UK blocks access to Popcorn Time sites

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

April 29, 2015

To be honest, given the UK government’s rabid enthusiasm for obeying the demands carrying out the wishes of the powerful and well-funded pro-copyright lobby (which is in no small part responsible for making the UK the most censored place in the so-called ‘free world’), we are a little surprised this move has taken so long…

However, the UK High Court, at the behest of Hollywood’s Motion Picture Association, has now ordered ISPs to block the IP addresses of four websites that allow downloading versions of the fantastically elegant and functional ‘Netflix for pirates’ app, Popcorn Time.

Popcorn Time March 2015

The sites blocked are:

  • io,
  • me

Note that some reports claim five PT sites have been blacklisted, but only four of the domains named in the official ruling (.doc) relate to Popcorn Time.

The legality or otherwise of using Popcorn Time is not altogether clear, as it is a live streaming app so no content is actually downloaded (at least theory – in practice some data is downloaded for buffering purposes). Furthermore, the software itself is not illegal, and could be used for legitimate purposes. Presiding Justice Briss, however, was in no doubt about its true purpose,

It is manifest that the Popcorn Time application is used in order to watch pirated content on the internet and indeed it is also manifest that that is its purpose. No-one really uses Popcorn Time in order to watch lawfully available content.

The Next Web contacted ‘the faceless crew behind Popcorn Time’ (it is not clear which of the various competing PT groups TNG is referring to), and obtained the following statement,

We’re pretty disappointed from the judicial system in the UK and feel pretty sorry for the citizens of England for their basic rights, like the freedom of speech and net neutrality being revoked so easily.

We hope to see some sort of protest from the citizens of the UK against this order, but given how easy it is for the judicial system there to hurt their basic rights, we doubt they will do so.

We find this move they made pretty predictable and we’re sure that this is not the last of it. We’re working full force now even more than ever on making Popcorn Time fully p2p and soon the software will not be depended on any domain or centralized server to operate.

Mark Gill from the Internet Security Task Force, on the other hand welcomed the decision,

Today’s ruling represents a real victory not only for major studios but for the small businesses that can least afford the kind of content-theft that those behind Popcorn Time sites have gotten away with for far too long.

The ruling was issued to the UK’s top internet providers (Sky, BT, EE, TalkTalk and Virgin Media), none of whom opposed the order, and also includes blocks on a further five websites deemed to facilitate copyright theft (joining the 100+ websites already banned in the UK for piracy related reasons.)

Of course, as any even vaguely computer-savvy internet user will know (and certainly any visitor to this website!), evading such blocks using VPN is so trivially easy that it is difficult to believe anyone thinks they will be effective.

Also remember that in addition to accessing the blocked websites, using VPN will protect you from legal action by the copyright bullies over actually streaming movies and shows using Popcorn Time (and this is an issue that affects users in most places, not just where PT websites are banned!)

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