The way that we watch television shows and movies has changed quite considerably in recent times, hasn’t it? In the past, you’d have to go to the cinema or have a satellite TV subscription with a film package to watch a movie. However, this is certainly no longer the case!
Streaming sites have become exceptionally popular in recent times. You only need to look at the popularity of Netflix to see this.
Yet, not everyone wants to pay to stream a movie, do they? The good news is that there are some free online streaming platforms available, and 123Movies is one of them. But is it legal? Should you use it? Or, are there better alternatives out there? Continue reading to discover everything you need to know about this platform, as well as my important tips on using it.
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What is 123Movies?
123Movies has had a number of different names. This includes 123Movieshub, MeMovies, GoStream, and GoMovies. It was a network of websites for file streaming that enabled people to watch movies without payment. It operated from Vietnam.
A couple of years ago, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) named it the “most popular illegal site” in the world. A few weeks later, it was shut down by Vietnamese authorities after a criminal investigation.
So, you may be wondering why I am even talking about 123Movies, considering it has been shut down. Well, the network is actually still active through clone websites.
When 123Movies was it its most popular, there were 98 million people visiting the website per month from many different countries. To put this into perspective, more people were visiting 123Movies than The New York Times, CNN, and Etsy!
Despite the fact that the Vietnamese authorities have shut down the original website, in this digital age, copyright enforcement is very much like the well-known game whack-a-mole.
Websites that have been shut down tend to redirect people to new sites for file-sharing, meaning that investigators are always one step behind. Just a few months after the original 123Movies website closed, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) revealed that more than 12 different copycat websites had cropped up.
But, are you breaking the law by using 123Movies?
Well, it all depends on how you’re using the service. It’s not actually illegal to stream on 123Movies. However, if you share anything yourself or you download anything, which is often required at a lot of free streaming websites, you would be breaking the law and this could result in civil or criminal charges.
Of course, you should not take anything I say as a legal recommendation. After all, I am not a lawyer! Nevertheless, after doing plenty of research on the subject, it is clear that there are a number of different factors that would determine whether you were indeed breaking the law on 123Movies.
Why you need a VPN if you’re going to use 123Movies
If you are going to use 123Movies, one thing you definitely need is a VPN. Despite the fact that 123Movies is very popular, the legal challenges that have been documented in the past highlight just how important it is to use a VPN when visiting any of the cloned 123Movie websites.
You have no way of determining the validity of the clone sites. Some of them have been reported to host malware and viruses, which could find their way into your device and cause some serious damage.
This is why it makes sense to use a VPN, such as NordVPN or ExpressVPN. Both are recommended options.
A VPN will ensure your IP address is safeguarded. This provides you with a degree of protection while you’re online. It also means that you will be able to bypass any geo-restrictions that are in place, enabling you to view the films you want to see.
While there are many different VPNs out there, I cannot deny that NordVPN is one of my favourites. Plus, as it has a 30-day free trial, you will be able to give it a go without committing any funds, so you can determine whether or not it is the right choice for you.
There are other reasons why you should use a VPN when accessing a website of this nature. This includes the strong encryption used by VPNs today, which means that your online activity will remain confidential.
A lot of the premier VPNs on the market today provide malware and virus protection, ensuring you are safe if you visit any sort of streaming website that has annoying adverts and pop-ups, or even worse, malware that could ruin your computer.
I strongly advise that you do not visit 123Movies without VPN protection.
The legalities of 123Movies are related to your location
It is important to remember that all countries have different rules and regulations in place. Because areas have taken different stances on copyright infringement and piracy, it is recommended to find out what the rules are in your country before you visit a site like 123Movies. The legislation in one country can be very different from another.
The stance on piracy around the world
I did a little bit of digging to get a better understanding of what different countries think of piracy and what rules and regulations are in place. Again, you should never take my advice as the law. Legislation changes all of the time. However, this can help you to get a better understanding of how piracy is viewed and acted upon on a global scale.
- Pirating is allowed or legal for personal use in Switzerland, Spain, and Poland.
- Pirating is against the law in the United States, South Africa, Russia, Portugal, Latvia, Japan, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, France, Finland, China, and Australia.
