123movies is a Vietnam-based file-sharing site long-legally embattled due to their mission of offering free, high-quality videos for the public tired of being ripped off by big-name studios. The site has undergone multiple domain name changes, amongst the ranks 123 movies, GoStream, and GoMovies, and was entitled “the world’s most popular illegal site” by the Motion Picture Association of America – after which it was shut down by Vietnamese authorities.
In The Beginning
123movies was first launched in 2015 under the original URL 123movies.to. Since then, it has changed names and URLs several times in its bid to stay operative. In 2016, Business Insider ran a report on 123movies.to, stating that it was “the most-used pirate website” in the UK.
In March of 2017, the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam met the local Minister of Information and Communications to discuss shuttering the illegal movie sites operating out of Vietnam – name-dropping 123movies in the process. By March of 2018, after achieving a global user network of nearly 98 visitors monthly, the website was shut down due to mounting investigations and pressure from multiple governments. All that was left of the site was a note on their homepage: “Respect filmmakers by paying for movies and TV-shows.”
In October 2018, the Motion Picture Association of America reported to the United States Trade Representative that following the closure of 123movies and its offshoot sites, numerous copycat sites – some with similar domain names – were cropping up in at least eight countries to fill the void. As of 2020, 123movies is now operating via multiple clone sites to allow users the change to watch their favorite movies and tv shows – until it gets shut down again. 123movies is a website with a history of being under siege in multiple countries – but that has not stopped them from finding new alternatives to continue their mission of file-sharing for the common good of free public entertainment. Whether or not that battle has been worth it is up to the website owners…and all of the hard-working, other-wise honest people who need a Friday night at home in front of their TV.