaming is not illegal in Sweden, but that has not stopped copyright sharks trying to claim damages from Swedish Popcorn Time users. Just use a VPN to protect yourself, and you will have no problems regardless of the situation.

    1. Hi Panda,

      As far as I can make out (and I am no lawyer), streaming is legal in Belgium, but downloading is not. This would technically make using Popcorn Time legal, but there are a couple of important wrinkles. a) Some data is cached when Popcorn Time (or any other streaming program) does its thing, and a lawyer could in theory argue that is constitutes ‘downloading’. b) Because Popcorn Time uses the BitTorrent protocol, streaming using Popcorn looks to an outside observer exactly like a regular BitTorrent download. You might be able to successfully argue in court that you were streaming, not downloading, but this is hardly an ideal situation…

      Using a VPN hides your real IP address and prevents your ISP knowing what you get up to online, so we always strongly recommend using one with Popcorn Time! Check out 5 Best VPNs for torrent, P2P and filesharing for a list of good P2P-friendly providers.

    1. Hi Angel,

      Copyright piracy is rampant in Mexico, so it is very unlikely that you would get into trouble for using Popcorn Time (although this may change if the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which Mexico has signed-up to, comes into force). If you are still worried, then using a VPN when streaming PT should completely protect you. For more details on the situation in Mexico, plus our guide to good VPNs for Mexico, see here.

  16. I was very impressed with your comparison articles and the overall review of various VPNS.
    Thank you. I will be back

    1. Hi Baz,

      Although Germany never implemented the (now struck down) Data Retention Directive, and has been at the forefront of criticism of the US for its NSA spying programs, it has extensive government surveillance programs of its own, is very strict about copyright infringement, and the police have a nasty reputation for server performing server raids. I will write a properly referenced article covering the situation in Germany soon, but it is not generally considered a good place to VPN into (and security conscious Germans are advised to VPN into other countries).

      1. Thanks for the info,

        Is there a recommended country? Or does the VPN (in my case PIA) give enough anonymity to connect into the US?

        1. Hi Baz,

          PIA is fine for most post purposes (unless you are worried about the NSA). The best locations for European servers are the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Romania. This article (bestvpncom.wpengine.com/blog/5653/data-retention-vpn-logging-and-internet-surveillance-in-europe/) has lost of general info, although things have changed rapidly since I wrote it a year ago – the DRD has been struck down by the European Court of Justice but no governments have yet removed local implementations of the law, and the Netherlands has been ordered to make piracy illegal (although no steps have yet been taken over this, and with no mandatory data retention, enforcement will be problematic…)

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