At the start of this year pirate streaming site 123movies was one of the largest pirate streaming sites on the web.
The site received millions of visitors per day which prompted none other than the MPAA to label it “the most popular illegal site in the world.”
For Hollywood, the blatantly infringing activity was a thorn in their side, so behind the scenes the movie studios did all they could to take the site offline, helped by US authorities.
In 2017, the US Ambassador to Vietnam called on the local Government to criminally prosecute the site’s operators on their alleged home turf. In addition, the site was also on the radar of the office of the US Trade Representative, which featured 123movies in its latest Notorious Markets report.
March this year, the MPAA sent its own people to Vietnam to expedite the issue. The movie industry group teamed up with the local Office of the Police Investigation Agency, hoping that this would lead to the downfall of the streaming site.
A few days later, 123movies shut down.
“Now it’s time to say goodbye. Thank you for being our friends and thanks for staying with us that long,” the 123movies team wrote, asking users to “respect” filmmakers by paying for movies and TV-shows instead of pirating them.
There was never an official explanation for this radical decision but it wasn’t hard to figure out that the ground had become too hot for the operators. Movie industry pressure was mounting and Vietnam also appeared to get more strict on copyright enforcement issues.
While 123movies never elaborated on its reason to shut down, the MPAA has now provided some more insight. In its latest list of “notorious markets” sent to the US Government this week, the group links it to a criminal investigation.
“An important development in 2018 was the shuttering of a ring of piracy services that had operated under the names 123movies, 123movieshub, gostream, and gomovies following the launch of a criminal investigation in Vietnam and significant industry engagement,” MPAA writes.
TorrentFreak asked the MPAA whether this investigation resulted in any arrests, charges, or if it’s still ongoing. We are yet to receive a response.
It’s clear though, that the mounting pressure resulted in 123movies being shut down. This is arguably one of the major anti-piracy successes of the year so far, but the problem isn’t over yet.
Following the demise of 123movies, several clones and copies stepped up to take its place. However, the MPAA says that it has these on its radar as well.
“Since its closure, many copycat sites have emerged. This ring of piracy services had been blocked in at least eight countries prior to its shut down and efforts are underway to shut down the copycats as well,” the MPAA notes.
This is not a veiled threat, it appears. Last month, the biggest clone 123movieshub.sc suddenly went offline as well, as the site’s domain was deactivated by the domain name registry. As expected, other 123movies clones were quick to take over the top spot.