When it comes to obtaining and placing unauthorized content online, so-called ‘release groups’ are what makes the world of piracy tick.
Most closely associated with the ‘Scene’ during the 2000s, release groups now come in all shapes and sizes, from elite groups at the top of the piracy pyramid through to one-man bands seeking kudos from the masses.
Another area closely associated with release groups are those affiliated with both private and public torrent sites. These can take many forms. Some are created by site members keen to gain recognition while furthering their chosen site’s brand, while others are operated by sites themselves.
While The Pirate Bay has never had an overt release group, other sites in the public space certainly have. RARBG, for example, has a release group operating in its name and ETRG (ExtraTorrent Release Group) provides a similar function for that site.
The latest site to jump on the release group bandwagon is KickassTorrents (KAT). Currently the largest torrent site on the Internet, KAT is certainly not short of visitors but it appears that the site believes it can better serve the public with the provision of a site-branded release group.
(12/21/15: See update below)
At the time of writing the group, which appeared around a week ago and operates from the three-year-old username KATRG, currently has 21 releases. In addition to Blu-ray and web rips, KATRG is also offering the latest Oscar DVD screeners to leak online including Room, Brooklyn and The Peanuts Movie.
It’s worth noting that KATRG is not the original source of any of the titles uploaded so far. Instead, the group re-encodes existing releases. That being said, lack of originality never hurt the image of YIFY, for example, who mostly re-encoded and then re-branded Scene releases.
But of course, just like any other torrent, KATRG releases are vulnerable to takedown by copyright holders. The site doesn’t host any actual files but rightsholders to ask it to remove the associated torrents. The image below shows that the torrent of a blu-ray rip of The Bad Education Movie only clocked 98 downloads before being removed.
Nevertheless, KickassTorrents is offering a solution to this problem. It’s been in operation for some time, but essentially it remains possible to download releases even after they have been taken down from the site.
In respect of KATRG this is achieved by a forum thread which lists all of the group’s releases along with their hashcodes. Should any be taken down, users are invited to enter hashes into another search engine which then provides the download in question.
At the moment KATRG releases aren’t particularly popular with downloaders which is not that unusual for a relatively unknown group. However, just like releases from YIFY (and aXXo before him), KATRG’s efforts will eventually become trusted and with that will come popularity.
Also, since the release group name is also being spread around other sites, it effectively becomes free and effective advertising for KickassTorrents – not that the site really needs any more exposure.
It appears that after just a week online, KATRG is no more. A statement from the site sent to TF has made it clear that KickassTorrents does not have an official release group and will not have one in the future. Anyone using the KAT name is not doing so with the site’s permission. As a result KATRG has been removed from the site.