update: I have posted a follow-up update to this post, but this post provides key background.
warning: this post uses a bunch of P2P jargon…get things straight: P2P, file sharing, BitTorrent and another, rip, MPAA, RIAA, BitTorrent tracker.
The nickname aXXo is renowned in the world of BitTorrent downloaders. He (assuming he’s a ‘he’) uploads trackers for popular movies on a regular basis, which most of the time means a small batch every few days. According to a statistic sited on the blog TorrentFreak, over one million users download movie rips from aXXo trackers every month. About a year ago aXXo packed it in for a while after someone set up a site impersonating him in order to make some money off of his name and reputation. The site was later shut down, since the premise was to offer his torrents and he had stopped producing new ones. Less than a month ago he removed his torrents from The Pirate Bay, apparently after a falling out over ‘comment abuse’ that he wanted the site to mitigate – which they had not. His actions were immediate news for some. More recently there’s been a follow-up with a little clarification.
I got the news from Digg, where the comments had erupted into a minor frenzy. This is where the ironic hilarity comes in for me. Apparently, the comment abuse was targeting him as a fraud because he takes ‘scene’ rips and re-releases them on The Pirate Bay. The Scene refers to the various private tracker communities/forums that rip and share movies within their respective communities. The Pirate bay is a public tracker on the other hand, so downloaders don’t need to be members or have accounts and anyone can participate – an open as opposed to closed community. So, aXXo was getting blasted for this and there’s speculation that it was MPAA plants writing the comments. The same arguments spilled over onto the Digg comment board as well.
What gets me, are comments like “axxxo sucks anyway. stealing sources. claiming dvdscr and dvdrips. get scene releases!” or “Good, aXXo is some kiddie who just steals and re-encodes scene rips” or “aXXo’s rips are shit quality. There are plenty of other rippers that can beat him” or “Wow someone tells the truth about aXXo steals releases and credits them as his own and he cries about it?” or this rant: “Its been common knowledge for quite awhile that aXXo has been using scene releases as his own. I feel for the punters but aXXo needs to go down for ripping off the scene. I hope they find out who he is and cut his topsite access and expell him from the scene for good.”
In case you were wondering, when these posters refer to ‘stealing’ they don’t mean from the production company that made the movie, they mean from the scene community that originally ripped the movie and released it on a private tracker site… and the ‘credit’ they say aXXo doesn’t give is to the particular scene group that ripped it. There are people out there who are actually angry that a guy isn’t being credited for ripping a movie and uploading it to others… but they’re not worried about the monetary credit given to the movie house. Whatever your take on movie/music file sharing, it’s pretty absurd to think it’s outrageous that the movie ripper isn’t getting his due.
You may be thinking, ‘what’s the significance of aXXo or these so called scene groups?’ MPAA-hired agents became notorious for flooding the P2P networks with bogus material using file names that mimic the aXXo or other dedicated rippers’ monikers. Virus and malware purveyors also employed this technique, likely the source of the idea for the MPAA rent-a-cyber-cops. The bad file would contain some error that would render the file unusable, but that would only be discovered after spending time downloading the entire thing and, using BitTorrent, helping others to download it as well. In downloading it, you would also have to connect directly to a copyright security firm’s computer, exposing your IP address holder to the dreaded copyright infringement letter threatening legal action.
Within a closed community of peers such as private tracker sites, it’s a little easier to monitor the members as their actions are tracked, but to combat this type of behavior by the MPAA and RIAA on public tracker sites such as The Pirate Bay, commenting ability as well as a reporting system are employed. In this way, a bad torrent can be identified and removed rather than let to sit and accumulate victims. aXXo announced a set format for his downloads which mad it harder to impersonate and since he was the original seeder of his torrents, one was assured that the downloads offered under his account were legitimate.
This is why people have become so devoted to him. Private trackers often require community members to keep up a certain downloading pace and maintain a given share ratio. The public trackers don’t have these same restrictions. Therefore, casual downloaders, who would get ejected from a private tracker group for insufficient activity like the idea that there’s place where they can find things to download that are of a know quality and essentially guaranteed to be playable and free from virus or malware inclusion. In fact, I’d say that he’s doing the scene a bit of a favor, since they’d have a terrible time if all of these casual users were registering with the private tracker sites only to be unproductive and get booted. It would drive the average productivity of the group down in the end.