Online movie piracy has largely enjoyed a fairly predictable structure during the last decade. New releases have generally hit the Internet on high-security ‘topsites’ first and then trickled down to become widely available on peer-to-peer networks. We now takes a look at a new wave of release groups who operate with a fresh and BitTorrent-powered philosophy.
In a nutshell, this is how online movie piracy has worked in recent times. Using their connections, so-called ‘Scene’ release groups – who inhabit secretive and highly exclusive servers, off limits to regular Internet users – obtain copies of freshly released movies. On their ‘topsites’ they share material with fairly close contacts for their own entertainment, usually along with strict instructions not to leak material to the outside world.
By now, everyone knows that the ‘Scene’ is just as leaky as the movie distribution model Hollywood would also like to protect, and within minutes their releases have begun to appear on peer-to-peer networks, especially BitTorrent. For those in the ‘Scene’ this is generally a huge disappointment. For millions of regular file-sharers, it’s a dream come true.
However, increasingly over the last few years, big movie releases have completely bypassed the usual routes to the Internet. In 2005, Star Wars Episode III appeared on the Internet to a fairly surprised ‘Scene’, which led to numerous groups ‘rebranding’ the release as their own, a ‘crime’ usually reserved for those lower down the pecking order.
And who can forget Wolverine? The leak of this unfinished ‘Workprint’ copy generated hundreds of mainstream news headlines. Did it come from the ‘Scene’? Absolutely not. It was leaked straight to the general Internet, bypassing the well-worn structure of the so-called ‘piracy pyramid’ altogether.
This phenomenon has been increasing rapidly, with some normally staunchly pro-Scene news outlets having to admit that times are changing. VCDQuality, a site which for years has been dedicated to reporting how quickly the ‘Scene’ releases movies onto the Internet, recently announced a significant change. They would now begin reporting when the new breed of releasers are first to introduce new movies to the Internet.
After all this time, the dedicated P2P release groups had finally been acknowledged. As can be seen here, their achievement list is growing with big movies and big releases. From Cams, through Telesyncs to DVD Screeners, it seems no format is escaping attention.
Following on from VCDQuality’s decision, a couple of weeks ago P2PElite was quietly launched. Its admin, KoOlWaReZ, told us that the site was designed and created to provide a home, profile and a central location for P2P release groups to get feedback, ratings, and interaction with the public on their releases.
While the site is still in development, the suggestion that release groups could interact with their audience is a major departure from the hide-away attitude demonstrated by ‘Scene’ groups.
Nevertheless, groups are indeed supporting the project. Among others, PrisM, iMAGiNE, Rx, FLAWL3SS, KiNGDOM, Noir, MAGNET and 420Demons (soon to be known as THC) are participating, names which will be familiar to huge numbers of BitTorrent users.
For Scene groups, leaks to BitTorrent and the wider Internet are the last thing they want. For the new wave of P2P release groups such as the above, this is the main aim.
We have managed to interview some Scene release group members before, so when we had the opportunity to speak with some straight-to-BitTorrent releasers, we jumped at the chance.
In the next part of this series we’ll look at the P2P release scene a little closer and chat with a couple of BitTorrent release groups to see what makes them tick.