Pronounced as “wä-rez”, the term describes commercial software, movies and games that has been modified by a cracker and made freely available to the public on the Internet. The word came from the word “wares” but, as with “phishing”, the hacker/cracker community altered the original word just enough to claim it as its own.
- How is it carried out?
- Who is responsible?
- What has been done?
- The present situation
- What remains to be done?
Crackers break the software's protection and then share illegal copies of the software. For example, whenever you buy an original game CD, a password is asked for before installation. The password is always provided in the game pack and is unique to each customer. This ensures that only that customer can enjoy the fruits of the hard-earned money he spent on the game. All the cracker does is edit the source code of the game such that you can download the entire version from the Internet and install it WITHOUT the password. Anyone in the world can do so for free. As the owner of a major gaming company, you would not like the thought of losing thousands of prospective customers, would you?
Broadly classified as “pirates”, groups of crackers make substantial profits by underselling software which many are unwilling to buy at retail price. It is estimated in China and Russia, organized groups of software pirates have illegally produced millions of copies of copyrighted software. If these were sold at retail, they would in total be worth several billions of dollars annually. Interestingly, the Russian government explicitly permits the copying of software when such software is not in the Russian language. Other than organized pirates, groups of high-school or undergraduate students are also guilty of this.
Warez does seem to be a problem only for major software companies, not for people who use the software and definitely not for the typical teen who does not get enough pocket money to buy an original game. In reality, warez is a problem to all who support it, risk using it or do not join the fight against it. Here are three simple reasons why:
- You never know whether your own software products are being used illegally and you are losing profits
- Warez download is punishable by the law and you could be subject to legal action and penalties for your own or your employees’ actions
- Warez software may sometimes include viruses or Trojan horses to cause serious damage to the naïve user or, at best, the software may simply not work.
Just because a lot of people do it does not make it legal and you will be punished if caught regardless of how many people escape.
There is nothing much you can do about the first scenario other than introduce strict regulations to monitor your employees actions and join anti-piracy campaigns to help the law. However, if you yourself are caught by the law downloading warez, a stiff penalty awaits. And, of course, no warranty comes with free software. You cannot call up the software company and ask them to compensate for any damages to your computer when you did not buy their product in the first place.
Speeding offers a similar analogy. Just because a lot of people do it does not make it legal and you will be punished if caught regardless of how many people escape. And even if you manage to evade the law, there is little to save you from a motor accident.
You have probably heard about the serious controversy over Napster and the free unlimited sharing of MP3 files. Napster arrived in 1999 and it allowed anyone to share .mp3 music files with anyone else who had Internet access. It became extremely easy to Copyright infringement became too easy and this made the music industry go on the offensive.
Business Software Alliance
The BSA serves as the official voice of the software industry. It is an international organization representing leading e-commerce and software developers in 65 countries around the world. So far, it has filed lawsuits against operators of Internet sites pirating software as well as shut down hundreds of other sites. In many cases, computers were confiscated, and fines were so severe that the operators are still paying settlements.
Warez Web sites cost software vendors about $11.8 billion in 2001.
According to the International Planning & Research Corporation, warez Web sites cost software vendors about $11.8 billion in 2001. “The most popular downloads at warez sites include applications from major vendors such as Microsoft, Symantec, Macromedia, and Adobe Systems. These software developers have joined forces with the Business Software Alliance (BSA) to successfully close a loophole in Internet law. Now, warez distributors cannot avoid legal prosecution even if they do not profit monetarily from their distributions.
At present, the BSA is actively working with law enforcement agencies to effectively bring more criminal cases against Internet pirates and curb copyright infringement. If you know of warez sites or other illegal activity, you can report piracy online or by calling 1-888-NO-PIRACY.
Napster has been finished off but software piracy lives on. Even amateur crackers can effortlessly use cracks, patches, keys, and key generators to unlock copyrighted software for use without having to pay a cent. This problem has been plaguing software authors for a long time. Originally, copyright infringement was carried out by groups who together bought one copy of the original software before copying it freely and illegally and distributing to each member. This has not stopped today but other methods of infringement like warez have helped to increase losses made by legitimate companies. Software developers spend enormous amounts of time and energy developing software only to have people steal it from them. The controversy surrounding Napster has been very well publicized worldwide but the equally damaging illegal use of business software has gotten much less attention than it deserves.
One may think that the shutting down of file sharing portals like Napster and Scour Exchange heralded the end of the file sharing era. However, this is far from true. On the contrary, programs like Gnutella, which do not rely on central servers are increasing in number. This is because it is a totally distributed network for information sharing. There is no central company or corporate entity as we call it to sue or fine and no server to shut down. No one is responsible for Gnutella.
BearShare is also file sharing program from FreePeers.com that is also based on Gnutella technology. BearShare is a simple, easy to use program combined with a powerful connection and search engine that provides access to thousands of different files.
Piracy can be dealt with if proper procedures are carried out.
Piracy can be dealt with if proper procedures are carried out, good management is maintained and employees are made aware of the legal issue. Employees must understand how crucial it is to stay legal. Managers must ensure that only legal software is purchased and used, and that any illegal software is disposed of at once. And, of course, the common man must buy original items to keep the economy alive.
Business Software Alliance, the leader in the anti-piracy effort.
Federation Against Software Theft
The Software & Information Industry Association's Anti-Piracy Division
What are Warez?