Skip to main content

WTF is Scene

ยท 13 min read
xuac

The Scene aka The Warez Scene is an secretive worldwide network of people who pirate copyright protected products like dvd's, movies, games, software etc. Warez refers primarily to copyrighted material pirated in violation of its copyright license and not to commercial for-profit software counterfeiting.

First warez is released by release groups. They copy a dvd or break the security of the copyrighted material, and will make it available for other people, as a so called "release." When these release groups publish a release it will be uploaded to very fast private ftp-servers.

The speed of this worldwide network is astonishing. Within minutes a release can be copied to hundreds of other FTP servers. Within an hour, it's available on thousands of sites and FXP boards. Within a day or two it's available on newsgroups, irc and in the end, on P2P-networks.

It's not all one big happy family. The warez scene consists of several layers.

HIERARCHY

Not all these 'layers' are considered as a part of the scene by everyone. In fact, the release groups and the people on the topsites hate these other groups. The reason for this is that they bring the scene in danger. The "sceners" want to keep the releases for a limited amount of people.

We'll start at the top and work our way down.

THE PEOPLE

There are basically three ranks in site trading: site-ops, affiliates and racers.

SITE-OPS (SITE-OPERATORS)

These are the administrators. One of them is often the supplier of the site, another the person who found the supplier. Others will be friends and people involved in the scene.

One or more of the site-ops will be the nuker. It is his job to nuke any releases that are old or fake.

AFFILIATES

They are the release groups who post their releases there right after they are finished.

RACERS

Racers usually have access to a number of sites and will use FXP to race releases between sites as soon as they're released. Using FXP for a release will gain credits. The race is to upload the most parts of the release at the fastest speed. Racing happens shortly after a release is finished.

THE SITES

These sites have very fast internet connections and huge hard disk drives. These sites are often hosted at schools, universities and workspaces. Fast connections mean a lot to some people.

The sites run a bot with various scripts installed. The bot will make an annoucement on an IRC channels when an upload is completed. It will also give race information for the site traders trying to send a release as quick as possible to another site. From which they earn credits. The more credits, the more one can download.

TOPSITES

Site trading is basically sending releases from one site to another. Release groups publish their releases on these sites, so they are the first stadium in the distribution of warez. From there on, a release will be spread all over the world.

FXP BOARDS

File eXchange Protocol (FXP) isn't an actual protocol, just a method of transfer making use of a vulnerability in FTP. It allows the transfer of files between two FTP servers. Rather than client-to-server, the tranfer becomes server-to-server. FXP usually allows very fast transfer speeds although it totally depends on the connection of the servers.

The FXP boards layer in the piracy food chain is quite unknown and therefore rather safe. Though the hackers' activities are illegal, and therefore dangerous. The members are a lot smarter and have a greater knowledge about computers and internet.

The boards usually don't work with a credit system. The board's members consist of scanners, hackers, and fillers. They each have their own tasks:

THE SCANNER

The Scanner's job is to scan IP ranges that have fast internet connections, like universities, companies, etc. They brute force passwords or scan for certain programs which contain bugs. The scanner will often use slow previously hacked computers for scanning (known as scanstros), using remote scan programs. Once the scanner gets the results, it is posted on the board. This is where the Hacker comes into play.

THE HACKER

Hackers break in to the computers listed by scanners using an exploit to get in via a program's bug. An exploit is a script which uses the bug to get in the computer (pubstro). When in, the hacker runs a rootkit. This rootkit is the server where other people can download from. Once the server is installed and working, the admin login details are posted on the FXP board.

Depending on the speed of the compromised computers' internet connection and the hard drive space, it will be used either by a filler or a scanner.

THE FILLER

Now if the server is fast enough and has enough hard drive space, it's the filler's job to "fill" it with the latest warez. The filler gets his warez from other FTP servers. People who are in sites and in FXP boards are considered corrupt, and if other sceners find out, they will be banned.

Once done filling, the filler goes back to the board and posts leech logins for all to use. Fillers try to post a release first. It's kinda like a race, who ever wins it get the most credit. The speed of these pubstros depend on how fast the computer is that they hacked.

PUB/PUBBING

Pubbing is not so important anymore nowadays. This scan-hack-fill method is from the old days when many university and business FTP servers had anonymous write access enabled on FTP servers.

So instead of breaking into a computer, they would scan for servers with write access to anonymous users, upload their warez and give the IP address to their friends. This was very popular but died out for obvious reasons.

Once found, a pub would be tagged by a folder with a special name. The idea was that if a pub was already "tagged" other pubbers would leave it alone. This apparently worked for a while, with people respecting other people's tags and leaving the pubs alone. But it certainly hasn't worked for a very long time.

A method against retagging is directory locking. This is used in pubbing to stop people who are not allowed to use the directory of the tagger and slowing the server down.

IRC TRADING

In general, these people tend to have a decent knowledge about computers and the internet. Warez channels are often run by people who have access to a fair amount of pirated material.

There are generally two types of these channels. These can often be sourced by people from FXP boards or bad sites.

First, there are user-to-user channels. They mainly use the IRC client's File Server function and some scripts to share their warez directly from their hard drives.

Then there are server-to-user channels. These are usually run by people who are into FXP boards or in the scene. They have fast access to new warez.

There is a limited amount of people allowed to download a release at once, so when a release is popular you are placed into a waiting line. That way good download speeds will be guaranteed.

