How the Pirates Stole Christmas

A good couple years ago I used to know some people who were involved in the whole, internet downloading scene. The guy I knew was pretty low down but through him (and since him, through my own research and interest in the subject) I have gained a fairly decent image of how your Handicam version of Avatar gets to you. I've asked a couple people and they said an article about this would be interesting, so in the interest of pandering to the 2 people who read my blarrrgh, here’s some info about some pretty rad guys.

I'd just like to preface this by saying most of the info within (if not all by now) is easily found on the net. Despite some myths and what you may first thing, the scene is fairly open and transparent.

The Scene has been around for as long as there have been ways to distribute digital information to and from people. With odd naming schemes and bizarre collections of rules and regulations they can seem a scary, sometimes evil group of shady people, out to ruin movies and music for us all.In order to really understand what the scene is and what it does we're going to go back to the 1980s. It was here that the beginnings of what would become the scene formed. Groups of young talented coders would crack the security on games and later applications; upload them to a BBS (a primitive version of a web forum) for all to download for free.

At the time there were no rules and no real information for anyone outside of the scene, only the included nfo file (an antiquated file type that is underused now, but is still used for traditional reasons in the scene), which often included stunning ASCII artwork. Also routinely included would be midi files or artwork.It was a much more innocent time, games and apps were traded freely, there was no formal structure and groups ran wild. Slowly however the scene became more organized, rules were drafted and eventually hard Communities were established. Essentially there is one community per "thing" you can imagine downloading, from the Scanner groups, uploading comic pages, to Movie groups. Each community has its own set of rules and regulations both to protect them and to ensure quality releases. As bizarre as it may seem there actually exists committees and tribunals for the sole purpose of working out these rules and declaring releases good or "nuked" (Nuked meaning its trash or breaks one of the rules somehow).

Eventually of course the scene caught the eye of the FBI and other law enforcement and in a series of devastating raids was cut down. Many of the more prominent groups were targeted and taken out. People being People though, the scene quickly grew back to its original size and then some, however the scars from those raids still show, with the scene being much more secretive now than it used to be.

UPDATE: I'll just add everything here, its not a very long update so no point adding another post when there's no point.

Now, the scene is actually also split up into different mediums too. Most of the higher up groups belong to what they see as the true Scene, a series of secert high speed websites (known as TopSites) where files are uploaded and downloaded on a kind of novel credits system, where every megabyte you uploaded allows you to download 3.

"below" these are a series of less elitist groups, refereed to usually as P2P groups, due to the medium of their releases. Occasionally a group will be found of either leaking Scene releases to the P2P groups or even copying releases wholesale. This usually results in humiliation for the group in question. Why a group would leak something varies from group to group, it can range from simply not agreeing with the Scene rules to antagonism between groups.

There are other, less well understood and published groups, such as groups that post only to Rapidshare and the like. These fit somewhere in the P2P groups depending on who you ask.

As you can see, the medium that you download with is tied to where you stand on the hierarchy, with P2P being the worst and the elite TopSites being the best. Your average downloader will never see a TopSite their entire life (I certainly haven't, only in screenshots) and will probably not even know they exist. This ties in with the community, allowing those on the inside to (at least feel) they are superior to others.

And thats pretty much all I can think of writing. If you have any more questions I'll try and answer them in the comments.

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