The anonymous crew behind Popcorn Time, a free app that let users stream a slew of Hollywood hits culled from pirate torrent sites, has pulled the plug on the project less than a week after gaining worldwide attention.
"Popcorn Time is shutting down today," the app's Argentina-based developers wrote in a message on its website Friday. "Not because we ran out of energy, commitment, focus or allies. But because we need to move on with our lives."
Popcorn Time's app was removed Wednesday by its hosting provider, New Zealand-based file website Mega, for violations of the terms of service. Mega is run by Kim Dotcom, the notorious mastermind behind Megaupload, a cyberlocker that U.S. authorities shut down in January 2012.
Popcorn Time -- described as a Netflix for pirated films -- presented a menu of movies with official movie-poster art, including recent releases like "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," "American Hustle," "12 Years a Slave," "Frozen" and "Dallas Buyers Club." The films were obtained from torrent piracy sites like the Pirate Bay. But instead of requiring users to download files via a BitTorrent client, the Popcorn Time software was set up to find the selected titles from torrent directories and began streaming titles a few seconds after a user clicked on them.
The group, which said its members are based in Buenos Aires, insisted even at the end that the open-source software they created was legal since they weren't making money on it. In the statement Friday, the Popcorn Time collective said: "Our experiment has put us at the doors of endless debates about piracy and copyright, legal threats and the shady machinery that makes us feel in danger for doing what we love. And that's not a battle we want a place in."
In their farewell note, Popcorn Time complained that Hollywood "has way too many ridiculous restrictions on way too many markets" and that movie studios have an "antique recipe to collect value." Such arguments have long been used by digital pirates to justify illegally downloading or streaming copyrighted material.