A Danish man has been handed down a six-month conditional sentence for merely sharing information about Popcorn Time, the once-popular torrent-based streaming client that was targeted for extermination by copyright lawsuits .
According to the Copenhagen Post, a court in Odense found the man guilty of “promoting the illegal online film streaming service Popcorn Time via his website popcorntime.dk.” It’s the first time in the country that a man has been convicted of “participating in the promotion of streaming services,” prosecutor Dorte Køhler Frandsen told the paper, adding that “The decision is a clear signal to those who help spread illegal pirate services.”
Popcorn Time is basically a torrent client that looks like Netflix, which once described it as a top competitor. From the Post’s description, it doesn’t seem like the individual in question was doing anything other than instructing people on how to set up the client:
More specifically, the man was convicted of offering a guideline about how Danish users could download the Popcorn Time app, how to install and use it, and how to avoid being discovered by the authorities.
The court moved to seize some 500,000 kroner (around $82,300) he had made from advertising revenue on the site and assigned him 120 months of community service, though he has two weeks to appeal, according to the Post.
As noted by TorrentFreak, the popcorntime.dk domain now displays a warning to users in both Danish and English:
The Danish State Prosecutor for Serious Economic and International Crime is presently conducting a criminal investigation that involves this domain name. As part of the investigation the state prosecutor has requested a Danish District Court to transfer the rights of the domain name to the state prosecutor. The District Court has complied with the request.
An archived version of the site contained links to Popcorn Time apps hosted on other websites, as well as various other apps for streaming purposes.
If the court’s intent was to scrub the web of information about Popcorn Time, they appear to have been (predictably) unsuccessful. While the original developers of the project pulled it from Github in 2014, development has been independently continued by numerous other teams and various versions of the software remain trivially easy to locate online including a semi-official successor. Similarly, the archived version of the site continues to be accessible via the link above.
Though many copyright holders have moved on from suing individual downloaders to trying to force websites which distribute torrents offline, using Popcorn Time-derivative apps without identity-masking tools like a VPN is not without its risks. In 2015, some German users received demands for 815 euros from a firm representing 21st Century Fox, Warner Brothers, and German film and TV studios on the basis that the users not only downloaded content but uploaded it through Popcorn Time.