LAST UPDATE: December 15th, 2016
Back in 2014, we covered the release of the Hollywood nightmare that is Popcorn Time. The same day we reported about it, the download site which was hosted by Kim Dotcom’s Mega was taken offline. Rumors of a lawsuit from the MPAA started flooding the news channels. Truth be told, just like the developer advised, P2P platforms are not currently illegal, however it would cost too much money to try and keep up a fight against the motion picture giants. However, copyright holders would be hard pressed at winning such a battle. Very little time after tumultuous times for the open source project, a clone called Butter Project popped-up, but eventually moved toward providing a non-copyright content portfolio to avoid legal action against it.
The popularity of Popcorn Time among everyday people has been notable. It tells us something, but more importantly it should tell Hollywood what the public really wants. Netflix and similar services only satisfy a few, even a recent TIME article touched base on the issue. With limited access and availability, geo-locking of content, and certain countries showing old movies as new releases, the movie industry is not catering to what the new generation really wants. Streaming services yearn for cheaper and open content licenses, but as with everything else, these corporate contracts are difficult to close. Until they get the message that the new generation wants the best technology can offer at fair price, piracy will continue to grow and more users will opt to do so as the software makes it easy for anyone to start streaming.
Popcorn Time, although being really bad news for the MPAA and copyright holders, is not a breakthrough technology, but certainly ingenious. It uses torrent peer-2-peer sharing paired with a ‘Netflix’ look-alike platform allowing streaming as the file transfers from TV torrent sites at 720p and even full 1080p high definition. Without risking malware on pirate sites, the software attracted users very quickly. However, just like downloading torrents, all P2P traffic is subject to be closely watched by authorities, and using a VPN is of utmost importance when using Popcorn Time. When you don’t encrypt your traffic, authorities can trace your IP as being a user of Popcorn Time, and tell exactly which movies you watched.
The original community and website; popcorntime.io – as well as other subsequent builds have been taken offline after being pressured by the MPAA with lawsuits. However, as of 2016 the open-source project managed to remain alive without much legal action against it through various alternate builds and communities. It is important to know that malware versions exist, and I suggest to stay away from all unofficial sites and torrents. The latest community edition of Popcorn Time can be found at techspot. There are a few builds that have surfaced since the initial project, Just be warned, downloading/streaming pirated movies may be and most probably is illegal in your country. If you’re going to do it anyways, do it behind a VPN for your own safety from copyright trolls, takedown notices, and possible legal action against users. Below I cover the best picks for Popcorn VPNs and why.
VPN for Popcorn Time – Top Picks:
If you don’t mind paying just a few dollars more in exchange of great speeds, great software, and great service, ExpressVPN fits the bill. The VPN servers available across 87 countries across 136 cities have not disappointed me in terms of video streaming and privacy. I use it for my torrents and streaming regularly, and have always had very minimal speed loss of the nearest and even furthest servers for my needs. The service is simple and could not be easier to setup. The software runs like a charm and provides free additional SmartDNS servers, and even custom router firmware for network setups. Easy to follow visual setup guides for all types of devices from AppleTV to game consoles are available, and customer service is always helpful.
As of 2016, each account can now be used on 3 devices at the same time, exponentially increasing the value per dollar spent. ExpressVPN is a true no-log service, and fully supports P2P traffic, as well as anonymous Bitcoin payments. They may cost more, but they delivers a stellar VPN experience well suited for Popcorn Time and any other high bandwidth or streaming application.
One of the top VPNs available today is Private Internet Access. If you’re going to do a bit of streaming movies using Popcorn Time, you would want a fast and secure VPN service to keep ISPs and others from sniffing your data traffic. With some of the lowest prices in the industry, and up to 5 devices simultaneously, no wonder it’s such an attractive service. The service does not keep any logs, and you can pay anonymously using Bitcoin. The most important part is that Private Internet Access’s log-free service is that it is P2P torrent user friendly, making it a great choice Popcorn Time and all torrent usage. Although the cost is affordable, they don’t cover a large number of countries, coming in at only 24. However, they cover all key locations with more than 3000 servers to ensure that all users get the best possible speeds. Comparatively to ExpressVPN’s network, I would say it is only a little bit slower, but often just as pleasant to use.
