The Shadow Internet

prathapml

Mjölnir
[OP]
Regulars
Aug 27, 2004
819
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Bangalore
Source: Wired.com
The Shadow Internet


They start with a single stolen file and pump out bootleg games and movies by the millions. Inside the pirate networks that are terrorizing the entertainment business.

Just over a year ago, a hacker penetrated the corporate servers at Valve, the game company behind the popular first-person shooter Half-Life. He came away with a beta version of Half-Life 2. \"We heard about it,\" says 23-year-old Frank, a well-connected media pirate. \"Everyone thought it would get bootlegged in Europe.\" Instead, the hacker gave the source code to Frank - it turned out that he was a friend of a friend - so that Frank could give Half-Life 2 to the world. \"I was like, 'Let's do this thing, yo!'\" he says. \"I put it on Anathema. After that, it was all over.\"

Anathema is a so-called topsite, one of 30 or so underground, highly secretive servers where nearly all of the unlicensed music, movies, and videogames available on the Internet originate. Outside of a pirate elite and the Feds who track them, few know that topsites exist. Even fewer can log in.

Within minutes of appearing on Anathema, Half-Life 2 spread. One file became 30 files became 3,000 files became 300,000 files as Valve stood helplessly by watching its big Christmas blockbuster turn into a lump of coal. The damage was irreversible - the horse was out of the barn, the county, and the state. The original Half-Life has sold more than 10 million games and expansion packs since its late 1998 release. Half-Life 2's official release finally happened in November, after almost a year of reprogramming.

When Frank (who, like all the pirates interviewed for this article, is identified by a pseudonym) posted the Half-Life 2 code to Anathema, he tapped an international network of people dedicated to propagating stolen files as widely and quickly as possible.

It's all a big game and, to hear Frank and others talk about \"the scene,\" fantastic fun. Whoever transfers the most files to the most sites in the least amount of time wins. There are elaborate rules, with prizes in the offing and reputations at stake. Topsites like Anathema are at the apex. Once a file is posted to a topsite, it starts a rapid descent through wider and wider levels of an invisible network, multiplying exponentially along the way. At each step, more and more pirates pitch in to keep the avalanche tumbling downward. Finally, thousands, perhaps millions, of copies - all the progeny of that original file - spill into the public peer-to-peer networks: Kazaa, LimeWire, Morpheus. Without this duplication and distribution structure providing content, the P2P networks would run dry. (BitTorrent, a faster and more efficient type of P2P file-sharing, is an exception. But at present there are far fewer BitTorrent users.)

It's a commonly held belief that P2P is about sharing files. It's an appealing, democratic notion: Consumers rip the movies and music they buy and post them online. But that's not quite how it works.

In reality, the number of files on the Net ripped from store-bought CDs, DVDs, and videogames is statistically negligible. People don't share what they buy; they share what is already being shared - the countless descendants of a single \"Adam and Eve\" file. Even this is probably stolen; pirates have infiltrated the entertainment industry and usually obtain and rip content long before the public ever has a chance to buy it.

The whole shebang - the topsites, the pyramid, and the P2P networks girding it all together - is not about trading or sharing at all. It's a broadcast system. It takes a signal, the new U2 single, say, and broadcasts it around the world. The pirate pyramid is a perfect amplifier. The signal becomes more robust at every descending level, until it gets down to the P2P networks, by which time it can be received by anyone capable of typing \"U2\" into a search engine.[/b]

Was an interesting read.... Click above link to read full article.
 
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