Saturday, May 18, 2013

(Most) Everything you might (or might not) want to know about Warez and Online Piracy

Internet pirate flag

 I was meaning to write this blog post at several points in time but something always got in the way but I recently read a short post online called “Why I Pirate”*, I decided that maybe it was time to start writing and stop chuckling at the agitprop coming from both sides.

There is one aspect of this discussion that needs to be clarified up front; Warez (or Online Piracy) IS stealing, but unlike many other attempts at Clintonizing, the aforementioned aspect of things CAN be delimited. This post will be divided up into sections depicting the evolution of Warez delivery methods and then will deal with specific  types of Warez and how their existence can actually boost legitimate sales.


A Brief Listing of Terms

Baseband/Broadband - The two basic means of connectivity to the internet. While baseband consists of a single data path in and out (You can use your modem OR the telephone, but not both at the same time), broadband can allow many functions at once do to its wider data path. (With a cable modem or DSL, a small amount of the data stream is used for either television or a telephone line while the rest of the connectivity is dedicated to the modem and online service; you can be online while watching television or talking on the telephone.)

CD/DVD/DVD-DL/DVD-HD/BR - Acronyms for popular burning media. Compact Disk (650-800 MB). Digital Video Disk (4.7 GB), Digital Video Disk- Double Layer (ca. 8.2 GB), Digital Video Disk - High Density (15-30 GB), Blu-Ray (25-50 GB). When a “+” or “RW” is by the acronym, that usually means that the disk is erasable. If there is no “+” by the name, the disk can only be written to one time but it is far more compatible regarding what types of readers can read the burned media.

DCC - A FTP like program that works inside of some online chat clients.

DRM - Digital Rights Management; a term that covers a variety of protection overlays for digital media.

File Servers (Online File Storage) - Another up and coming means of distributing all types of files (including Warez) to people who want them. While the downloader has to either jump through some hoops or buy a premium membership to download faster,  the uploader only has to worry about uploading the file once (whereas with a torrent, the uploader would be uploading until the time he disconnected from the cloud). There has also been recent enforcement actions taken against some of these sites (like File Sonic and Mega Upload) but downloading files without the need to share later is appealing to some users.

FTP - File Transfer Protocol; until recently, very widely used (but now much less so because of torrents). While this means is adequate for downloading files, the download can be more easily prevented because of relative limited places you can get the file.

FTP Crawler - Another service that would usually facilitate the downloading of pirated software.

ISO - Short for ISO 9660. While it represents a CD-ROM standard, it is also used to denote an image of a CD (or a DVD) (Most Desirable) versus a directory rip (Least Desirable).  The result of ‘burning’ an ISO file is an exact copy of the CD (or DVD or Blu-Ray).

L33T - A term that actually means ‘Elite” or a cut above the general crowd. A title conferred upon high end Release Group personnel among other things.

Leech - A term that can mean either someone who is downloading a file or a person abusing a Peer 2 Peer system (I.E. not sharing with others.)

Online Warez Portals - A stage in piracy evolution where users would have to navigate through Over The Top websites and ad banners to get to thee Warez linked to the sites.

Release Group - The group of individuals that release a pirated software title. There is no money directly involved in this endeavor; the groups doing this largely do so for bragging rights (Credibility with the scene overall.)

RIAA, MPAA _ Respectively the Recording Industry and the Motion Picture Association of America. While the first group represents music media, the second represents the film industry and though they are not production companies in their own right, they still claim to represent the lion’s share of their respective industries. They are behind much of the litigation brought against both single pirates and groups of them.

Seed - In torrent speak, someone who has a complete file and is sharing it with others who don’t. Torrent etiquette usually means that you upload as much or more data as you download. Failure to do so multiple times may saddle you with the term Leech.

SIIA - The Software and Information Industry Association. They are one of the main organizations that pursue software piracy and the groups behind it.

The Scene - The conglomeration of the groups that deliver the merchandise.

Torrent - In some peoples opinion, the apotheosis of Peer 2 Peer file sharing with so many people supplying the file, there is no way they all can be stopped

Warez (Gamez, Appz, Etc.)- The goods that are offered up for download. The usage of a ‘z’ in place of an‘s’ is to imply that you are getting pirated items.

WinRAR - A widely used file compression program for various types or Warez for upload and download. While there are no formally stated rules relating to file size portions, CD size programs are usually 15 MB in size while DVD sized programs are split into 50 MB size. Another important aspect of this is that programs should be only compressed one level. (RAR files inside of RAR files is rather annoying.)

