To Hollywood executives, he's public enemy number one. To film fans around the world, he's a modern-day Robin Hood. As the internet's most prolific pirate makes his 1,000th illegal film download available to the masses, Tim Walker investigates the mysterious figure known only as aXXo
At 8.40am on Monday 15 December, a new post appeared on an internet forum called the Darkside Release Group. "Darkside_RG" is a clearing house for internet pirates, a site dedicated to the online redistribution of movies, music and videogames. Its members happily spend their days sharing and discussing their ill-begotten booty on the site's many message boards.
The post in question contained a BitTorrent file – the most widespread and efficient filesharing method on the web – containing an illicit copy of a second-rate Kiefer Sutherland horror film called Mirrors. Though the mainstream media ignored it, this was a landmark moment for millions of filesharers worldwide: the 1,000th movie uploaded by aXXo, the internet's most popular and enduring pirate. If you already know his name, chances are you've been doing something illegal.