Is it Illegal to use 123Movies in the US?
Over the years, sites that let users stream movies and TV shows for free have been on the rise. One of the most famous of such sites is 123Movies, a hugely popular unofficial streaming website. The original site was taken down in March 2018, with a notice saying “respect filmmakers by paying for movies and TV shows.” Nevertheless, several mirrors have cropped up over the years, and it’s still possible to access 123Movies.
However, due to its tangles with the authorities, users are now keen to ensure they stream 123Movies safely. But besides that, it’s quite important to understand its legal stand before you even use it. In this article, we are going to look at the site’s legality in the US.
Why was the original 123Movies Shut Down?
Months before its shutdown, 123Movies was labeled by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) as the world’s “most popular illegal site.” The site, also known as GoMovies, GoStream, MeMovies, and 123movieshub, operated from Vietnam and allowed users to stream movies and TV shows for free.
In 2018, the MPAA listed the site in its Online Notorious Markets overview to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. The Government then collaborated with the US ambassador to Vietnam, and the site was ultimately shut down. But later that year, several mirror sites emerged in at least eight other countries.
The US Copyright Legislation
The US has several legislations that deal with infringing copyrights. In general, these laws make it illegal to reproduce, distribute illegally, perform or display publicly, and many other acts that include profiting off it, illegally possessing copyrighted content, or leading to the loss of revenue by copyright holders.
These laws have seen lots of people and companies prosecuted and charged in a court of law, and many others have had DMCA notices forwarded by their ISP.
Downloading vs. Streaming Content
The grey area in the consumption of illegal content comes in that almost all US laws mention possession or distribution as a crime. This means that illegally downloading content is a crime, and you can be prosecuted in a court of law.
Streaming of the same content is however not explicitly mentioned, and it doesn’t involve being in possession of pirated content (or at least not in the hard disk). This throws streaming on 123Movies into the grey area mix since users can stream without downloading.
Am I going to be paid a visit by the cops?
The fact that you are not downloading illegal content means that it is not entirely illegal to use 123Movies in the US, but neither is it entirely legal. Further, copyright organizations and government authorities usually focus on the people distributing the content online.
This involves going after people running and hosting sites such as sites, banning the sites and their mirrors, etc. You will therefore not get a visit from the cops for streaming on 123Movies.
However, it’s still wise to be safe, and it’s advisable to protect your identity while streaming from unofficial sites. The best way to do this is by using a VPN, which will then encrypt your traffic and spoof your IP address, covering you with a layer of anonymity.