A cinema at home, content for free

With 50"+ TVs now less than £300, 5.1+ sound systems less than £100, and with a vast array of apps and platforms giving users access to up to 4K content for free, it is no wonder that home cinema has become far more prevalent in recent years.

DVD and blu ray sales, although at one time were accounting for a huge percentage of the home video market, now account for less than 10%. Although this drop could relate to the recent recession, and perhaps even to a cultural move away from materialism, it seems reasonable to assume that the rise of streaming services is one of the biggest causes for this.

Streaming services have grown and grown in recent years. Although such services as Netflix and Amazon can now give users up to 4K content, this may be at a price that some users are not willing to pay. Especially when these home cinema enthusiasts can access all the content they want, and with ease, using a plethora of apps available and on various platforms, and most notably, for free.

Apps like Kodi and Stremio can be added directly to the Amazon Firestick for example, which can then be loaded with addons that allow these media players to access multiple torrent sites, streaming sites and give users access to films, tv shows, at great quality, and for no cost.

Android TV Boxes, although painted negatively in the news in recent years, are very much still available and very much still used. These cheap boxes (for as little as £8 on some sites) can be loaded with apps that connect to a multitude of torrent and streaming sites. Many of these apps allow the use of Real Debrid accounts, which can make the experience of streaming even better by allowing users to access the best content available, and at a meager price (less than £8 for access to 90 days!)

Using a VPN alongside this - there are many available, and many are free - gives the users peace of mind that they won't get caught out and banned by their internet providers.

Even though getting these apps and their associated addons onto a firestick, a TV Box, or a smart TV is a simple process, for some users it may still be confusing. However, many of these apps are also available for mobile phones, desktop or laptop computers, and are even simpler to use. And of course, streaming from a mobile or computer to a smart TV is now just as easy.

Stremio is a good example of an app that is easy to get and to use, and although it can be used legally, it also has access to addons which scrape multiple torrent sites, for illegal content. Whereas an app like Kodi requires a user to search for these addons separately, Stremio links to these addons within the app itself. Stremio published in 2018 that they had 5 million users, so one can only assume this number has grown.

Although Kodi makes it more difficult for users to download these sorts of addons, a simple Google search will lead users to sites which offer up to date tips on the best illegal addons to use. Again, pairing these addons with an unrestricted multihoster like Real Debrid allows the user to access the best content, and with little to no buffering issues. Pair with this that the MPAA believe that at least 70% of the 38 million users who use Kodi, use it for illegal purposes.

For users who are capable of going a little further, virtualisation software like Docker can open up an even bigger world of content.

“Docker is a tool that allows developers, sys-admins etc. to easily deploy their applications in a sandbox (called containers) to run on the host operating system.” 

Once created, these containers can be accessed via the Docker Hub by anyone running Docker on their OS. All they have to do is enter 1 line of code into their terminal or command line, and Docker does the rest.

And as you guessed, there are a great deal of applications that can be used to pirate content to be found on the Docker Hub, and the number of pulls that these containers have - the number of times someone has downloaded the container to their OS - are shockingly high.

Although a media manager like Plex can be used legally, it has been in the news recently, "slammed for not doing enough to prevent movie and TV show piracy" by "pro-copyright lobby group CreativeFuture". In January 2019, Plex said that it had 20 million users, but as can be seen from just one Docker page - https://hub.docker.com/r/linuxserver/plex - this Plex container has been pulled over 100million times!

A similar media manager to Plex, Emby, also has the ability to be loaded with IPTV playlists, which can give the user free access to premium TV sites - this container also has 100million+ pulls.

These numbers are very high, but one of the most shocking finds is that the torrent site scraper, Jackett, has over 500million pulls.

Jackett works by searching multiple torrent sites at the same time, giving users much more extensive access to content, and all within one click. Considering the number of pulls for this software, the idea that torrent use has dropped in recent years seems somewhat laughable.

If the above seems like a lot of effort needs to be made, there are Docker containers which can ease this management such as Sickbeard - "a PVR application that searches for and manages your TV shows and automatically finds new and old episodes". There are many applications like this, and just this one has over 1 million pulls.

One thing that struck me when looking through the pages on Docker, at all these containers that have been built, is that one could easily utilise all of these containers to start their own pirate site or application - a site or app where a user could log in, add their favourite films, shows, filmmakers, actors, etc., and then with containers like Jackett and Sickbeard, this information could be used to return links to the users automatically. Combine this with torrent streaming software, such as Peerflix or WebTorrent, and everything they need can be on this one site/app.

With the recent Coronavirus pandemic delaying film releases, suspending film shoots, and even possibly closing cinema chains down, the film industry needs to ensure that they have a way to make up for this huge loss of revenue and most likely will look into releasing their upcoming slate of films directly to VOD, presumably at a cost between $20-$30. 

Unfortunately, as soon as this happens, pirates will be able to capture HD quality versions of the films which will then become available to users all over the world.

This content will be at no cost to the user, of course, but at a great cost to the distributors. 


Further information on this subject can be found on the following quoted sources: