Definitions

warez d00dz

Warez

"Warez" refers primarily to copyrighted works traded in violation of copyright law. The term generally refers to illegal releases by organized groups, as opposed to peer-to-peer file sharing between friends or large groups of people with similar interest using a darknet. It usually does not refer to commercial for-profit software counterfeiting. This term was initially coined by members of the various computer underground circles, but has since become commonplace among Internet users and the mass media.

Etymology

One possible origin of the word "warez" is from the Middle English term "wares", which refers to any type of manufactured or farm-grown goods. Before the Internet was available, users of dial-up bulletin board systems coined the term to indicate more than one piece of software. "Software" is non-count noun, so it was natural to use a count noun to differentiate between one "ware" (one piece of software) and multiple "warez" (multiple pieces of software). Due to the relatively large amounts of time needed to transfer large files over slow telephone modems and bulletin board systems (BBSes), software exchangers would typically ask for one-for-one trades from their colleagues (sometimes file for file, but more typically byte for byte). While the 'cost' of each byte transfer might have been equal, or 1:1, the desireability of the software (quality, orgin, legality, rarity, privacy) was not, prompting exhangers to first request to see what warez were available on a particular server before submitting their own 'prized warez', especially on a typical premium server with a 3:1 or 10:1 transfer ratio. Hence, software exchangers adopted a merchant-like attitude with their software collection(s) and the term "warez" became apt. Phrases that used the term comically in a Middle English context, such as, "Excuse me, kind sir. May I see your warez?" were common. If this origin holds, then 'warez' came directly from Middle English 'wares', perhaps gaining popularity because if its similarity to 'software'.

It's also possible that 'warez' was derived by an example of folk etymology, where multiple software was incorrectly referred to as 'softwares', and a simple abbreviation of softwares gives wares. If this was the case, the connection to the word, and meaning, of Middle English "wares", was noticed after the term had gained popularity. During the bulletin board era, there was a proliferation of terms used to describe broad classes of software, derived from the word 'software' itself, (freeware, shareware, postcardware, donateware, malware, annoyware), these became collectively referred to as "wares", meaing something more akin to 'classes of software' rather than 'multiple pieces of software'. The metaphor of Middle English traders exchanging their "wares" may have helped strengthen popularity of this terminology for software collectors, after the fact.

The fact is, each proposed etymology above is a postulation, and therefore an example of false etymology, as there is no documentation available at this time that clearly describes how the word use actually arose.

In either case, the transition from 'wares' to 'warez' is more clear. It was common at that time, for reasons that may have been purely cultural in the emerging unencrypyted relay mail network, or may have been deliberate in order to evade detection by BBS text filters, for BBSers to swap letters and numbers and symbols into words, such as replacing 'E' with '3', 'l' with '1', 'o' with '0' (zero), or 'S' with 'Z' or '$' (see leetspeek). Hence "warez", and thus: wares (Middle English) -> hardware (1515) -> computer hardware (1947) -> software/hardware (1960) -> shareware/donateware/freeware/etc -> 'wares -> wares -> warez or war3z.

Warez is used most commonly as a noun: "My neighbour downloaded 10 gigabytes of warez yesterday"; or as an adjective "Do you know any good warez sites?"; but has also been used as a verb: "The new Windows was warezed a month before the company officially released it". The collection of warez groups is referred to globally as the "warez scene" or more ambiguously "The Scene".

Warez distribution

Warez is often distributed outside of The Scene (a collection of warez groups) by Torrents (files including tracker info, piece size, uncompressed file size, comments, and vary in size from 1k, to 400k.) uploaded to a popular P2P website by an associate or friend of the cracker or cracking crew. An nfo or FILE ID.DIZ is often made to promote who created the release. It is then leeched (downloaded) by users of the Tracker and spread to other sharing sites using P2P, or other sources such as Newsgroups. From there, it can be downloaded by millions of users all over the world. Often, one release is duplicated, renamed, then re-uploaded to different sites so that eventually, it can become impossible to trace the original file. In the early 1990s, warez were often traded on cassette tapes with different groups and published on bulletin boards that had a warez section.

Rise of software piracy

Piracy has been an ongoing phenomenon that started when high quality, commercially produced software was released for sale. Whether the medium was cassette tape or floppy disk, software pirates found a way to duplicate the software and spread it without the permission of the maker. Thriving pirate communities were built around the Apple II, Commodore 64, the Atari 400 and Atari 800 line, the ZX Spectrum, the Amiga, and the Atari ST, among other personal computers. Entire networks of BBSes sprang up to traffic illegal software from one user to the next. Machines like the Amiga and the Commodore 64 had an international pirate network, through which software not available on one continent would eventually make its way to every region via bulletin board systems.

It was also quite common in the 1980s to use physical floppy disks and the postal service for spreading software, in an activity known as mail trading. Particularly widespread in continental Europe, mail trading was even used by many of the leading cracker groups as their primary channel of interaction. Software piracy via mail trading was also the most common means for many computer hobbyists in the Eastern bloc countries to receive new Western software for their computers.

Copy protection schemes for the early systems were designed to defeat the casual pirate, as "crackers" would typically release a pirated game to the pirate "community" the day they were earmarked for market.

A famous event in the history of software piracy policy was an open letter written by Bill Gates of Microsoft, dated February 3, 1976, in which he argued that the quality of available software would increase if software piracy was less prevalent. However, until the early 1990s, software piracy was not yet considered a serious problem by most people. In 1992, the Software Publishers Association began to battle against software piracy, with its promotional video "Don't Copy That Floppy". It and the Business Software Alliance have remained the most active anti-piracy organizations worldwide, although to compensate for extensive growth in recent years, they have gained the assistance of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), as well as American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI).

Today most warez files are distributed to the public via bittorrent and Rapidshare. Some of the most popular software companies that are being targeted are Adobe, Microsoft, Nero, Apple, Dreamworks, and Autodesk, to name a few. To reduce the spread of pirating, some companies have hired people to release "fake" torrents, which look real and are meant to be downloaded, but while downloading the individual does not realize that the company that owns the software has received his IP address. They will then contact his/her ISP, and further legal action may be taken from the company/ISP.

Causes that have accelerated its growth

In the late 1990s, computers became more popular. This was largely attributed to Microsoft and the release of Windows 95, which made using an IBM PC compatible computer much easier for home users. Windows 95 became so popular that in developed countries nearly every middle-class household had at least one computer. Similar to televisions and telephones, computers became a necessity to every person in the information age. As the use of computers increased, so had software and cyber crimes.

In the mid-1990s, the average Internet user was still on dial-up, with average speed ranging between 28.8 and 33.6 kbit/s. If one wished to download a piece of software, which could run about 200 MB, the download time could be longer than one day, depending on network traffic, the Internet Service Provider, and the server. Around 1997, broadband began to gain popularity due to its greatly increased network speeds. As "large-sized file transfer" problems became less severe, warez became more widespread and began to affect large software files like animations and movies.

In the past, files were distributed by point-to-point technology: with a central uploader distributing files to downloaders. With these systems, a large number of downloaders for a popular file uses an increasingly larger amount of bandwidth. If there are too many downloads, the server can become unavailable. The opposite is true for peer-to-peer networking; the more downloaders the faster the file distribution is. With swarming technology as implemented in file sharing systems like eDonkey2000 or BitTorrent, downloaders help the uploader by picking up some of its uploading responsibilities. In addition there are many sites with links to Rapidshare and other sites where you can upload files attribute to the growing amount of warez.

Distribution via compromised FTP servers

Prior to the development of modern peer-to-peer sharing systems and home broadband service, sharing warez sometimes involved warez groups scanning the Internet for weakly secured computer systems with high-speed connections. These weakly secured systems would be compromised by exploiting the poor FTP security, creating a special directory on the server with an unassuming name to contain the illegal content.

A common mistake of early FTP administrators was to permit a directory named /incoming that allows full read and write access by external users, but the files themselves in /incoming were hidden. By creating a directory inside /incoming, this hidden directory would then allow normal file viewing. Users of the compromised site would be directed to login and go to a location such as /incoming/data/warez to find the warez content. Messages could be left for other warez users by uploading a plain text file with the message inside.

These hackers would also use known software bugs to illicitly gain full administrative remote control over a computer, and install a hidden FTP service to host their warez. This FTP service was usually running on an unusual port number, or with a non-anonymous login name like "login: warez / Password: warez" to help prevent discovery by legitimate users. Information about this compromised system would then be distributed to a select group of people who were part of the warez scene.

Example list of warez FTP servers, from a Jan 27 1997 usenet post:

  • 208.130.11.215 /incoming

(Generic unsecured FTP server, with anonymous read and write access to everything.)

  • 141.223.1.1 /pub/X11/R6contrib/incoming/pixmap.me/netscape2.zip/DiM.zip/

(Discovery of poor security in a deeply pathed FTP location. The warez site uses directories named so as to look like unimportant files.)

  • 128.118.27.44 / l&p=warez

(Hacked server running hacker-controlled FTP service, with non-anonymous access. Login name: warez, password: warez)

  • 204.181.57.2 port 999 l/p warez

(Hacked server running hacker-controlled FTP service, on a non-standard FTP port and non-anonymous login)

It was important for warez group members to regulate who had access to these compromised FTP servers, to keep the network bandwidth usage low. A site that suddenly became very popular would be noticed by the real owners of the equipment due to their business systems having become slow or low on disk space, resulting in an investigation of system usage which inevitably results in discovery and removal of the warez, and tightening of the site security.

Automated warez distribution via IRC robots

As the ability to compromise and attain full remote control of business servers became more developed, the warez groups would hack a server and install an IRC robot on the compromised systems alongside the FTP service, or the IRC robot would provide file sharing directly by itself. This software would intelligently regulate access to the illicit data by using file queues to limit bandwidth usage, or by only running during off-hours overnight when the business owning the compromised hardware was closed for the day.

In order to advertise the existence of the compromised site, the IRC software would join public IRC #Warez channels as a bot and post into the channel with occasional status messages every few minutes, providing information about how many people are logged in to the warez host, how many files are currently being downloaded, what the upload/download ratio is (to force users into contributing data of their own before they can download), which warez distributor is running the bot, and other status information.

Note that this functionality still exists and can still be found on IRC #warez channels, as an alternative to the modern and streamlined P2P distribution systems. The opportunity to find and compromise poorly secured systems on which to create an illicit warez distribution site has only increased, with the popular use of broadband service by home users who may not fully understand the security implications of having their home computer always turned on and connected to the Internet.

Types of warez

There is generally a distinction made between different sub-types of warez. The unusual spellings shown here were commonly used as directory names within a compromised server, to organize the files rather than having them all thrown together in a single random collection:

  • 0-day warez (pronounced as zero day warez sometimes as "0 days") - This refers to any copyrighted work that has been released the same day as the original product, or sometimes even before. It was considered a mark of skill among warez distro groups to crack and distribute a program on the same day of its commercial release.
  • Apps / Appz - Applications: Generally a retail version of a software package.
  • Cracks / Crackz - Cracked applications: A modified executable or more (usually one) and/or a library (usually one) or more and/or a patch designed to turn a trial version of a software package into the full version and/or bypass anti-piracy protections.
  • Games / Gamez - Games: This scene concentrates on both computer based games, and video game consoles, often released as ISO or other format disk image.
  • RIPs - A variant of games/gamez that doesn't have to be installed, a registry entry can be included as a .reg file. RIP games can be ripped of music and/or video files, or, for console games, ROMs, thus decreasing the size of the download. RIPs with nothing ripped out sometimes are referred to as DP (direct play).
  • Movies/Moviez - Movies: Pirated movies, can be released while still in theaters or from CDs/DVDs/Blu-ray prior to the actual retail date.
  • NoCD/NoDVD/FixedExe - A file modification that allows an installed program to be run without inserting the CD or DVD into the drive.
  • Portable - Similar to RIP, but refers to software or old/low size games (usually under 100 MB). The point of portable software is the fact that it can be placed on removable media and doesn't need installing; usually it is compressed into one executable file, by using software like VMware ThinApp or MoleBox.
  • TV-Rips - Television programs: Television shows or movies, usually with commercials edited out. Can be released within a few hours after airing. DVD Rips of television series fall under this sub-type.
  • Subz - Subtitles: can be integrated in a TV-Rip or Movie.
  • mp3 - MP3 audio: Pirated albums, singles, or other audio format usually obtained by ripping a CD or a radio broadcast and released in the compressed audio format MP3.
  • E-Bookz/ebooks/e-books - Books: These include pirated eBooks, scanned books, scanned comics, etc.
  • Scripts/Scriptz - Scripts: These include pirated commercial scripts (such as vBulletin, Invision Power Board, etc) coded by companies in PHP, ASP, and other languages.
  • Templates - Templates: These include pirated commercial website templates coded by companies.
  • DOX - Computer game add-ons: These include nocds, cracks, trainers, cheat codes etc.
  • MVids (Music videos) - Can be ripped from TV, HDTV and DVDs.

Movie piracy

Movie piracy was looked upon as impossible by the major studios. When dial-up was common in early and mid 1990s, movies distributed on the Internet tended to be small. The techniques that were usually used to make them small were to use compression software and lower the video quality. At that time, the largest piracy threat was software.