A concise history of File Transfer Methods (And associated Piracy involvement)

Pre 1997 or so: BBS’es, The Sneaker Net, Newsgroup Binaries and the advent of FTP

Warez wasn’t really that much of a problem in this time frame because a 56K Modem was considered pretty fast at the time. What pirating that went on was very low key and labor intensive. (It took me six hours to remove the protections on a copy of Lotus 123 for DOS; I did so because I could say that I did it versus having any use for the software.) When full programs still came on 1.44 and 5.25 inch diskettes, downloading some of them wasn’t that much of a problem but it still was confined to a limited group of people. It was about this time when File Transfer Protocol was being perfected (while the same protocol was being integrated into your internet browser) and stood to become the next leap in transferring files. Up until this time though, getting pirated software was easier if you had a friend who could copy the disks you needed. Once a few standards issues were hammered out with FTP and cable modems began to be used by the general populace, the next phase of piracy would begin….

1996- 2000: Warez Web Portals, DCC, Private FTP Sites/Servers and the advent of Peer 2 Peer Sharing.

FTP had been fine tuned by this time and if you had the patience to search and a decent FTP client (WS-FTP was one), you could download as much as you could find. While some of the lucky few had Cable Modems, most people were still using 56K modem access for the internet. It didn’t take long for the Warez crowd to realize that if they had an App or such that users wanted (or MP3 files, a new digital music format), they could make such users wade through layers and layers of popup ads, Porn website banners** and a plethora of other garbage to get the files, they were quick to jump on the bandwagon. Such places were largely left to the newbies on the internet because most of those sites had nothing to download. With the advent of relatively stable FTP Server software, any user with a little patience, a collection of files to be downloaded and decent bandwidth (broadband preferred) could have their own FTP Server. Napster first came to be in 1999, the first of many peer 2 peer file transfer programs; instead of a file being on a central server for people to access and download, the users themselves had the files on their computers while Napster (and later…Open Napster) provided the means to facilitate sharing. Though Napster was forced to shut down in 2001, the Peer 2 Peer file sharing concept would only grow more popular. It was about this time when piracy picked up in both rapid download speeds and wider distribution. (Piracy was no longer the sole domain of the US and Europe.)

1999-2010 (and possibly beyond): Peer 2 Peer Explosion and Online File Storage

While Napster was closed down in July 2001, the genie had been let out of the bottle. The Open Napster protocol came to be and now any type of file could be shared instead of only music. While FTP is still heavily used by the top level Release Groups, torrents and Online File Sharing Services either have come into their own or will experience further growth…until yet a better file sharing system comes along. 56K modem speed has now largely fallen by the wayside

Why do People Pirate Software? (Some truths revealed)

Right of Ownership

It used to be that when you went out and purchased computer software, it was yours to do with as you pleased once you paid out the money. That changed when the concept of Product Activation came to be. The software so affected was really no longer yours. After you paid out the money for a software title, you somehow had to activate the software in order to use it and if that activation somehow no longer worked, you had to authorize the software by calling up and speaking to a human being. If that person refused to activate the software for any reason, you were left with an essentially useless software title. The solution that many users found regarding this issue was to download a copy of the software which didn’t need to be activated to work.

Right of usage (upon ownership)

There are many that say that the old rules regarding copyright do not mesh well with online digital content. In order to maintain as much control as possible, the usage of DRM has proliferated along with the massive amounts of media that is now available. The usage of DRM can range from preventing media duplication up to direct interference within the media. While proponents of DRM state that it is necessary to protect content, others argue that DRM is too draconian and there could be the risk of media unusability if the DRM schema is changed or somehow damaged. The way that DRM opponents see things, if they pay to download an episode of their favorite show, why should they be restricted regarding where they watch it? DRM would prevent a television show from being watched on a television (by slaving the paid for download to the usage device.) or it might cause some sort of internal failure if the protected software decided that it was a pirated copy (many games.). By downloading a pirated version which has been stripped of DRM overlays, the user has much more freedom in where the show will be played or on what computer a game will reside.

