With millions of views per day, Movie2Free.com was one of the largest pirate sites on the Internet, particularly popular in south-east Asia.
In the west, the site doesn’t ring a bell with most people. In Thailand, however, it was listed among the top 15 most visited websites in the country, only beaten by Google, YouTube, and a few others.
The site’s popularity didn’t go unnoticed by Hollywood. Earlier this year the MPA listed the site in its yearly overview of notorious pirate sites, which it submitted to the US Trade Representative.
“The site provides access to an array of movie and TV content and comes replete with high-risk ads with malware,” the group wrote.
The MPA also informed local authorities about the site’s activities. This triggered a high-profile investigation by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) which led to the site’s shutdown this week, the Bangkok Post reports.
Movie2Free.com, which was founded in 2014, is reportedly owned by a 30-year-old Thai man who lives abroad. He hired an operator, a 22-year-old man from the north of Thailand, who was arrested at his house a few days ago.
“The DSI has found that the Thai man who was running the pirated movie website… was living abroad,” DSI director-general Paisit Wongmuang said, commenting on the news.
According to the DSI director “the site had used sophisticated equipment that made it hard for authorities to track it down, and had set up a server abroad.”
Interestingly, the site’s domain name is still active, now linking to what appears to a page promoting local charities.
A few days ago, however, the site was still offering access to thousands of movies. The owner generated revenue from various advertisements and reportedly earned more than $160,000 (5 million baht) per month. Whether that’s an estimate or a confirmed figure is unknown.
While no charges have been announced yet, authorities plan to hold the operator liable for copyright infringement. Potential tax violations are being investigated too, as well as a violation of the local gambling ban since the site had several gambling-related ads.
The Thai examiner further notes that Movie2fFree.com was used extensively by retailers who sell pirated DVDs. Whether the shutdown will have any effect on these sales has yet to be seen, as there are plenty of alternatives still online.