NEWS GROUPS

When the internet was still young there were special interest groups that shared information and kept in touch by using a bulletin board type system. A while later, the users of certain news groups thought that this system would be ideal to share files with each other.

It's easy to access news groups but unless you are familiar with them, navigating and downloading files from the news groups takes more effort than P2P software. You can download from newsgroups using a news reader. There are also paid news servers, these are faster and can hold up the files longer than free news servers.

PEER-TO-PEER (P2P)

Users of P2P programs but also BitTorrent who share with each other. There seem to be two types of peer-to-peer users. The first are "kids" who leech some music now and then because they can't afford CD's. Second are the older P2P users who use P2P for downloading games, programs, movies, etc and also seed them.

In media, P2P users are being labeled as dangerous pirates. They are a lot easier to bust for the RIAA/FBI and there are quite some of them who are being sued by the RIAA. The level of security is very low, and it's easy to get access to all warez. This is why they endanger The Scene.

The download speeds are quite low since you download from other users. Most P2P users don't have a clue about what a long way a release has made untill it's available for download in P2P software.

A special kind of P2P system is BitTorrent. It is widely used and also fairly accessible, although it's rather insecure.

THE SCENE SYSTEM

The Scene isn't just a distribution network, it's far more than that. There are the Scene rules which are there to guarantee good quality releases. The Scene relies on strict release standards, or rules, which are written and signed by various warez groups.

COMMUNICATION

All site members are present in the site's IRC channel. These channels are mostly located on private or very secure IRC servers, and you'll need to connect via SSL. Apart from SSL there are more security measures.

You cannot just join the channel, you have to invite yourself, by using a command line when you are connected to the site. That way people who are not a member of the site, will not be able to join since it's secured with a password.

Second, the channels are often protected with addons which encrypt the messages in a channel. That way people who don't have the proper key, won't be able to read the messages. In that irc channel, the members and site-ops can talk to each other.

Also there is a site bot, which will make annoucements when a release group publishes a new release on the site, or a member starts to upload a release.

CREDIT SYSTEM

The site works with a credit system. Site-ops and affiliates are usually exempt from this system, they have a free leech account. This credit system works according to a ratio. When a member doesn't pass the minimum monthly required amount of upload, he'll automatically be removed.

Credits can be lost by uploading a bad release which gets nuked. Nuke multiplier affects the amount of lost credits.

AFFILIATES

Each affiliate has access to a private, hidden directory on the topsite. This directory is used for uploading new releases before they are made available to other users. When a new release has finished uploading on each of the group's sites, a command is executed to simultaneously copy it into a directory accessible by other users, and trigger an announcement in the topsite IRC channel. This command is called the PRE command. "To pre" refers to executing this command.

PRE releases may be also relayed to external channels to inform other users from FXP boards that a new release is available for racing.

RELEASE DATABASE

When groups PRE a release, the release will automatically be registered in the PRE database. This is huge database which contains all the releases ever released into The Scene. This release databases records release names, date & time, although attributes vary from database to database.

Release databases are maintained to provide release groups with a service for checking existing release titles, to avoid a dupe (duplicate).

Release databases are updated by automatic processes that either search selected topsites for new releases (spidering), or catch PRE release announcements from site IRC channels.

NUKES

If a group publishes a release which already has been released by another release group or is of bad quality, it's labled a dupe. Then the release will be nuked. This means that it's marked as a bad release and removed. Release groups try to avoid nukes, since this will give them a bad reputation. Except for dupe, releases can be nuked for other reasons too.

There are 2 types of nuke:

GLOBAL NUKE

Nuked because something is wrong with the release. If a group realises there is something wrong with a release, they can request a nuke.

Common nuke causes:

  • Sound errors
  • Freezing video
  • Dad rip
  • Dupe
  • Bad aspect ratio
  • Bad process of converting framerates
  • Interlaced
LOCAL NUKE

Individual sites nuke releases for breaking their rules, for example: dvd's subbed in languages other than english, camrip, lower bitrate, etc. So because there is nothing wrong with the release and are nuked locally, they can still be traded on other sites.

SCENE RULES

The scene rules are the standards for releasing warez. These standards are the minimum requirements for a release. The scene rules are defined by large and mature groups. In organized warez distribution, all releases must follow these standards to avoid nukes.

The committee usually cycles several drafts and finally decides which is best suited for the purpose, and then releases the draft for approval. Once the draft has been signed by several bigger groups, it becomes the new standard. There are separate standards for each category of releases.

Why these rules?

The scene rules may seem a little strict, but they certainly are not there to bother rippers. There are several reasons why these rules exist:

  • The rules enforce high quality releases only, so no worries about bad quality, error or other issues with the release.

  • You will always have a uncorrupt release. This means that you will have the exact same files on your computer, as the person who first ripped the movie and created the release.

  • The rules lead to a standarized way of sharing, which the user benefits from. You can recognize a good release and spare the inconvenience of poorly ripped movies by amatures. Also it's much easier to compare releases to eachother.

  • Scene releases always contain all the information about how it's ripped, what the quality is etc. This way you always know what you're downloading.

CONCLUSION

Security is an important issue in the scene. Since their activities are illegal the scene groups have to secure themselves, to be safe from the anti-piracy organisations and avoid being caught in a takedown.