02 January 2005

The Shadow Internet part IV: Behind the Scene

From Wired.com, by contributing editor Jeff Howe (jeffhowe@wiredmag.com).

Call it trickle-down file-sharing. The goods - a game, movie, song, or other piece of copyrighted media fall into an insider's hands. Then it's only a matter of hours before a drop becomes a tidal wave.

- Erik Malinowski

1. THE INSIDER
Industry and theater employees run their own straight-to-video operations. Hackers looking for prerelease videogames target company servers. And before that long-awaited CD hits Amazon.com, moles inside disc-stamping plants have already got a copy.

2. THE PACKAGER
The pirated goods are passed on to a release group. These groups take multi-gigabyte movie files and squeeze them down for easy online trading.

3. THE DISTRIBUTOR
Release groups are known to have exclusive relationships with certain so-called topsites. These are the highly secretive sites at the top of the distribution pyramid. When a topsite operator drops a file, the avalanche begins.

4. THE COURIERS
Alerted by release groups, worker bees spring into action, copying and transferring files from the topsites to lower-level dump sites, and then from there to P2P networks like Kazaa and Morpheus. For the couriers, the payoff is props from their peers and credits redeemable for goods on upper levels of the pyramid.

5. THE PUBLIC
After the file is copied thousands of times the P2P networks saturate, allowing casual file-traders easy access to the newest movies, music, and videogames.
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