Two decades ago, most piracy activity was centered around music. When broadband capacity grew, movies and TV series eventually took over and they remain most popular today.
Within the video piracy category, anime has become a significant traffic magnet. Today, there are many piracy sites specializing in anime, with the largest serving millions of pageviews per day.
9anime is one of these anime piracy juggernauts. The streaming portal first appeared on the scene in 2016 and has thrived ever since. According to recent estimates from SimilarWeb, the site is good for 110 million monthly visits.
Popularity at this level also has its drawbacks. In recent years, complaints from rightsholders resulted in 9anime being blocked by ISPs around the world. Anti-piracy groups, including the ACE coalition, are actively trying to track down the platform’s operators.
These enforcement efforts have produced usable intel. According to the IIPA, which counts the MPA among its members, the site is part of a piracy streaming conglomerate operated from Vietnam. Other piracy giants such as Fmovies and Putlocker are part of the same group.
This information has been shared with the U.S. Trade Representative on several occasions, most recently in January this year.
“The operator of the notorious streaming piracy network of sites Fmovies has over 60 associated domains, many of which are known pirate brands such as Bmovies, 9anime, Putlocker, and Solarmovies, provides unauthorized access to popular movies and TV series, and is domiciled in Vietnam,” IIPA wrote.
9anime Rebrands to AniWave
At least initially, legal pressures didn’t seem to impact 9anime, but this week there are signs that enforcement efforts haven’t left the site completed unfazed.
“Because of DMCA issues and multiple ISPs blocking our domain, we decided to rebrand 9anime as Aniwave. All of 9anime domains will be redirected to our new domain aniwave.to,” the site’s operators just announced.
As a result of this decision, all backup 9anime domains currently point to Aniwave.to, leaving the old brand completely behind.
A domain change can temporarily help to bypass ISP blockades and may also sidestep Google’s DMCA-related downranking measures. However, that could also be achieved by simply switching to a new domain name with similar branding.
Apparently, 9anime has opted for entirely new branding which can be quite confusing for users, especially since many fake 9anime clones are still around.
“There are many clone/fake 9anime sites, they’re mostly stealing your data and trying to steal 9anime’s users,” the operators consistently warned. However, a detailed explanation of the brand change is absent.
Is There More to the Story?
Without further information, we can only speculate at this point, but we know that Hollywood has been strengthening its relationship with Vietnamese authorities in recent months.
A few weeks ago, representatives from the MPA and ACE met with officials from Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS), to discuss future cooperation.
Through this meeting, Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Public Security, Le Quoc Hung, asked MPA and ACE to share intelligence going forward so that both sides can cooperate in their efforts to curb online piracy and copyright infringement.
While we don’t know what information was shared, piracy hosting service 2Embed and piracy streaming portal Zoro.to, which were both operated by the same Vietnamese person, have since shut down.
Intriguingly, just before it was taken down by ACE, Zoro.to was reportedly acquired by a third party and rebranded to AniWatch, which shouldn’t be confused with 9anime’s new AniWave brand.
Considering 9anime’s reported connection to Vietnam, it wouldn’t be a surprise if enforcement efforts from MPA, ACE, and Vietnamese authorities also had a hand in the site’s sudden rebranding this week. But perhaps more will become clear on that in the near future.