When it comes to streaming, PureVPN is the richest in features and capabilities. They use to offer a service called HDX streaming at extra cost, which allowed users to add a virtual 20mbits of speed to their internet bandwidth in order to enjoy high definition video on slow connections. As of 2016, the feature is now called ‘Dedicated Streaming’ as is available on all plans at no extra cost. The service covers 141 countries with over 500 servers with respectable speeds. I did find some higher fluctuations lately, but had no trouble streaming high definition content from both the U.S. and Canada. They notably mark P2P dedicated servers in safe countries, making it perfect for Popcorn Time, and allowing you to safely download torrents at all time. Just like PIA, PureVPN also offers 5 simultaneous connections, so you can enjoy the service across many devices at once. The cost is a little higher, but they still qualify as one of the cheapest services on the market. They have also recently increased the bandwidth limit to qualify for a 7-day refund to 3GB from 500MB, allowing you to properly test the service with no risk of being refused a refund if it fails to meet your needs.
IPVanish is another great choice for Popcorn Time due to their fast servers and guaranteed speeds. Gaming is great, no lag rage yet, and with their tier-1 network and their strongly developed highly effective NAT firewall protection, not only are you safe, you know it will constantly be upgraded to keep the speed up as well. IPVanish now claims to have the fastest server speeds in the U.S. and Europe, so it makes it all-around good pick for heavy bandwidth users. As of 2016, the service now allows up to 5 devices to be used on a single account, and pricing has remained competitive, placing itself between Express and PureVPN’s or Private Internet Access’s price points. They provide a P2P friendly no log service to keep you safe while streaming and using torrents.
Last but not least, NordVPN is well suited for Popcorn Time use with dedicated video streaming servers located in the United Kingdom, and United States. Additional to ultra fast TV servers, they offer Tor over VPN, Double VPN, Dedicated IP, and even Anti-DDOS servers for a wide variety of applications. Even a Netflix US server is available to ensure a good experience from anywhere in the world. The P2P friendly service covers over 50 countries, and counts over 500 servers to upkeep the best possible speeds. As of 2016, NordVPN has become a favorite of mine regarding performance. They also offer a 30-day money back guarantee to ensure you a risk-free trial before committing. Pricing is also very competitive as they allow up to 6 simultaneous connections per account, more than any provider I have used. Their secure and private service also accepts anonymous Bitcoin payments.
Conclusion on using a VPN with Popcorn Time
I hope this list has helped you narrow down your choices and finally pick a service provider for your encryption needs. More importantly, I wished to bring forth the importance of using a virtual private network when using any kind of Bittorrent application. What most beginners might not realize is that Popcorn Time is very much a Bittorrent platform and operates no differently than downloading and uploading torrents. This means that your ISP might receive requests to trace your IP and personal identifiable information due to copyright infringement.
By using a VPN, your ISP can no longer see your internet traffic, nor can copyright trolls trace any torrent traffic back to your internet connection. These services encrypt all the data that leaves and enters through your internet connection, effectively hiding your IP and traffic from everyone else, including your internet service provider. This will keep you safe from any unwarranted surveillance, as well as possibly being charged or pursued by copyright holders.
I also briefly covered the history of legal issues surrounding Popcorn Time, and how the original community behind it is no more. Which is why I included a link to TechSpot above the VPN list to help new users find a safe download to use. This chart can be used to identify most of the fake malware builds in circulation. There have been a few different Popcorn Time “forks” as they are called, which simply are different builds brought forth by different teams of developers. Reddit is a great place to keep up with the Popcorn craze if you really want to go down the rabbit hole, but TF also posted a recent summary of the situation back in February, where they link to what is now considered the third official update called Hail Hydra.
In the end, as a user, the main thing you need to concern yourself with is your own security and privacy. Ensure that your VPN is tuned on before logging on, and any content streamed will be private and encrypted before leaving and entering your computer device.