Overall media cost and Producer/Artist Price split

While spending $60-$80 bucks for a game can be relatively easy to afford in the USA, it is a different matter in another country whose currency is of low value against the USD. If it takes 20,000 Indonesian rupees to equal one dollar and a worker in Indonesia earns 40,000 rupees a day, how can you expect that this worker will be able to buy your game? It would cost the worker a months worth of wage to do so versus one day of wage in the USA (at minimum wage levels). The only way the Indonesians are going to be able to play the game under this aegis is to pirate a copy. (There is a solution to this matter but you first would have to get the game makers to agree. You would offer a regional version of the stated game at a reduced price that would only work within that region and to discourage pirating of that game to other regions outside of its legal domain, make sure it holds no potential benefit (the absence of any extra material related to the game, a locked in language, etc.) While the game maker wouldn’t make as much money from the zoned versions, it is money they never would have had otherwise. It would be ridiculous to say that such an arrangement would stop all piracy, but it would definitely reduce it.

That brings up a collateral aspect of this discussion: It all boils down to the money and who gets what share of the purchase price that you pay. If the RIAA and the MPAA are to be taken literally, the pirate is stealing software from someone else but that simply isn’t true. I didn’t take Junior’s copy of his game; I pirated my copy instead. When you pay ten dollars for a digital album download and the artist only gets ninety four cents of that money, something is seriously wrong. While certain overhead costs could have been justified in the LP Record days that is no longer really the case. If this was to change whereas the artist got a larger percentage of the proceeds, you might find more people buying the album instead of pirating it and then supporting the artist in other ways that more

If I don’t have the money to buy a CD or DVD or whatever, I should in theory do without it but who really loses if I pirate a game or application I can’t afford otherwise? I am not taking someone’s physical copy so how can what a pirate does be called theft? While I get to enjoy illegal software, my piracy of the software creates two very important things which actually help legitimate sales of the software. They are market penetration (vertical gain) and market saturation (horizontal gain) which will be discussed later on in this post.

What are some of the reasons that piracy ramped up starting in 2000 or so?

While the advent of broadband internet connections assuredly facilitated piracy, there was a watershed moment back in the past which produced all the impetus that was needed for piracy to flourish and grow.

The LP Record had been the current media of choice for decades but in the 1980’s, a new player came to town. It was called the Compact Disc and its presence couldn’t be denied. Within only a few years, it had forced out the LP Record as the mainstream media choice. Record companies lost about 75% of their overhead overnight. Instead of a mechanical press and assembly line to package new LP Record albums, they now had CD duplicators and far fewer machines needed to package the finished product. The fans of the artists figured that prices would at least hold the line regarding this new media….

…but they were wrong. The price of a CD was as much as three times higher than an LP Record and it was a rude slap in the face for fans. If you liked only one song on a CD, you didn’t even have the option of buying a 45 RPM record; it was either pay over twenty dollars for the CD or do without. (Once the radio quit playing the song.) The record companies had the upper hand so they saw no reason to change their mindset…

…until Napster came to be. Almost overnight, massive amounts of users flocked online to Napster to download ONLY the tracks that they liked from a CD. With the sharp drop in sales, the RIAA was the one who finally took action. (Metallica tried to have Napster users banned from the service for sharing Metallica songs but all that happened was that users got around the ban and pirated Metallica music even more.) While the RIAA succeeded in getting Napster closed down in 2001, Open Napster was one of the replacements for it and along with a good number of other P2P software programs, the power of Peer would soon be known. Many consider this to be the watershed moment; would P2P have gotten such a big boost if the RIAA hadn’t pursued the users of the tech or if the record companies had been more sensible up front regarding pricing? To me, doubling the price of the end product while losing at least seventy five percent of your overhead is pure and filthy greed and the artists ultimately see little of that money. You might notice that DVD movies are much more sensibly priced than music CDs; so much so that I know many people with a large DVD movie collection.

There is a group of people that will pirate everything because they can but they are a relatively negligible number in the scheme of things.

What are the most popular things to Pirate and how does piracy actually help legal sales?


That is short for Applications…every sort of application from base level utilities (WinRar) up to extremely expensive Modeling /Rendering applications and operating systems. It really isn’t surprising that the most pirated in this category are Microsoft’s Operating Systems and Adobe’s Photoshop software. I am going to use both Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Windows for examples in this post where needed. While your first reaction is that maybe we should start bonking software pirates in the head with a rolling pin, you aren’t alone; you can be sure that the SIIA has pockets full of sound bites for the press vultures as they close in mortal combat with the evil software pirates…

…except it really isn’t quite that way…not by a longshot. If you are one of the idiots that first pirates the software and then decides to sell copies of it on E-Bay, you deserve to be prosecuted because there is NO gray area involving that action. Most of the pirates are not doing things like that though; they want the software because they use it for various things graphical. As I said before, piracy is stealing but who exactly gets hurt if I download a pirated copy of Photoshop? Am I physically stealing a copy from someone who paid for theirs? No. Am I raiding Adobe Corporate to make off with their copies of Photoshop? No once more but I can quickly show you how piracy of Adobe Photoshop ultimately increases their legitimate sales.