However, along with the rise in broadband internet connections beginning around 1998, higher quality movies began to see widespread distribution – with the release of DeCSS, ISO images copied directly from the original DVDs were slowly becoming a feasible distribution method. Today, movie sharing has become so common that it has caused major concern amongst movie studios and their representative organizations. Because of this the MPAA is often running campaigns during movie trailers where it tries to discourage people from copying material without permission. Unlike the music industry, which has had online music stores available for several years, the movie industry has moved to online distribution only in 2006 with the launch of Amazon Unbox

Distribution of warez

File formats of warez

A CD software release can contain up to 737 megabytes of data, which presented challenges when sending over the Internet, particularly in the late 1990s when broadband was unavailable to most home consumers. These challenges apply to an even greater extent for a single-layer DVD release, which can contain up to 4.7 GB of data. The warez scene made it standard practice to split releases up into many separate pieces, called disks, using several file compression formats: (historical TAR, LZH, ACE, UHA, ARJ), ZIP and most commonly RAR. The original purpose of these "disks" was so that each .rar file could fit on a single 1.44 MB 3 1/2 inch floppy disk. With the growing size of games, this is no longer feasible, as hundreds of disks would need to be used. Most groups will now release a title with disks sized 15,000,000 bytes (14.3 megabytes) or 50,000,000 bytes (47.7 megabytes) in bigger release.

This method has many advantages over sending a single large file:

  • The two-layer compression could sometimes achieve almost a tenfold improvement over the original DVD/CD image. The overall file size is cut down and lessens the transfer time and bandwidth required.
  • If there is a problem during the file transfer and data was corrupted, it is only necessary to resend the few corrupted RAR files instead of resending the entire large file.
  • This method also creates the facility of downloading from many sources.

With the rise of modern peer-to-peer programs, which automatically break files up for partial downloads, compression via RAR, ZIP, and KGB is still commonplace but the breaking up of files is less so.

Releases of software titles often come in two forms. The full form is a full version of a game or application, generally released as CD or DVD-writable disk images (BIN or ISO files). A rip is a cut-down version of the title in which additions included on the legitimate DVD/CD (generally Portable Document Format (PDF) manuals, help files, tutorials, and audio/video media) are omitted. In a game rip, generally all game video is removed, and the audio is compressed to MP3 or Vorbis, which must then be decoded to its original form before playing. These rips are very rare today, as most modern broadband connections can easily handle the full files, and the audio is usually already compressed by the original producer in some fashion.

Motivations and arguments

Software Pirates generally exploit the international nature of the copyright issue to avoid law enforcement in specific countries.

The production and/or distribution of warez is illegal in most countries. However, it is typically overlooked in poorer third world countries with weak or non-existent IP protection. Additionally, some first world countries have loopholes in legislation that allow the warez to continue.

For arguments, see List of pro and anti-warez arguments

Legality

Warez is often a form of copyright infringement punishable as either a civil wrong or a crime. The laws and their application to warez activities may vary greatly from country to country. Generally, however, there are four elements of criminal copyright infringement: the existence of a valid copyright, that copyright was infringed, the infringement was willful and the infringement was either for commercial gain or substantial (a level often set by statute). Often public sites such as pages hosting torrent files claim that they are not breaking any laws because they are not offering the actual data but link only to other places or peers that contain the infringing material.

In addition, nearly all Web providers do not permit the hosting of warez, and will delete any site found to be hosting them.

Depending on the country, in some cases, software piracy might become legal and encouraged. As a dispute between Iran and USA over membership in WTO, and subsequent blocking of Iran's attempts at full-membership in the organization by the USA, has led Iran to encourage US software piracy. Subsequently, there has been a surge in Iranian "warez" and "crackz" websites, as unlike other countries, the Iranian laws do not forbid hosting them inside Iran. See: Iran and copyright issues

Terminology

Piracy like all other words has different shades of meaning. Some denotative, others connotative, some implying social acceptability, others pejorative. Whoever controls access to the discourse is able to pick the words with meanings that frame the reader's response. While the term 'piracy' is commonly used to describe a significant range of activities, most of which are unlawful, the relatively neutral meaning in this context is "...mak[ing] use of or reproduc[ing] the work of another without authorization" . Some groups (including the Free Software Foundation) object to the use of this and other words such as "theft" because they represent a partisan attempt to create a prejudice that is used to gain political ground. "Publishers often refer to prohibited copying as "piracy." In this way, they imply that illegal copying is ethically equivalent to attacking ships on the high seas, kidnapping and murdering the people on them" (FSF). The FSF advocate the use of terms like "prohibited copying" or "unauthorized copying", or "sharing information with your neighbor."

On the other hand, many self-proclaimed "software pirates" take pride in the term, thinking of the romanticized Hollywood portrayal of pirates and sometimes jokingly using pirate talk in their conversations. Although the use of this term is controversial, it is embraced by some groups such as Pirates With Attitude.

DDL Sites or better Direct Download Sites are sites where warez is submitted. It indexes the warez & gives links to the pages where the download links are available. These often contain massive advertisement and may contain spyware and trojans. They often just infinitely redirect users to other sites.

See also

Notes

References

External links

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