In 2005 and along with many others, then 22-year-old Matthew Thompson of Lubbock, Texas, was raided by the FBI as part of Operation Sitedown. This international initiative spanning 10 countries was aimed at bringing leading figures of the so-called Warez Scene to their knees.
Thompson was involved in movie piracy, but not just with any old group. Wicked1, as he was better known online, was a member of Centropy, the world’s leading movie piracy group.
Today, 7 years on, Thompson is sharing with TorrentFreak readers an excerpt from his forthcoming book, This is the Scene.
This is the Scene
My name was Wicked1 and I was a member of Centropy. For people not around in the early 2000’s and/or think the pinnacle of movies comes from the likes of IMAGiNE or aXXo, allow me this chance to correct you.
Centropy (CTP), when we existed, was the biggest release group in the world. Most people tend to think of ISO games groups as the leaders of The Scene, but there has always been more than one group operating at a given time. During my time, there was Razor1911, Fairlight, and Deviance. There was only ever one group the quality of Centropy in the movie scene.
We were the pioneers in how to pirate a movie in theaters. Our releases of The Matrix Reloaded, and Star Wars Episode 2 were part of the reason why one of the most common phrases in the pirating of new release movies was “I’ll wait for the Centropy”. The quality of our releases is virtually unmatched to this day.
Through our former DivX release partners in Deity, and later under our own spinoff, Brutus, we also released some of the largest DVD copies of movies ever, such as Lord of the Rings The Two Towers. Our most famous release was the March 1st release of The Return of the King, almost 2 and a half months before it came out on DVD.
What was my job in the two years I was a member of CTP? Was I the guy sitting in the movie theaters or the guy who uploaded movies to our encoding boxes? No, I was the guy who supplied computer hardware to the guys who sat in movie theaters and the person who found the suppliers who gave us the vast majority of our movies.
I was also one of the guys in The Scene who people would come to with fast business Internet connections to help set up topsites for Centropy, like a site run out of Michigan in a Comcast datacenter.
I became a member of Centropy in 2002 after having been a member of some very different groups. First, there was A-Team, a scrubby movie release group. Our only claim to anything was a subpar release of the first Harry Potter movie.
After bouncing around a few other groups like Esoteric and Obus, I ended up helping the TV group FFN pay for the internet connection for one of its cappers. It got me a leech account on some of the better sites around then, and it helped me join the racing group Enrage.
The leader of Enrage, a guy who went by the name of Blackjack, was someone fairly high in the Scene. After I had left Esoteric, he came to me one day telling me that Centropy was looking for someone to help keep their supplier happy. Within two months, I was supplying hardware, money, and bringing in new potential suppliers. Random topsites like AKSISO, a gigabit site in the Czech Republic, decided to give me site-op privileges in hopes that Centropy would become an affiliate of the site.
Things were great for me as a pirate; I had access to whatever I wanted and was a member of some of the biggest groups that have ever existed. Then Operation Fastlink happened.
Operation Fastlink was a multi-year, joint-operation run by the United States Department of Justice and the Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section of INTERPOL designed to take out the groups Fairlight, Kalisto, Echelon, ProjectX, and Class.
I had been around somewhat in 2001 during Operation Buccaneer, but that had very minimal effects on the world of piracy. Fastlink was different, as Fairlight (FLT) and their associated acts were some of the largest groups and some of the most secure in all of warez.
I woke up the morning of April 22, 2004, to what could pretty much be called chaos on IRC [Internet Relay Chat]. The private Centropy IRC server was down, and nobody from the group was on Efnet or Linknet, and virtually all of my sites were down for security reasons.
When I finally got in touch with a few of my other Scene buddies, they had told me that FLT and most of their sites had been busted and that I should probably lay low for a while. The fact that FLT had been busted didn’t bother me all that much; what bothered me was that their two US sites, Optical Illusion and DOH, were both sites I was on and both had been busted.
Like most rational people who are scared of going to prison would do, I freaked out and destroyed my hard drives and burned every burned CD and DVD I had in a random field outside of my town. For the next two months, I disappeared from piracy until my friends korax and Dact told me about this cool gigabit US topsite run by a guy named Griffen.
That topsite’s name was CHUD, or Can’t Hold us Down. Griffen and his site would later come back to haunt us in the biggest way imaginable….
Want to hear more? We certainly do. Matthew is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funding to continue work on his forthcoming book, This is the Scene.
The campaign page and accompanying video are available here.