I wasn’t able to find even an estimated sales volume for Adobe Photoshop so I suppose I will have to estimate things to some extent. Let’s say that Adobe has sold 500,000 copies of Adobe Photoshop either as a stand alone or as a suite and perhaps ten percent of that number is an estimated total of pirated copies. (50,000).That means that over half a million copies of PS are out there and each number has a specific name. The 500,000 legit copies sold is the market while the 50,000 pirated copies represent market penetration. I assure you that those pirating PS didn’t do so to simply brag that they have the program. Photoshop is king of the heap; if you can open a picture or the equivalent inside of the program, you can edit the content depending on what sort of content it is. There is some awesome content produced with PS and it is all over the internet. Some of that content is bound to attract others who want to know how the content was produced. If ten percent of the people with pirated copies interest four people with their artistic efforts, (50,000 *.10 *4 = 20,000) that number is market saturation. That means the software pirates have garnered the interest of 20,000 people who also might pirate the software but perhaps they may buy a legitimate copy.. Either way, the piracy of the software has the capability of increasing the legitimate bottom line.

Now we will take a journey to fantasy land where things work exactly like they should with no glitches (and no pesky software pirates). In this place, no one pirates software and the only ones who have the software are the ones who can afford it. In that case, 500,000 still is your market but you no longer have people stealing your software because they can’t afford it or want to mess around with it. Since the only people who now have PS are the ones who can afford it, they are known entities that will buy the software but you will pay a price for no one pirating your program. Since they are known entities, they will garner a lot less interest than the potential pirates…perhaps only 1/10th of one percent or 500 users (market penetration). If they interest four more each that is only 2000 more potential users (market saturation.). This is only ten percent of the above figure if 50,000 copies of PS get pirated.

Won’t the software pirates buy legitimate copies if they no longer can teal a copy?

That is what the SIIA might tell you but I doubt that it is true. Even if you only had Photoshop, keeping up with the versions gets more and more expensive each time you upgrade and now that Adobe had developed the Criminal …err Creative Cloud, you will be paying for that software until the end of time...unless you want to lose all of your Adobe Applications. If Adobe managed to stop all piracy of its software, it will ultimately lose out on legitimate sales. Instead of the market saturation working in Adobe’s favor, another program will benefit instead. Even this Adobe CC garbage won’t stop the pirates; someone will find a workaround. Most of those pirating Adobe Photoshop are individuals who can’t afford the hit to their wallets. After all, John and Jane Q aren’t where the big sales are; instead it is schools and corporations and government. That brings up another situation where pirating software won’t cut it.  If you are a student in school, an EDU (The school itself) or a government, you can purchase full versions of many programs for up to 90% off of retail but it falls to you to police your own networks. You shouldn’t be having any pirated software on your networks because of the steep discount you get for legit copies. A Community College in Las Vegas got hit with a $200, 000 fine for having illegal Adobe software on their networks. The same thing goes for a corporation; expenses can be written off against profits. John and Jane Q Public don’t get those discounted rates and (unless they are using the software in a business setting) can’t write off the cost of the software.

With Microsoft, the situation is far, far different than the SIIA would have you believe. Hundreds of millions of computers use the Windows OS because William Gates took a gamble way on back. I am sure that Mac users laughed long and hard at DOS but Mr. Bill got the last laugh with utter dominance of the Personal Computer market. Though Microsoft may not like people pirating their Operating System (OS), each pirated copy is one more Windows user who will need Windows upgrades and will have to populate their PC with Windows programs…you should get the picture by now. While  some folks use Linux based systems, the Open Source Anarchy of such Operating Systems may only pose a threat in the VERY long run, not now…


While Microsoft and Adobe are the most pirated applications, they are overshadowed in most every way by game piracy. Games have come a long way from Pong and Asteroids and without game developers pushing the envelope, we would have been deprived of a lot of computer technology. Not even the advent of hard core DRM has stopped the gamers and with a high speed internet connection, game size is no problem. Game companies used to hire Beta Testers but they no longer need to do so. All that they have to do is to ‘leak’ a game beta on to the torrents, set up an anonymous forum for feedback and fix whatever faults are found with the game. Once the game is released, there will be massive pirating of it but if you make a kickass game, you will sell the shit out of it but if you think that you can pawn off some shit programming on the gamer community, you will be a piece of overcooked toast. You can see the results by doing a web search. Diablo III has sold 12 million copies; you want to bet that some of the buyers didn’t pirate the game first?

