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Thanks to the digital whirlwind the world has been taken into, people have smoothly moved to stream websites online from cable TVs which once used to be a bigger craze than this. While the new-age audience credits the popular OTT channels for the trend, it is 123Movies and similar websites that first took our interest away from the television by giving us access to the just-released movies. Following the trend when most people are shifting to using paid websites and OTT platforms for entertainment leaving TV, there are many in the lot opting for 123Movies for a free source of entertainment. Let us dig in a bit to find out if it’s truly the best option to choose for free content.

Introduction –

Declared as the world’s most popular website for free movies, 123Movies surely is one of the most favorite websites for streaming and downloading the latest movies online. But it is just not a single website that we are talking about, 123Movies is a series of websites. Better to be called, its a network of similarly named websites being operated from Vietnam. 

Despite the different domain names, the basic features mentioned below remain the same through the network.

  • Crowded but organized interface
  • Huge collection
  • Varied Genre
  • Movies in different languages
  • Subtitles
  • Latest release within the first week
  • Various picture quality
  • Availability of copies with better picture quality with time
  • Multiple redirects before the final page
  • Outdated Adobe Flash Alert
  • The system in danger alert
  • VPN ads
  • Redirects to porn sites
  • Server options
  • VPN Requirement
  • Frequent website blocks

While a lot of the features look quite yummy and attractive there are some questionable points as well in the list like the requirement of VPN, frequent blocks, changing picture quality with time, frequent redirects, danger alert, and outdated adobe flash alert. These all don’t seem to be normal behaviors, doesn’t it? We will find out the reason behind each of them in the following section.

History

We have mentioned above that 123Movies is not a single website for free download of movies, it is rather a network of websites. This unusual characteristic of the website has a reason behind it. Ever since the website was released after development, 123Movies have gone through several shutdowns by the authorities. The new domain names arrive as an attempt to be on the internet again till the website gets blocked again. 

The Motion Picture Association of America labeled the website as the world’s most popular illegal website in March 2018. But that wasn’t the first time 123Movies was being named. MPAA had listed the website in its overview of the Online Notorious Markets for the United States Trade Representative. The overview had mentioned that in August 2016, 123Movies had an estimated 9.26 million visitors and that too unique from across the globe. In March 2018, this number had risen to 98 million per month but soon enough the official website was shut down with a message on the website that asked viewers to respect the makers by paying them for their movies and TV shows.

The message and the shutdown were a clear indication that all was definitely not right with the popular website used for streaming and downloading the latest movies for free. 123Movies as a website can be understood a lot better if we find out the way movies are sourced for the website.

Movie Sourcing & Quality

The word illegal was used to describe 123Movies due to the way the movies are being sourced and given out for free. It shouldn’t be news to anyone who has been using 123Movies that the latest movies available on the website are shot at a movie theater, which is why frequently people are seen walking across the screen. This is an illegal method of copying and harms the interest of the filmmakers to a very large extent affecting their revenue. 

There are different levels of copy, which is why you find different picture quality of the same movie overtime. While the first copy is CamRip as a very poor camera is used to record the movie in a theater, DVDRips or BluRays are much better versions of the same movie as the movie gets copied from their official DVDs. 

The illegal copying of the movie is what brings it to the 123Movies website at free of cost while it is still in the theater. At times, the movie gets stolen even before its release, thanks to some industry insiders who in order to beat the ugly competition leak the movie from the screening. This is what is known as Piracy, and movie piracy as is being said continuously is illegal to practice which obviously means that it brings with it some legal liabilities.

Legal Obligations

Movie piracy directly breaks the laws meant to protect the copyright act present all across the world. Pirates in different countries can be penalized differently depending on the laws. The amount of fine and the length of imprisonment may differ but it is severe almost everywhere across the globe leaving a few. The laws and punishments made to curb the crime of Movie Piracy vary for different levels of involvement. 

Like camming in the theater, for example, is a punishable offense and so is viewing a pirated movie online on 123Movies, apart from the obvious illegal distribution of movies also repeat offense. The legal actions that can be taken against the pirates can range from a hefty fine to years of imprisonment.

But what is important to notice here is that even viewing pirated content online is offensive. In case you are not aware then you must know that the government of every country is capable of tracking your online behavior even if you are using the incognito mode. The IP address can easily be tracked. 

