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Is Popcorn Time Safe and Legal? How to Watch Safely in 2023?

Is Popcorn Time Safe without VPN

Key Takeaways

  • Popcorn Time is a free streaming service that uses the BitTorrent protocol to stream movies, TV shows, and web series. It downloads content from torrent websites and simultaneously streams it.
  • Based on your country of residence, using Popcorn Time may be illegal. It may also be unsafe for your device, especially if you download an unofficial version or a fork.
  • Installing a VPN and an antivirus software is a must to use Popcorn Time safely. Even then, it does not remove the legal implications of using the app.

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What is Popcorn Time?

Popcorn Time is a free streaming app where you can watch films, TV shows, and web series. It depends on torrents and uses peer-to-peer (P2P) connections to stream content. This makes it illegal in several countries.

Popcorn Time doesn’t require you to search for the title that you want to watch or download the content. Simply search for a film or web show through its user-friendly interface and you can start watching instantly. This makes it a popular streaming app globally and is widely used as an alternative to subscription-based services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Since its official software was taken down in 2014 and subsequent editions (or forks) attracted entertainment industry and law enforcement scrutiny, Popcorn Time’s popularity suffered. However, Popcorn Time users are still plenty, making this discussion about it in 2023 relevant.

Is Popcorn Time Legal?

Popcorn Time’s legality is debatable. Downloading and installing the app on your device is safe, but watching copyrighted movies and TV shows on it can be considered illegal. It depends on local laws governing piracy and copyright infringement, along with how strict the enforcers are.

Assume you are in the United States and are watching a recent Hollywood blockbuster on Popcorn Time. You are essentially consuming and therefore pirating copyrighted content. Using Popcorn Time is just like torrenting but without the trouble of searching for torrents with a high seed-peer ratio. it is illegal and if you are caught you may be accused of infringement by the copyright holder. A lot of Popcorn Time users do not know this.

Popcorn Time – called the “free Netflix for pirated movies” – uses P2P connections (torrents) to download and stream movies. As you might know, while downloading content via a torrent file, you also upload small portions of the downloaded file back. This makes you a participant in the whole process.

However, you should note that being caught and convicted is the worst-case scenario. Going by Popcorn Time’s checkered history, if the MPAA ever comes back to bite, it will first strike the app’s owners. This was the case in 2014.

That is where a virtual private network (VPN) can help you. When you connect Popcorn Time via a VPN, it essentially hides your IP address and encrypts your communication with the internet. This not only makes you anonymous but also a bit difficult for law enforcement to track your activities. Then it won’t matter if you stream the BluRay version of the latest Bond movie or save the file for future personal use.

Note – There is a feature in Popcorn Time that deletes the cache and downloaded film files when you exit the app. This may give a false sense of protection, but you may still be caught for piracy. Without a VPN, your IP can still be visible in public torrent trackers.

Is Popcorn Time Safe for Streaming?

Yes, it’s generally safe to install Popcorn Time as long as you download the software from its official website (Wayback Machine archive) or a reliable fork. Popcorn Time uses the BitTorrent protocol to download free, pirated content from various torrent sites. This content is then streamed instantaneously through its interface. 

Using a VPN while viewing movies in it will make it even safer. It has several mirror versions (called forks) that may contain malware and viruses. Therefore, it’s best to avoid these rogue Popcorn Time apps, however attractive their “extra features” may seem.

Stick to the official Popcorn Time app and use a reliable VPN while streaming to stay safe.

Which Popcorn Time Is Safe to Use?

The safest version of Popcorn Time is the one that is available on its official channels. I’ve used the version (available on its GitHub) page and I stream content without any hassles.

At the time of writing, the official website of Popcorn Time was www.popcorntime.app. (As of February 2023, the official site has been taken down.) Officially known as Popcorn Software, it is also available to safely download for free from its official GitHub page.

Remember: If a website asks you to pay to download, close the site immediately. Popcorn Software has always been a free service.

The rogue, mirror versions we mentioned above look exactly the same as the real Popcorn Software. You should stay away from such applications.

Note – Depending on your location, the official site may be inaccessible sometimes. Instead of Googling, downloading Popcorn Time from GitHub is advised. Link above.

Warning – Popcorn Software is only available for Windows, macOS, Android, Android TV, and Linux devices. It does not support Amazon Fire, Roku TV, or any other streaming device.

Two Safety Aspects Of Popcorn Software

When you talk about safety around Popcorn Time, there are two things to consider. The software you use and the content you stream. As long as you download and instal itl from the official site, you are safe. That’s the easy part.

Trouble starts when you stream all the movies (latest blockbusters, Marvel hits, and so on) via the app. When you do this, your IP address gets added to the public tracker (peer list) of the torrent used to download the movie. If the producer of the movie (or anyone, really) is spying on the tracker, you risk being caught and subpoenaed (court summons). To avoid this, we recommend using a high-quality VPN.

Alternative Fork

In case you are unable to download from the official platforms, I recommend using this fork. We tested this version (Windows) for malware and other security lapses and it came out clean. Please use this only as a last resort.

How to Safely Use the Popcorn Time App?