- Pirating is against the law but people are not actively prosecuted in Uruguay, Slovenia, Slovakia, Singapore, Romania, Philippines, Netherlands, Mexico, Iran, Israel, India, Greece, Egypt, Denmark, Czech Republic, Colombia, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina.
Are there any legal consequences should you use 123Movies?
As I have just mentioned, there are different rules in place from country-to-country when it comes to streaming. Not only do these countries have varying rules, but they also have different punishments and consequences in place for individuals who have failed to obey the rules.
For instance, there are some countries whereby you will simply get a slap on the wrist for downloading content that is copyrighted. However, in places like Germany, people get quite severe fines if they are caught downloading content that is copyrighted.
It is even more difficult to prosecute when using streaming services because once someone has watched a stream there are not any files left on the computer. Of course, your IP address can be tracked easily. However, everyone should be using a VPN on their computer for protection.
It really does depend on where you are based on how the authorities handle cases like this. In some countries, not much effort is put in to ensuring the rules are being followed. Moreover, in some places, the authorities are less bothered about individual viewers and more interested in going after the individuals responsible for the content distribution. At the same time, if you are in a country that takes this very seriously and you have been watching streams you shouldn’t, you could end up with a very big fine to pay.
Advice on watching 123Movies safely
Because you’re not permitted to use 123Movies in many places around the world, I must stress that I cannot condone using it in any territory whereby it is not allowed. Nevertheless, there are plenty of countries whereby the use of streaming services is allowed, albeit some only permit this for personal use. It is your responsibility to ensure you know the rules in your area.
In countries where you are able to watch 123Movies, make sure you use a VPN to protect yourself from malicious site hosts, viruses, and prying eyes. I also recommend investing in antivirus software for further protection.
If you use a VPN and antivirus software, this will make certain that you are sufficiently protected against any spying site admins and malware. However, as mentioned, you do need to make sure that you are aware of the local law before using any sort of streaming website.
Can 123Movies cause any damage to my computer?
As there are a number of cloned versions of the 123Movies site, it is possible that one of these websites may carry malware and viruses. These viruses could corrupt your device through ad pop-ups or malicious links.
This highlights why you should never access a site without having a VPN turned on. One of the reasons why I highly rate NordVPN is because the service also includes a malware and an ad blocker.
What are some legal alternatives to 123Movies?
If you do not want to use 123Movies, there are a number of free streaming services out there that are a lot safer, both in terms of adhering to the laws and ensuring you’re not exposed to malware.
Here are some of the best options:
- Hoopla – This is a great free streaming service, yet you do need to a library card to use Hoopla. With this card, you will get access to a huge range of movies and shows. In fact, it can rival a lot of the paid streaming platforms!
- Locast – In terms of value, you will struggle to find better than Locast. Local channels can be streamed free of charge. This means you can watch everything from major award’s ceremonies to the local news and live sports.
- IMDb TV – While IMDb TV does have a small library, you can view some of the most popular movies here. There are currently over 340 movies and there are also some entire TV series for free, such as Lost and Mad Men.
- Roku Channel – You are only going to be able to stream this via Roku web browsers and streaming devices, yet there is a great range of some classic ‘90s movies if you’re interested.
- Tubi – Tubi is a free service that provides you with a lot of different options, as there are over 19,000 shows and movies within the library. Tubi is especially good if you like horror movies and action films. You can also find a good range of classic television shows – great for a blast from the past!
- Pluto TV – If you’re looking for ways to watch live television without a subscription, there are more than 100 channels on Pluto TV for the likes of sports, entertainment, and news. There are also plenty of films to choose from too!
- Kanopy – Finally, Kanopy is another service that requires a library card, yet it is definitely worth it. In fact, it has more films in the top 250 list on IMDb than Hulu, Prime Video, and Netflix.
I hope that this has helped you to get a better understanding of the use of 123Movies. It really does depend on where in the world you’re based, and no matter what streaming service you choose, a VPN is always advised. There are plenty of other streaming services out there that do not come with the risks that 123Movies do, so I would advise trying out one of those!