Movies and Television Shows

With the advent of torrents, you no longer have to wait for reruns to catch a missed episode of a favorite show (if it isn’t showing as an encore episode). You can even download and watch movies from Screeners (Lower Quality) to Blu-Ray Rips (High Quality). It just isn’t the latest releases either; I found The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) online.  The MPAA is up in arms over  movie piracy but pirated copies of modern day movies lose some of their quality when watched as a screener. Television shows aren’t as big of a deal but we have the DVD or Blu-Ray (and DVD Recording devices) disks to thank for the availability of movies. Before that technology came to be, it would have been very hard to copy a movie and upload it for the pirates because actual film reels were involved. Most every theatre still operating these days  has a DVD/Blu-Ray player for the movies arriving in those formats and since the theatre probably gets the movie a few days before they can show it,  all that needs to be done is to copy it and presto…the pirates will thank you. As for television shows, a DVR is all you need to capture content. Once that is done, you can edit out the commercials (if necessary) WinRAR it, and then upload it. In some cases, you may even have legal access to some shows on line if you have a subscription to a service offering this benefit.

Other sorts of Warez

The above types of pirated material aren’t all that is out there. With the advent of E-Books out for sale, expect more piracy of that media in the future and while they aren’t on the SIIA radar…yet, massive collections of digital photography and art can be found online for download. With the rapid pace of change in the digital world, the next piracy battle has yet to emerge…
* An interesting post which finally gave rise to my post. My thanks to the author for inspiring me.
** To this date, I have no idea why the warez portals decided that every pirate wanted to download Pr0n (Porn, but Pr0n could escape BBGS word filters) along with pirated software. Perhaps the porno links paid the most (for the fool unwise enough to click on them)


NOTICE: The author of this post doesn’t condone piracy in any form; this post is designed to be informative to the interested reader, not a call to arms for piracy of programs or online content.


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Monday, May 06, 2013

Say no to Amnesty until a Permanent Border Solution is put into place!

The Senate is currently considering a massive piece of legislation that would provide amnesty for approximately 11 million people who are in this country illegally today.  The Senate is rushing the legislative process and not allowing the public to fully understand the impact of this broad legislation.  One of the big questions that remains unanswered is how this amnesty bill would affect Obamacare and what the real cost would be.  We simply cannot afford to pass another sweeping piece of legislation without understanding the fiscal implications.

The Senators who are pushing for amnesty have been unable to answer questions about what impact this bill would have on Obamacare.  These questions must be answered before Congress takes any further steps with this piece of legislation.


·   How soon after this amnesty bill goes into effect will the currently illegal population receive Obamacare benefits?

·   Medicaid is already an unsustainable burden on my state's budget.  What impact will this amnesty bill have on my state's budget?

      ·   How many people who receive amnesty will be eligible for Medicaid?

·   What percentage of people who receive amnesty will be added to Obamacare's state exchanges?  And how will that impact the original cost projections for the state exchanges?

·   Sen. Sessions estimates that, because the amnesty bill allows amnesty recipients to bring their entire families to the United States, the real effect of this amnesty bill will be an increase of 57 million new people in the country in the next 10 years.  How many of those 57 million will be added to Obamacare?


At this point, too many questions remain unanswered.  The Senators pushing this legislation have not allowed the public to raise these questions because they are in such a hurry to pass it.  As we learned with Obamacare, it is more important to take the time to read these lengthy bills before voting on them.  Too much is at stake here for us to pass another "train wreck" bill like Obamacare.  

If you agree that Congress should have a clear understanding of amnesty's impact on Obamacare's cost, sign your name on this petition and let your voice be heard!  We want Obamacare to understand exactly how this amnesty bill will affect Obamacare's overall cost, and we want this entire process to be more transparent.

Blogger Note: This bill is also a further travesty because not only are massive numbers of illegals flooding int the USA because they smell Amnesty in the air, this bill does NOTHING to address the underlying problem. Do you remember the 'Final' amnesty in 1986? I do...we were told that this would be the last time such a thig would happen...but it is happening yet again. It is pointless to fill up a bucket  with water until you stop the bucket from leaking. Befor there is ANY talk of amnesty, tell Congress we need a permanent solution to the porous border such as Open/Contolled Immigration with Ellis Island Style Processing.

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