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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. Prior to the sale of software that came on CD-ROM discs and after hard drives had become available, the software did not require the floppy disc to be in the drive when starting and using the program. So, a user could install it onto his/her computer and mail the disk to the next person, who could do the same. 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 One-click hosting sites. 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 (known as Torrent poisoning), 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/her IP address. They will then contact his/her ISP, and further legal action may be taken by the company/ISP.


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References: Wikipedia, Warez Groups

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