China’s Popular YYet File-Sharing Website Is Shut Down

BEIJING — Fans of American television shows and movies will have to scramble to find a new way to illicitly watch their favorites after one of China's most popular websites for downloading such content was shut down.

With more than 1.8 million unique visitors in August alone, the YYeT website had become a popular destination for Chinese looking to freely and illegally download the latest episodes of hit shows like "The Big Bang Theory," "Sherlock" and "House of Cards."

The site went offline on Monday and the company released a letter to its millions of users thanking them for their support over the past 10 years. The note did not say why the file-sharing sharing platform closed so suddenly.

State-run newspaper Liberation Daily reported that China’s regulatory body — the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio Film and Television — called the website a known copyright infringer and ordered it shut down. The move mirrored the downfall of Napster,the American file-sharing program forced to shut down in 2001 amid similar allegations. Calls to the regulator for comment on the closures went unanswered.

The action against YYeT follows a report given by the Motion Picture Association of America to the office of the United States Trade Representative last month which accused the site of being “the most popular dedicated download site for copyrighted content in China.”

News of YYeT’s closure did not sit well with China’s netizens, who set social media ablaze with complaints.

“Authorities are closing doors again and forcing us to watch those low-quality domestic movies and TV series,” wrote one furious user on China’s twitter-like service, Weibo. “That’s the last thing I will do."

Bob Xin, a student from Beijing’s Communication University of China, has been using YYeT for six years to access movies and shows such as "The West Wing." Xin said he understood that the content he downloads is illegal, but told NBC News he "really needs it."

"It provides me the latest shows with high definition and accurate subtitles faster than you can imagine," he said.

— Chaojie Zhou and Ed Flanagan