Follow these steps to access Popcorn Time safely. These will also help you avoid any legal concerns and pitfalls arising from its use.

Step 1: Install a VPN for Popcorn Time

Download and install a good VPN before using Popcorn Time. Use our VPN guide (also below) to pick the best choice.

Whatever you do, do not access Popcorn Time software without a VPN service. This can put your device, data, and identity at risk.

Step 2: Install a good antivirus software

Once the VPN connection is taken care of, install a reliable antivirus software or update your existing one. Since Popcorn Time relies on torrents, you can never be 100% sure about the type of content it downloads.

To protect your device from malware and viruses, always keep your antivirus on while streaming.

Step 3: Download the Popcorn Time app from a reliable source

Downloading the Popcorn Time program from its official GitHub release is recommended. I believe this is the only reliable source as of February 2023. We haven’t tested many of its recent forks, so it’s best to avoid them.

In case you’re unable to find the official app, choose from one of the alternatives mentioned below.

Why Do You Need a VPN to Access Popcorn Time Safely?

You need a VPN to make yourself anonymous while using Popcorn Time. It safeguards you and your computer while watching films by replacing your IP address with an arbitrary server IP. It uses an encrypted tunnel to transfer your traffic via another VPN server (that’s usually located in another country).

With a VPN service, you can also optionally change your location while viewing content to divert the attention of interceptors. These include hackers, law enforcers, trade associations like MPAA and DMCA, and production houses.

For example, if you are streaming on Popcorn Time from Canada, you can choose to change your location to India or Sweden using a VPN. This protects you from possible infringement strike emails and court summons.

When you have a VPN installed, you can stream risk-free and carefree. This makes spending on a good-quality VPN fully worthwhile.

Best VPNs for Popcorn Time

Now that you know the perils of using Popcorn Time without a VPN, let’s quickly go through the top five VPNs recommended for torrenting. Many of these offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so watch out for those if you’re experimental like me.

NordVPN

🌐 Website:nordvpn.com
🏢 Headquarters:Panama
📍Servers/Countries:5800+ servers in 60 countries
₿ Accepts CryptocurrencyYes
💸 Deals & CouponsGet 68% off + 3 months extra

Three things make NordVPN the #1 choice for Popcorn Time. They are special torrenting (P2P) servers, port forwarding, and negligible speed throttling. This means you can enjoy your original internet speed without worrying about a strong tracker connection. 

Additionally, the kill switch feature in NordVPN will ensure that you are always connected to one of its P2P servers. If it detects a problem with your connection, it automatically shuts down the internet. 

ExpressVPN

🌐 Website:expressvpn.com
🏢 Headquarters:The British Virgin Islands
📍Servers/Countries:3000+ servers in 94 countries
₿ Accepts CryptocurrencyYes
💸 Deals & Coupons+3 months FREE!

A diverse VPN server network, a strict no-logs policy, and unlimited bandwidth are what make ExpressVPN the second-best VPN for Popcorn Time. We like ExpressVPN’s ‘nearby server’ feature where it automatically assigns an IP address based on our preference. This is a clever feature that is useful when you face trouble connecting to Popcorn Time’s trackers.

Surfshark

🌐 Website:surfshark.com
🏢 Headquarters:The British Virgin Islands
📍Servers/Countries:3,200+ servers in 100 countries
₿ Accepts CryptocurrencyYes
💸 Deals & CouponsSave 84% Now!

Surfshark competes with ExpressVPN and is slightly better when it comes to VPN quality. It is one of the very few providers that audits its VPN infrastructure regularly to improve user security. This is a rarity in the online privacy world.

Just like NordVPN, Surfshark also offers high-speed connections, a kill switch, and a multi-hopping feature. Surfshark is the best yet the cheapest VPN for Popcorn Time among the top three we have reviewed here.

IPVanish

🌐 Website:ipvanish.com
🏢 Headquarters:United States
📍Servers/Countries:2200+ servers in 75+ countries
₿ Accepts CryptocurrencyYes
💸 Deals & Coupons67% OFF Coupon

If you are on a low-budget hunt, consider IPVanish, a decent VPN with over 1,600 VPN servers located in 75 locations. This network is enough for basic torrenting activities including using Popcorn Time. There are no extra bells and whistles here but it does offer 256-bit, military-grade encryption for added privacy.

Note – If you have thought of using the built-in VPN (VPN.ht) with Popcorn Time, we recommend buying IPVanish instead. It’s cheaper and has good customer support. 

Private Internet Access (PIA)

🌐 Website:privateinternetaccess.com
🏢 Headquarters:United States
📍Servers/Countries:30000+ servers in 60+ countries
₿ Accepts CryptocurrencyYes
💸 Deals & Coupons85% OFF + 3 months FREE!

Last on our list is Private Internet Access, a torrent-friendly VPN with all the functions needed for carefree Popcorn Time use. Along with a wide server network, it boasts high-speed uploads, port forwarding, and a neat user interface. Beginners can opt for PIA if they are looking for a better VPN infrastructure, compared to IPVanish’s economical offering.