Given that the popularity and virality of pirated movies are created from various social media channels, it is natural for the visitors to not know that the website they are visiting is illegal to browse. Instead, as is the trend most of the people without even thinking twice follow all sources of free content. Can it land you in any legal problem?

Countrywise Restrictions

The restrictions largely vary from country to country. While there are countries that do not penalize the viewers, there are some who do track down the viewers and frame them with lawsuits. The point is that if caught then the free content that you had been running behind may become an unnecessarily expensive affair. 

But another interesting fact is that viewing pirated movies is not illegal in all countries. So the message you are getting to see while opening a particular domain of 123Movies doesn’t need to be seen by other countries as well. The page is taken down complying with the rules of the country it is being shown to which is why the websites like 123Movies ask you to use VPN for complete access to the website.

123Movies: VPN

VPN is a virtual private network used mostly by the developers and others to view certain websites that are only accessible from certain countries. Using a VPN allows you to hide your own location and IP address and mimic someone else’s. This allows you to pave the country restrictions online and view content by changing your location virtually. While VPN has its own purposes, many people use it for streaming content that is illegal to stream and download otherwise. About its legality, there is a twist. VPN is legal in most of the countries but it becomes illegal if used for criminal purposes like hacking and accessing and distributing copyrighted material online.

Again, if caught lawbreakers would be regarded as cybercriminals and while the crime may not seem very big given the ease of doing it, it is not considered to be a small thing by the lawmakers.

While quite a few questionable features have been explained in the previous sections, it is finally time to explain the most important characteristic of 123Movies and websites alike. The fun part is that one section alone will reason all the other doubtful features of the pirated movie website at one go.

Earning Source

We already know that there are multiple domain names of 123Movies and by now we have realized the reason behind it. But it is interesting how despite the regulations and laws, 123Movies keeps coming back with a mirror website, which is an exact copy of the older version just with a slight change in the domain name. The constant return can’t be just like that, isn’t it? 

To understand this well, you must be reminded of the amount of traffic the website used to get before getting blocked in March 2018. It was 98 million per month. That amount is no joke and can’t be invaluable. The website may distribute content for free which attracts large traffic, it does no social service by doing so. The ads are what they earn from. While many of the ads being shown on the website pay the pirates on a per-impression basis, others pay for clicks. The reason you get redirected unnecessarily to multiple websites is that clickable links are hidden throughout the websites, which forcefully takes your click earning the website owners a certain amount for that. 

Considering the number of people visiting the website multiplied by the random clicks, each person has to make before finally streaming or downloading the latest movie on 123Movies. It can well be assumed what kind of earning the website owners will have to miss per month if they shut the website down permanently. But if you are already astounded then well, don’t be, not yet at least.

Ad revenue is not the only source of income the website owners have. We are talking about a notorious website, apart from the ad revenue, the website earns from malware distribution. The update and danger alerts that ask you to download a certain anti-virus app or update Adobe Flash or even download a better performing browser are all hidden faces of malware. This is the scariest part of the entire website because malware or virus puts your device and privacy directly at risk.

Safety

Malware is feared the most because once run on the device, it has the potential to take control of your device. Taking control over your device means that it also takes over your data. Be it your phone or your computer, a virus or a malware attack can hack your social media profiles, access and use your private media, contacts, saved bank details (leading to bank theft as well), saved passwords. That is not all, these may infect various software installed on your device and come in the way of their performance and eventually lock you out of your own device.

This is the very reason why it’s highly recommended to not visit an untrusted website and download anything without verifying the source. You will not even know when you will aid a cybercrime yourself.

How far can it be trusted?

It can very clearly be understood that 123Movies cannot be trusted at all. While its popularity may never make you doubt it, it doesn’t change the fact that the website is not just illegal but also unsafe to browse and download any content from it. You might click a link with the hope to start the movie download but instead trigger a malware download. You will notice that the kind of experience you have on 123Movies is not the same when you visit any other website for other purposes, be it for shopping or reading or even entertainment. The features are common to websites distributing illegal content only. This is why despite the attraction of free latest movie downloads, it is not safe for anyone to browse through these websites. But in case you already have and are now scared of the outcome, make sure than you are protected with an authentic and trusted anti-virus software.

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