Recently, TorrentFreak published a translation of an interview between a journalist and a member of the German warez Scene. Although the article was well received, it generated quite a lot of controversy. Some readers felt that the questions should’ve probed deeper, others that the responses could’ve been more informative. Some questioned how much the Scener really knew while others even questioned his authenticity. At TorrentFreak we try to write interesting articles but we also listen to our readers when you say you want to see something.
To that end, we conducted our own interview with an established ‘Scener’ – and we asked him those questions we believe our readers would’ve asked him.
There are many ideas of what ‘The Scene’ is. Some people say it’s a place, others say it’s a collection of people, some say it’s a combination of both. Can you tell us about your definition of ‘The Scene’, how it operates and the kind of people involved?
For me like many others it’s a place to go and chill with your friends, not unlike the current craze of social networking. It also represents the core fundamentals of the internet – the net should be free – and not governed. If I had to put a location or a name for the scene I would say its a haven for Geeks (sometimes arrogant with their extreme talent), enthusiasts, people who need to feel part of something and people who like a challenge and like to be kept on their toes. I suppose its full of criminals but not in the true sense of the word. What I mean by this is people who like a challenge, who get a buzz or a hit from breaking these so called laws, being hunted by and keeping one step ahead of authority. It’s also a place where the `Geek` rules all. He is not frightened by the big guy who plays football, the boxer down the road or the bullies at school because he knows he has the power to take the access away. Once you have been given access and trust, to have it taken away can be devastating for some. Same as money I guess – I suppose it’s all about power.
Some people believe that the ‘true’ Scene has its roots many years in the past. When did you become aware of its existence, how long after this did you become a member and what were the events that lead up to your joining?
The `true` scene goes back to the early 80’s, some think it goes beyond that. Unfortunately the groups of old have all grown up, had kids and now have nice jobs at the companies they used to pirate !!!!! (ironic or what?). In relative terms I could be called a newbie Scener, having only been in it a little over 10 years. My scene started with some hacking and infiltration which led me to meet some people, who in turn put me into the scene. Once I was involved I gave up hacking and cracking as it is generally frowned upon in the `true scene`, plus you don’t want to get caught for something stupid if you are doing bigger and badder things !!!
The Scene is viewed by many as almost mythical, only for the chosen few. What were your first impressions and experiences of being involved and how did they compare to your preconceptions?
The scene can be seen as a magical place where a lot of information is available and you get consumed by the amount of stuff you can lay your hands on. It can also be a dark place with a lot of people ready to screw you over for some access to somewhere or someone or starting a rumor simply because they don’t like you. This can be damaging. You see a lot of Release groups doing this to make the other group look bad and in my opinion, it’s pointless but thats just my opinion! My first impression of the scene was an overwhelming desire to download the entire internet! I suppose for me, who didn’t have a lot growing up, I felt I had hit the jackpot but as you soon realize, nothing comes for free.
How long was it before you felt you’d gained the trust of the other members and how did this manifest itself?
Personally I don’t trust anyone. You can only ever rely on yourself in the scene and in real life. It’s more true in the scene because no-one has any honor for so called friends (they will all sell you out to save their own skin) so the best bet is to protect yourself in anyway possible, so they never have information about you they can use for whatever they may need.
Being involved in the Scene in certain countries can lead to your arrest. Were you briefed about security before making contact with the servers and if so, what measures were you advised to take?
I always knew the risks when I entered the scene. I had a shady life growing up being dodgy and wheeling and dealing, so I suppose it came naturally to me to be alert and paranoid. For me it was natural evolution to take crime from the streets to the world of computers and the internet. I was already fairly versed in security from my exploiting days so I just researched the new protocols a bit more and took some steps to ensure i was more protected. I switched from Windows based computers to Unix, encrypted everything on every piece of hardware, turned off all logging, changed my irc/email frequently, always connected through proxies when checking email and used dynamic IP addresses as much as possible. For instance, to boot up and logon to my main computer you need 10 different passwords to get through the various layers of encryption and security I have in place and no-one on earth is going to break those!
I feel quite secure and at the touch of a command I can format the whole lot and write zero’s to the data drives so no-one can ever retrieve data from them. A lot of `topsites` are like this (maybe not as paranoid as me – but thats what has kept me from prison or the hint of it), but they certainly are clever and paranoid about getting caught.
Without warez release groups, the Scene would have little content to offer. Did you ever hold a position in a group, what did that entail and how did it affect your standing in the group and the Scene as a whole?
I did and still do hold a position in one of the top groups in the scene obviously naming it is stupid so I won’t! To be honest I don’t know if my fellow members would like or dislike this interview. Being an affiliate (a release group) certainly ups your standing in the scene but a lot of my friends in the scene don’t know who i am affiliated with or what groups I work with/for. It’s better this way.