Is Popcorn Time Safe Without a VPN? (Updated: February 2023)

No, Popcorn Time is not only unsafe but also risky to use without a VPN. Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. It uses torrents and trackers to download content
  2. Its entire library is made of pirated content
  3. It downloads and temporarily saves content on your device

As I’ve noted above, using Popcorn Time to stream the latest movies is as good as downloading a pirated copy of the film and watching it on VLC media player. The only differences are the amount of effort required and that the former does not require a torrent client.

While Popcorn Time removes the content from your system after you’re done with it, it’s still seeded back to other users (leechers). This can put you at grave risk from anti-piracy and law enforcement agencies.

Therefore, it’s best to switch on your VPN before you access Popcorn Time on your computer or smartphone. Using a VPN with Popcorn Time will effectively hide your IP address and make you anonymous. This will nullify the major dangers of using Popcorn Time.

What Are Some Alternatives to Popcorn Time?

If you feel the trouble with setting up Popcorn Time is not worth it, you can try some of its alternatives. While each of these offers different features, you may not have to spend on a VPN to use them. The only common part is that they are all free to use.

  • Kodi
  • Plex
  • Emby
  • Jellyfin
  • MX Player
  • YTS.MX (unofficial YIFY successor)
  • Torrent client with built-in media player

Tips for Popcorn Time Users to Stay Safe While Streaming

Prevention is always better than cure. It’s better to safeguard yourself and limit or customize your Popcorn Time activities than to end up with a virus on your device. Here are some actionable tips for first-time users:

  • Downloading Popcorn Software only from the official site (links given above)
  • Never download or agree to download additional apps/codecs within Popcorn Time
  • Always switch on the VPN before loading the Popcorn Software
  • Avoid the built-in VPN
  • Use anti-virus and anti-malware software
  • Advanced users may set up a sandbox to run Popcorn Time

If you are like me and want it easy, simply do this: download Popcorn Time from the official site, install it, and use a VPN while using it. You are set!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Popcorn Time’s safety.

Is Popcorn Time safe in 2023?

Yes, Popcorn Time is safe to use in 2023 as long as you use a virtual private network and an antivirus software.

Can I use a VPN to stream with Popcorn Time on my mobile device?

Yes, you should use VPN to watch Popcorn Time content on your smartphone. It will hide your online activity from your peers and internet service provider (ISP). Make sure you use a reliable VPN like NordVPN or IPVanish.

Is using a VPN for torrenting with Popcorn Time legal?

Using VPN with Popcorn Time is not illegal. However, streaming any type of content on Popcorn Time can be construed as illegal based on your jurisdiction (country).

Can I get in trouble for using Popcorn Time?

Not if you use a virtual private network to stream. Using Popcorn Time involves piracy, which is illegal in most countries. If you get caught watching copyrighted content, you may land in trouble. A VPN essentially hides your IP so that you don’t get caught.

Why does Popcorn Time not work with my VPN?

It works with most VPNs. Try selecting another server in another region or contact customer support.

Is Popcorn Time safe to download and install?

Yes, Popcorn Time is 100% safe to use. Just install a VPN and use it while streaming to protect yourself from copyright strikes.

Does Popcorn Time work in 2021?

Yes, Popcorn Time was shut down briefly in 2014 but its GitHub official page is still running.

Does it have viruses?

No, the official version does not have any viruses or malware.

Does Popcorn Time have a built-in VPN?

No, Popcorn Time does not have a built-in VPN. However, it does advertise its partner VPN. Many users fall for this but I do not recommend using that VPN since there are better alternatives out there. Never use free VPNs.

Is it completely legal in my country/state?

Unlikely. If your country or state allows the free exchange of copyrighted content, then Popcorn Time will most likely be legal. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the majority of the countries such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, India, Dubai, Australia, and others. Different countries have different copyright laws.

Can I use Popcorn Time without a VPN?

You may but it is not recommended. When you use Popcorn Time without a VPN, you end up making your IP address public. This can be used to charge you for copyright infringement that can lead to punishment such as penalty and/or jail time. It’s rare but it’s possible.

Can I get hacked through Popcorn Time?

Yes, it is possible to be a victim of hacking when you use Popcorn Time. Hackers usually target and intercept random torrent users, which can be via a fork version of the BitTorrent service or a codec download request. To prevent a hack, use a VPN.

Conclusion

The answer to the question “Is Popcorn Time safe?” rests on two things: from where you download it and how protected your device is. If you’re positive about those two things, your experience with Popcorn Time will be positive. 

As a user of Popcorn Time, I have to tell you that it is intrinsically an illegal streaming app. There is no way to navigate the app without committing copyright infringement as it depends on pirated content through BitTorrent. If you use the software to stream movies and TV shows in a country that outlaws piracy, it can land you in trouble.

The only way to ensure safety when using Popcorn Time is then to use a reliable VPN and antivirus software. Those are the only two things necessary to stream on Popcorn Time tension-free.

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Is Popcorn Time Safe? How to Stream Popcorn Time Safely?

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Popcorn Time is 100% safe if you download it from the official site & use a VPN. Popcorn Time app is safe, but streaming without VPN could cause trouble.

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