A bare bones layout, x-rated ads, unending legal issues, and a vast library of pirated movies and TV shows—that’s what the globally popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay is known for.
Now, you can add video streaming to that list. The Pirate Bay, along with some other torrent sites, has added support for Torrents Time, a plugin that lets users stream movies directly in their browsers.
Until now, The Pirate Bay only allowed users to download content, using a BitTorrent client like Vuze. But adding the Torrents Time plugin to a browser means users can now click on the video they want to watch on The Pirate Bay, and it’ll start streaming immediately. The software has turned The Pirate Bay into a jagged, unreliable, illegal version of Netflix—but still a streaming service nonetheless.
This has predictably ruffled some feathers in the entertainment industry. BREIN, a Dutch anti-piracy group backed by the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA), has already issued a cease and desist letter to the team behind Torrents Time. BREIN argues that Torrents Time is engaging in copyright infringement by making illegal torrent files readily available for pirates.
Torrents Time, though, claims that the plugin, in and of itself, is completely legal. All it does is turn torrent files into streamable videos. Torrents Time doesn’t supply the pirated content.
Here’s how Torrents Time advertises itself to publishers (like The Pirate Bay):
By harnessing the incredible abilities of torrents, you can transform your website, in a matter of seconds to an amazing, simple to use streaming website! And by doing so, you will expose your website to new user segments, while massively increasing time on site and the number of user interactions on your website.
While it hardly turns The Pirate Bay into, say, HBO Now or Hulu, the plugin does essentially what it says it does. Now, on The Pirate Bay, there’s an option to stream your file instead of downloading it:
Simply click “Stream It!” and your movie or TV show will open in a video player inside your browser. Keep in mind that doing so is probably not legal.
Torrents Time is just the latest in the trend of making piracy apps appear more like polished, legal services. The most popular of such services was Popcorn Time, a piracy app that, with its sleek design and user interface, literally looked like Netflix. Popcorn Time officially shut down last year due to legal pressures, but it has lived on in subsequent versions since.
The most recent iteration is popcorntime-online.io, which, unsurprisingly, now supports Torrents Time technology (and was the first to do so, before The Pirate Bay did).
What happens next is unclear. Torrents Time doesn’t appear to be backing down in the face of pressure from BREIN, nor from any other legal pressures that will surely arise as the plugin becomes more popular. The Pirate Bay, itself the target of a decade-long game of Whack-a-Mole with anti-piracy groups, has so far survived despite police raids and the arrests of some high-ranking members.
For now, at least, it’s becoming easier and easier to watch movies online without paying for them.