At the behest of Belgian authorities, two weeks ago police around Europe conduced coordinated raids on so-called Warez Scene topsites. Hailed as some of the most important raids of their type in recent memory, the action generated hundreds of headlines. But just how significant were the raids? To find out that, first we should look at how the Scene is organized.
In early September, police in more than a dozen countries around Europe coordinated to carry out raids against suspected file-sharing servers. The servers, ‘topsites’ in the so-called Warez Scene, were hit particularly hard.
A day later and using several Scene sources, we tried to piece together what had happened and which sites had been affected. Certain rumors that we were unable to confirm at the time, such as those suggesting that a UK topsite had been busted, appear to have been unfounded. It seems that servers did go down at times, but merely coincidentally or as a precaution.
While it’s proven immensely difficult to validate many of the tips we’ve received (as we’ve said before, reporting on The Scene is somewhat of a black art), some have proven very interesting. Right now we would like to share one in particular with you, which not only describes in part how the Scene is structured but also goes some way to illustrating just how important these raids were.
Structure – How the Scene selects which sites are the best in the world
- The Scene consists of 8 ranked trading groups. The members of these groups meet online every few months and take a vote on which sites should be considered to be the best in the world. Speed, routing, support on races, release group affiliates and user databases are taken into account
- A a total of 27 sites leading sites are chosen which are now deemed ‘globally ranked’
How the globally ranked sites are organized
- The ranking system is ordered like a pyramid, with the cream at the top
- 2 sites are ranked 3.0 (top of the pyramid), 3 sites are ranked 2.5, 4 sites are ranked 2.0, 5 sites are ranked 1.5, 6 sites are ranked 1.0 and 7 sites are ranked 0.5
- Total sites globally ranked: 27
Traders are Scene members who move files around the 27 globally ranked sites and others in the Scene. They are motivated to do so by winning points. In order for a trader to become ‘globally ranked’ he or she needs to be in the top 20 uploaders overall. Their point rewards for positioning in this list work as follows:
Deciding the best traders in the world
All points accrued are placed in a global ranking chart for measuring which trader is the best each week. The winner is naturally the one with the most points
The European Scene raids and how this affects trading and structure
We mentioned several topsites in our earlier article which were busted or otherwise affected by the raids. At the time we redacted some site names to keep our sources happy but we are now able to publish most of them. Group affiliates are reported but unconfirmed.
Confirmed as busted, BAR was one of the top two sites in the Scene with a ranking of 3.0. As we’ve seen from the explanation above, it’s impossible for a site to be more important than this.
Groups affils: MARVEL, EPTiSO, RELOADED, Clue, ESPiSE, DASH, Metis, REV0, CBGB, XII, Heirloom
A highly respected 2.5 site which was ranked 3.0 for a long time. One of the five most important sites in the Scene. Without being overly specific, police managed to obtain certain hardware connected to the site but completely missed other more crucial elements. Site staff have made announcements which stated that tight security and encryption on the site meant that users should be fine.
Group affils: Refined, FQM, CiNEFiLE, SPARE, Hatred, SUBMERGE, Felon, ALLIANCE, Pellucida, Sinners, MACRO
DLR is one of the sites we mentioned but not by name in our earlier article. DLR is/was ranked as 2.5, meaning that along with LOST it is one of the top 5 most important sites in the Scene. While the ISP where DLR was hosted was visited by the police, our sources believe that DLR’s server was missed and may not even have been the prime target. As of last week, no announcement had been made about the site’s future.
SC is proving a very difficult site to find information on. Ranked as 2.0 and therefore one of the nine most important in the Scene, the site had some very high profile affiliate groups. The site appears to have been small, but particularly elite.
Group affils: Hubris, RELOADED, Jumanji, MPTDVD, Magnitude, DAGGER, ETHOS, Clue, AAOCG
Still unamed site, Italy
We mentioned another European site in our earlier article as being permanently down, and we can now reveal that site was in Italy. Although we are told it is very important, we have been unable to find out its ranking in order to show its significance.
While there is much talk of the piracy pyramid (in its wider sense, with the Scene at the top and general file sharing and BitTorrent-type activities providing the broad base) the Scene also has a pyramid structure too, at least in terms of kudos. As can be seen by the above, these raids clearly hit some very important sites at the top of that pyramid.
An interesting piece of information came out during the last few days. According to authorities speaking on the matter this week, they have not infiltrated the Scene themselves, but have instead recruited some high-level trusted informers in the Scene. There can be little doubt that on some level at least, these claims must be true. Finding and ejecting those individuals will be a top priority for the Scene.
While it’s too early to say how things might recover in the longer term, one thing is certain. Raids like this in the past have disrupted but never stopped the Scene. And, as we highlighted in our earlier article, P2P release groups are starting to show their significance.
One thing is for sure. Virtually all movies, music, software and games will continue to be pirated and no one will have any problem at all putting their hands on them. To most on the Internet, nothing will have changed.