After years of regularly visiting the High Court in London in search of injunctions to compel ISPs to block pirate sites, the MPA appeared to lose interest in the strategy.
Interested in why this was the case, in 2019 we approached the MPA requesting information and background on the reasons for the hiatus. We were informed that the Hollywood group would use a “range of methods as appropriate in the UK” to ensure that filmmakers everywhere “are compensated for their work.”
A Year Later, Little Had Changed
Given that the UK is often held up by the MPA as a prime example illustrating how blocking can be implemented effectively, it came as a surprise that a year after our inquiries on the topic, many pirate sites were flourishing in the absence of new blocking orders.
So we spoke with the MPA again but the group was remaining non-committal, describing site-blocking as “just one pillar” of its anti-piracy strategy.
New Action in the UK High Court
While the Hollywood studios and the MPA are yet to make an official statement, it appears that site blocking in the UK is now back on the agenda. Unsurprisingly, the targets are web-based streaming portals operating under the ‘123Movies’ branding. It is currently unclear whether these sites have any connections other than their names, but four appear to have been considered a big enough problem for the MPA to return to the High Court.
The news was revealed quietly by Sky Broadband, a UK ISP that is regularly required to block ‘pirate’ sites of all kinds, from torrent and streaming portals to considerably more fluid subscription-based IPTV providers.
According to Sky, following an application at the High Court by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; Disney Enterprises, Inc.; Netflix Studios, LLC; Paramount Pictures Corporation; Universal City Studios Productions LLLP; and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., it is now blocking four more streaming portals.
They are: www9.0123movies.com, w5.123movie.cc, 123moviesfun.is, and wvw1.123movies.net
The big question, given the general prevalence of streaming sites, is why this quartet was singled out for action by the movie and TV show companies.
The MPA Previously Showed Interest in These Sites
Back in November 2020, TorrentFreak learned that the MPA and Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment had obtained a DMCA subpoena from a US court.
The aim of the request was to compel Cloudflare, which all of the sites used, to hand over the personal details of individuals believed to be operating the platforms. Within that list were several ‘123Movies’ branded sites, including 0123movies.com and 123movies.net, which now form part of the injunction reportedly obtained by the MPA – presumably due to their significance in the UK market.
0123Movies.com, for example, currently enjoys millions of visits per month, with around a quarter of those hailing from the UK. 123movies.net is an even bigger affair, with around six million visits per month according to SimilarWeb. Again, close to 25% of its traffic comes from the UK. 123movie.cc and 123moviesfun.is are considerably smaller traffic-wise but the studios clearly see them as a problem to be stamped out.
Second UK Blocking Injunction This Week
This is the second time in a matter of days that the existence of a website-blocking order has been revealed by UK ISPs. Earlier this week, ISP TalkTalk reported that it would be blocking Sci-Hub.se following an application for injunction filed by publishers Elsevier and Springer Nature.
The court is yet to publish that decision or the latest one involving the MPA. The existence of the injunctions hasn’t been acknowledged by the companies involved either but confirmation and the relevant details are expected in due course.