Most people are aware that Scene access means easy access to warez. What range of material is available, who supplies it and where does it come from?
There are so many releases in the scene, maybe 2000 a day ranging from games, movies, TV shows, mp3, anime, dvd, music videos, wii, xbox, xbox360, ps3, pda, psp, docs, ebooks, comics and every type of porn you can imagine! All of these are available in pretty much any language or subs are available.
The stuff comes from anywhere people can get their hands on it. Most of the pre-release stuff will come from a silver or a screening of a film, the TV shows are usually `capped` from an HDTV station or a DSR link. The TV series as a DVDrip will probably be bought from a shop or ebay, then ripped into whatever format that group releases in. They will then sell the original DVD at say a flea market or ebay or something or take it back to the shop to trade for the next release or a refund.
Can you tell us about the structure of the Scene, it’s hierarchy, expected etiquette and the politics involved?
There isn’t really a hierarchy in the scene. There is a council for releasing standards kind of like the w3c a list of people or groups who all virtually sign a document saying “this is how we should release a film or whatever” it describes codec types, packing methods, what the nfo should state, what languages are allowed and how it should be tagged. The people who write these so called guidelines are generally considered to be the best at what they do, i.e if you looked at the game release guidelines then the best game crackers would be writing the guides between them, and agreeing. Next is the part that makes me laugh – if your release doesn’t adhere to these guides or say its slightly out of synch or has missing info or whatever you get whats called a `Nuke` – which is like a bad merit and states the release shouldn’t be downloaded as it’s basically crap. While I agree with this in principle what is strange to me is this; the scene is around because of people’s disregard for laws and antiestablishmentarianism, yet they have a set of rules to govern it! Madness!!
Some of these `Nukes` are bullshit nukes, i.e nothing wrong with the release, just some group having a war or some kiddie with nuke access being a dick, so I rarely take notice of them. There are a hell of a lot of politics in the Scene, mostly due to paranoia. For instance, if you use P2P or use or even help torrents, you will get banned. On some sites if you don’t use a bouncer to hide your address you’ll get banned and so on and so on.
In recent years there appeared to be a conflict between members of the Scene and certain elements of the BitTorrent community, especially certain trackers who offer Scene-releases just a few minutes after the Topsites do. What are your thoughts on P2P and BitTorrent releasers such as aXXo?
Personally I don’t like P2P/BitTorrent as it gives unwanted press to a small scene and it makes piracy real in the eyes of the law. My personal view is “so what?” if a few geeky kids want to swap a few movies and a few applications around, they probably don’t have the money to buy them anyway. With stuff like operating systems – Microsoft for example, it’s so buggy that who in their right mind would want to pay for it? I mean, would you pay for a dud microwave? I know I wouldn’t.
With mp3 it’s hit and miss – as a music producer I don’t really have an opinion but it’s a fast way to get your music to a lot of people fast, so I suppose its a good thing for bands starting out (leaking a copy to the scene).
I think if the torrent / p2p community was locked down a bit more and they had to do work to get the releases it would stop a lot of this warring. For me, I work hard to be in the scene and I feel my downloads are justified by the work I do on the releases my group makes. But P2P doesn’t have to do that work because it is already done – but thats just my view. I don’t think that P2P or torrents will ever stop getting it’s releases from the Scene, so I feel the war is pointless. In my opinion, if a known torrent group is operating , the topsites should (and do) make a group ban on that particular group, but not all sites adhere to this – due to no-one actually knowing how many sites there really are in the world.
Most file-sharers don’t hear accurate information about the Scene because good sources are few and far between. Do you have anything further to tell us about this fascinating subject?
No matter how hard the Feds try to stop the scene there are always people smarter than them out there. What they should be doing is leaving us to it and catching pedophiles, rapists and psychopathic killers rather than wasting resources on a few geeks.
P2P and torrents seem to be pushing the true scene further and further underground and in my opinion, this is a good thing. The scene lamer colo[cation] ass bandits (colo sceners) as I like to call them, can take the heat – at the end of the day they don’t have the physical access to the machines that we the true sceners do – to pull the plug or smash the hard drive if it becomes too hot!!
The scene spreads deep into businesses, software houses, record companies, cinema owners, application houses and websites and I think once you start to uncover it, it starts to become a big tangled mess (same as the internet really!). As it evolves – as all things do – i’m sure that it will become more secure and disappear deeper into the underground.
Do you have one final message for our readers?
Yes! About people who sell the warez that we release; This is WRONG and should never be done!
Thank you for taking the time to speak to TorrentFreak. Stay safe.