If you google sites where you can watch movies and TV shows for free and you’re most likely to come across 123Movies, one of many sites that emerged to woo people away from subscription-based streaming services like Netflix; and who doesn’t like free stuff? The site grew so much in popularity recording an average monthly visit of over 98 million at its peak with over 9 million unique visitors. But like other free file streaming platforms, the longevity of 123Movies was threatened from the day authorities in Vietnam found out about it. The official website, 123movies.to, shut down in March 2018 but like similar streaming sites before it, many copycat versions have since remerged and it continues to pose a hydra-headed problem to authorities who are ever on the lookout to clamp down on them.
The History of 123Movies And How It Works
123Movies traces its origins to Vietnam and it surfaced on the world wide web sometime between 2015 and 2016, however, its operators have remained anonymous. Like similar sites like Putlocker, 123Movies doesn’t upload content, it only acts as a middleman, directing its users to the content they can stream. In other terms, it embeds contents from cyberlockers on the online space.
Movies of different genres – drama, horror, comedy, etc – are all included on the website and in varying quality from HD, HD-RIP, and Blu-ray. Signing up is optional, thus all a user need do is get on the platform and select whatever content of their choice and start streaming.
Thanks to its free access and vast content, 123Movies immediately became popular, reaching a global Alexa rank of 559 and a rank of 386 in the United States. It was also very popular in the UK and was declared by Business Insider to be the most used pirated website in the UK in October 2016.
Its creators towards the end of 2017 launched another platform dedicated to anime contents called AnimeHub.to; however, it’s fate was the same as 123Movies.
Is 123Movies Legal?
In simple terms, 123Movies is not legal, that is why authorities are ever on the lookout for ways to clamp down on its existence. Since this platform links users to pirated content, it poses a threat to production companies as they stand to make less profit than they should. 123Movies do not pay for the license to stream these movies and neither do the sites that they direct its users to for streaming, thus the site is making money off of the efforts of production companies and hurting their business in the process; a crime in most countries.
Though the website began operating as 123movies.to, it underwent different address changes in order to avoid being identified by authorities. Some of the later addresses the site changed to include 123movies.is, gomovies.to, gomovies.is, gostream.is and 123movieshub.to/is.
By March 2017, talks had begun regarding the shutdown of the site. The then United States Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius reached out to the Vietnamese government to begin the process of shutting down the site for violating copyright laws.
At the time, investigations revealed that the website, though hosted in Ukraine, was operated from Vietnam; also, it was reported that 123Movies attempted to hide its identity by using Cloudflare. By March of 2018, 123Movies gave its users a 5-day notice of shutdown urging users to respect filmmakers by paying for movies. Regardless, numerous copycat sites soon emerged, over 8 now exist in different countries making it difficult to tell if any is being run by original 123Movies members.
While the use of 123Movies is deemed illegal in countries like the US and UK, services like this are usually targetted at third-world countries who care less about anti-piracy and copyright laws.
Is It Safe To Use?