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The Warez scene, mostly referred to as The Scene (often capitalized), is an underground community of people that specialize in the distribution of copyrighted material, including television shows and series, movies, music, music videos, games (all platforms), applications (all platforms), ebooks, and pornography. The Scene itself is meant to be hidden from the public, only being shared between the groups. However, as files were leaked straight from the beginning, and the popularity of the files outside The Scene started growing, unknown individuals from The Scene itself started leaking the files and uploading them to filehosts, torrents and ed2k.
The Scene has no central leadership, or location, or other conventional distinguishing marks of an organization. The groups themselves create a ruleset for each Scene category (for example MP3 or TV) that then becomes the active rules for encoding such material. The groups must follow all these rules when uploading material, and if their release has a technical error or breaks a rule in this ruleset, other groups may "nuke" their release. Groups are in constant competition to get releases up as fast as possible, even though there are no real "rewards" for their work (that is, except for access to The Scene). These rulesets include a rigid set of rules that warez groups (grps) must follow in releasing and managing material. First appearing around the time of BBSes, The Scene primarily relates to a community of people dealing with and distributing media content for which special skills and advanced software are required.
The Warez scene started emerging in the 1970s, it was used by predecessors of cracking and reverse engineering groups. Their work was made available on privately run BBSes. The first BBSes were located in the USA, but similar boards started appearing in Canada, the UK, Australia and mainland Europe. At the time setting up a machine capable of distributing data was not a trivial matter and required a certain amount of technical skill. The reason it was usually done was for technical challenge. The BBS systems typically hosted several megabytes of material. The best boards had multiple phone lines and up to one hundred megabytes of storage space, which was very expensive at the time. Releases were mostly games and later applications.
As the world of software development evolved to counter the distribution of material and as the software and hardware needed for distribution became readily available to anyone, The Scene adapted to the changes and turned from simple distribution to actual cracking of the protections and non-commercial reverse engineering. As many groups of people who wanted to do this emerged, a requirement for promotion of individual groups became evident, which prompted the evolution of the Artscene, which specialized in the creation of graphical art associated with individual groups. The groups would promote their abilities with ever more sophisticated and advanced software, graphical art and later also music (Demoscene).
The subcommunities (artscene, demoscene, etc.), which had nothing inherently illegal with them, eventually branched off. Also, the programs containing the group promotional material, that is coding/graphical/musical presentations evolved to become separate programs distributed through The Scene and were nicknamed Intros and later Cracktros.
When releasing material, the groups must first encode properly so as not to be "nuked." After they encode, they upload their files to a 'topsite' (a large FTP server where all the files are spread). When the upload is complete, they execute a command that causes the name and category of the release to be announced in the topsite's IRC (Internet Relay Chat). These days new releases are also announced 0sec (meaning seconds to minutes after official scene pre) on various public websites. This action is called 'preing' (or in short, 'pre') a release. Once this is done, all other releases for the same material are nuked as 'dupes' (duplicates). However, if there is a technical error or an error breaking the ruleset for the category, the original 'pre'd' release will be nuked for the mistake. Other groups then encode the same material and release it with a 'PROPER' tag in the filename. The same group can also re-encode, in which their new release is marked as 'REPACK' or (less commonly) 'RERIP'. The FTP server and this IRC are hidden, and closed for the public. However, unknown individuals have made their own IRCs that they then have opened to the public, which is how "PreDB" ('pre'-databases) on the Web have entered.
Each release in the Scene consists of a folder containing the material (often split into .rar parts), plus an .NFO and .SFV file. The NFO is a text file which has essential information about the file(s) encoded, including a reason for the nuke if the file is a 'PROPER' or 'REPACK' release. In more detailed examples, the NFO may contain a group's mission statement, recruitment requirements, greetings and occasionally contact info; many groups having a standard ascii art template for the file---the most prolific of them exhibiting more elaborate artistic examples. The SFV file is used to ensure that the .rar or .mp3 files of a release are working properly and have not been damaged or tampered with, via the use of checksums. This is typically done with the aid of a small, external executable (e.g. QuickSFV or SFV Checker). A failure to include an .NFO or .SFV file in the release will generally result in a nuke as these are essential components of the standard which the Scene adheres to.
Cracking has been the core element of The Scene since its beginning. This part of The Scene community specializes in the creation of software cracks and keygens. The challenge of cracking and reverse engineering complicated software is what makes it such an attraction. The game cracking group SKIDROW described it as follows in one of their NFO files:
Keep in mind we do all this, because we can and because we like the trilling excitement of winning over the other competing groups. We absolutely don't do all these releases, to please the general user that rather want to spend their cash on updating to the latest hardware, and see's the scene releases as a source to play all these games for free. Enjoy playing and remember if you like it, support the developer!
We do this just for FUN. We are against any profit or commercialisation of piracy. We do not spread any release, others do that. In fact, we BUY all our own games with our own hard earned and worked for efforts. Which is from our own real life non-scene jobs. As we love game originals. Nothing beats a quality original. "If you like this game, BUY it. We did!"