The major Hollywood studios have scored a legal victory against three Canadian residents allegedly involved in online piracy, after the Federal Court of Canada granted the companies an injunction that shuttered the popular streaming service Popcorn Time.
On Tuesday, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) announced its six members had filed suit last month against David Lemarier of Victoriaville, Que.; Robert English of Midhurst, Ont.; and Louie Poole of North Saanich, B.C., alleging the three were "key Canadian operators of the popcorntime.io fork" – or hub of online activity – which enabled worldwide unauthorized viewing of copyrighted movies and TV shows.
The statement of claim, which requests unspecified damages, effectively shut down the service in the middle of October.
Reached by The Globe and Mail on Tuesday, Mr. English said he was unaware of the suit, adding, "I've been pretty disconnected with things." Attempts to speak with Mr. Lemarier and Mr. Poole were unsuccessful.
The Canadian court action is one part of a wider offensive by the MPAA, which also announced it had obtained an injunction against a resident of New Zealand who operated the torrent site YTS, the source of many Popcorn Time movies. In a lawsuit filed Oct. 12 in the High Court of New Zealand, the MPAA accused the resident "of facilitating and encouraging massive copyright infringement."
The MPAA statement claimed YTS was in the top 600 most popular sites in the world "and had over 3.4 million unique visitors in August, 2015 alone, according to comScore." It added: "YTS is also considered the home of YIFY, one of the world's most prolific release groups involved in the illegal replication and distribution of copyrighted content with a library of some 4,500 infringing motion picture titles."
"Popcorn Time and YTS are illegal platforms that exist for one clear reason: to distribute stolen copies of the latest motion pictures and television shows without compensating the people who worked so hard to make them," Chris Dodd, the former Connecticut senator who is now the chairman and CEO of the MPAA, said in a statement. "By shutting down these illegal commercial enterprises, which operate on a massive global scale, we are protecting not only our members' creative work and the hundreds of innovative, legal digital distribution platforms, but also the millions of people whose jobs depend on a vibrant motion picture and television industry."
Ellis Jacob, the president and CEO of Cineplex Entertainment, applauded the move in a statement. "Applications like Popcorn Time that enable and encourage infringement hurt legitimate Canadian businesses, including theatre exhibitors, creative talents and the thousands of other businesses who support and are employed in this industry."
Known as "Netflix for pirates," Popcorn Time consisted of a slick app or computer interface that, like Netflix, enabled consumers to stream unlimited movies or TV shows but, unlike Netflix, served up content for which users had not paid. In an interview with The Globe last April, Mr. English said Popcorn Time was "a great way to show people what's possible." Asked whether Popcorn Time was piracy, he replied: "It depends."
Since its shutdown, the social-media feeds of Popcorn Time have referred followers to a new service known as the Butter Project. That site says it, too, will enable users to stream movies and TV shows from torrent sites, but adds: "Butter will never stream any copyrighted material ! not even slightly tainted one ! " (sic)
It does not appear to have any high-profile content currently on offer.
With a report from James Bradshaw