Grab some popcorn because it’s Popcorntime!
The movie industry has been battling the illegal sharing of movie content for quite some time now. It seems they face a multitude of groups and technologies that are sharing their movies illegally. In the beginning you could download these movies easily from a number of websites. Then people started downloading content trough BitTorrent protocol which basically means that you download the content from peers who also own a copy. This helped the websites to minimizing storage and upload capacity requirements. The website just provides a sharing service and an infamous example of a BitTorrent website is the Pirate Bay. The websites do not directly distribute the content but merely facilitate the sharing between peers. This makes them not liable in some countries, even when they are forced to shut down they can open up under a less regulated country.
Up until now you still had to download the movie in order to watch it, which took time and adding subtitles to a downloaded movie is always difficult and time consuming. There was no big mainstream platform that facilitated watching movies. You first had to know a good movie or look at recent movie releases before you had to look up a good BitTorrent link to download them.
But that has changed with the introduction of the website Popcorntime which allows user to chose movies and watch them directly via a streaming based platform on a BitTorent like protocol without downloading them. Users can choose from the latest movies in a Netflix kind of environment with or without subtitles from different languages. Watching movies from Popcorntime is entirely free and the site makes money on advertisements. The software is entirely open source and readily available for anyone who aspires beginning a illegal streaming platform. The movie industry pressured the initial company to quite, which they did, only to be restarted by someone else who was not intimidated. The platform is growing quickly and the company states that they have been installed on over 1.3 million devices and have 100.000 daily users in the Netherlands alone.
This type of innovation, although clearly illegal, is definitely one of the most disruptive to the industry. Although legal alternatives like on demand and Netflix are still more popular, the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant questioned if the user friendly platform ‘could be the end of Netflix’.
Watching and downloading via this platform is illegal according to copyright law which applies in most countries. The Dutch court and the Dutch politicians however do not make a clear case on whether or not it is fully illegal to distribute copyright content or if it is merely condoned. In the past a court has lifted the ban on BitTorrent website the PirateBay because they felt freedom of speech and information was being harmed. The second chamber in the Netherlands also did not let a legislation law pas to make downloading completely illegal. However, the European court of Justice decided last April that this was unacceptable and ruled that illegal sharing of copyright content for the Netherlands isn’t allowed anymore. Meanwhile the BitTorent websites and Popcorntime are still up and running.
It seems like these platforms are here to stay and the movie industry should try and focus on a different business model in order to survive the onslaught that is being caused by this disruptive technology. Netflix for instance is offering a subscription based video streaming service and is very popular. My question to the readers of this blog post is what should the traditional movie industry do to remain profitable? What kind of business model should rivaling firms change to?
Disclaimer: watching and downloading movies without paying for it is still a crime and I am not condoning or encourage readers of this post to do so.