Google Objects to Film Studio Demands to Block Popular App Used by Pirates

Google has asked permission to oppose a legal order instigated by movie studios seeking to block access to the popular Popcorn Time app reports TorrentFreak. The Popcorn Time app (logo pictured above) makes it easy for users to access libraries of video content which may have been pirated. As a consequence, a draft order proposed by a group of film studios and being considered by a federal court in the US state of Virginia would impose upon Google a ‘sweeping’ series of requirements relating to the control of domain names and visibility of search engine results. As a consequence, Google has asked the court for permission to formally oppose the request after they discovered they are explicitly named in the film studios’ order.

Google’s filing identifies several forms of blocking activity which they will or may be required to undertake.

  • Prevent access to domain names associated with Popcorn Time
  • Transfer control of domain names to the film studios
  • Give no search engine results pointing to websites distributing Popcorn Time

The filing does not specify Google’s objections, but they are likely to revolve around demands that they block ‘any and all’ websites that may be used by the distributors of Popcorn Time. Chasing pirates on the internet is often compared to a game of whack-a-mole, with the pirates moving to a new location whenever an old one is targeted. This creates a burden for the businesses whose content is being pirated as they must repeatedly identify new resources being used by the pirates. At the same time, it is understandable that internet platforms and ISPs are unwilling to accede to blanket bans which place upon them the burden for monitoring and evaluating every new site that may be used for piracy.

The history of legal action against Popcorn Time is convoluted, with the US Motion Picture Association successfully discouraging the original developers of Popcorn Time from continuing their work, but not before the open source code was adopted by others. Once software has been written it is unlikely to ever be unwritten. Copyright holders will endeavor to prevent the spread of software used for piracy, but a balance needs to be struck between protecting their legitimate commercial interests and turning the internet into a heavily-policed zone under the exclusive control of big businesses.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.