by jajamoo

No, not this kind of pirate. Not exactly. What I’m referring to is software piracy (specifically) on the Internet, where it has flourished and has recently become a thorn in the side of software developers everywhere. Firstly, let’s define the concept of software piracy. It is more technically referred to as “copyright infringement of software,” which boils down to using a piece of software without properly compensating the creator of said software (The Economist, Piracy: Look for the Silver Lining, (July 19th-25th, 2008 ed., pp. 23). This software can be anything: music, video games, movies, or operating systems such as Windows.

“Warez” sites (a shorthand internet slang for software) were among the first places to find unlicensed software (when you pay for a piece of software, you don’t actually own it, you just have “license” to use, according to the software developer’s EULA, or End User License Agreement). These first thirty or so underground websites were the source of all unlicensed music, movies, and video games on the internet. You can read more about them here, in this archived Wired.com article about the infamous early leak of the video game Half-Life 2 and the shadier side of the internet. Of course, these sites have become very common and while many are just scams which cause you to download a virus or Trojan Horse program, some are very sophisticated and are extremely hard to even access, let alone take down.

What we are most familiar with recently is the advent of “P2P,” or peer-to-peer programs. P2P programs are “is any distributed network architecture composed of participants that make a portion of their resources (such as processing power, disk storage or network bandwidth) directly available to other network participants, without the need for central coordination instances (such as servers or stable hosts)” (Rüdiger Schollmeier, A Definition of Peer-to-Peer Networking for the Classification of Peer-to-Peer Architectures and Applications, Proceedings of the First International Conference on Peer-to-Peer Computing, IEEE (2002)). In other words, unlike the warez sites which held the unlicensed programs in a centrally located place (such as a rented server or some guy’s hard drive in Sweden), the illegal exchange of software is done directly between those who are part of the sharing program’s network of users (you guys remember Kazaa and Limewire, right?). So, this meant that cracking down the users of unlicensed software was  is logistically very difficult and very hard to take legal action against those who get caught (the legalese concerning P2P sharing is murky at best). However, the authorities are catching up with perpetrators who would facilitate P2P sharing. Recently, programs such as µTorrent, a new, even more decentralized P2P sharing program, has proliferated and so have programs which facilitate the search of unlicensed software. Piratebay.org is just such one site and as you can read here in this other Wired.com article, the four Swedish men who were responsible for the creation of Piratebay were given jail time and ordered to pay over $3 million to various entertainment companies. Clearly, Piratebay got too big for its own shoes and brought the attention of the Man down on itself. An ominous warning to all the software pirates out there, or just a blip in the inevitable march towards complete free-flow of information on the Internet? I imagine it is up to us to decide.


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