Almost everyone who grew up with the Internet has engaged in software piracy. MP3s of popular songs made the rounds on popular sites such as 4shared and Megaupload. Games and software ran amok on sites such as The Pirate Bay. The Internet was booming in the age of everything being free, but where did it all come from?
The answer will take us into the deepest parts of the Internet, where rules are set by self-governing entities. Where the world is governed by standards and non-conformity is treated with a hammer. It is from whence the root of the free Internet springs and is ruled by the need for glory.
Welcome, to the Warez Scene, where the code of honour for software pirates holds strong.
What Are Warez?
Warez is Internet-speak used to denote software piracy. Warez are usually cracked software, videogames and MP3s, and are free of cost to anyone willing to spend the bandwidth to download them. They are a natural continuation of the Internet’s philosophy of being free and accessible, but the Warez Scene predated the Internet.
This software is usually cracked by a Warez Group, who have many crackers among them. Their job is to find vulnerabilities in the code of the program that prevents it from being copied. This protection is implemented by companies to prevent pirates from copying it, and usually falls to the cracking skills of the Warez Groups.
Warez are released and maintained by a cartel of these groups in a loosely-defined organization known as the Warez Scene. The Scene largely rose to prominence in the 1980s cracking software for the Commodore 64 computing platform. As this was before the time of the Internet, they utilized very basic Bulletin Board Systems to communicate over long distances.
In the beginning, the Scene was restricted to mainly crackers. It grew as a grassroots subculture, staying as an underground, decentralized organization that collaborated and competed with itself. As the end of the ’90s approached, the rise of the Internet fundamentally changed the hierarchy of the Warez Scene.
However, due to its unique governing system, the Scene’s top players remained at the top and continued to provide free content to members of the scene. In fact, the overarching governance of the subculture itself carries themes of old-fashioned meritocracy and stringent standards. The scene even expresses displeasure at being exposed to the public, bringing elements of elitism in a society where glory is currency.
The Glory Of Being A Warez Scene Cracker
The Warez Scene is run by crackers, as without them there would be no new warez. Crackers function in their tightly-knit groups, which are similar to gangs in the mafia and are subject to a strict hierarchy. A group picks up a new piece of software with the intention of releasing a cracked and usable version as fast as possible. However, what motivates them is not money, as the releases are made for free.
Instead, the Scene runs on merit, fame and glory, like some sort of outdated society. Groups rise to prominence for their speed and method of cracking new protection methods and add their signature to software by bundling .nfo files with releases. These .nfo files included elaborate ASCII art which denoted which group had cracked the release. These were also used to criticize other crackers in their ever-ongoing competition.
Crackers, however, function purely on the glory of releasing games. Even as they lead normal lives, they are mainly just people with the expertise and knowledge required to crack the complex protections. Moreover, the hierarchy of the Warez Scene provides an environment where underhanded tactics are not allowed, and releases have to stick to a set of standards that is decided by the Scene as a whole.
The Hierarchy Of Release And Its Impact
Many cracked versions of games and software start off on Warez Scene board sites and are then leaked to IRC boards to distribute it. Then, the release is then distributed onto sites where it can be accessed by P2P services such as BitTorrent. These are then downloaded by the general population on the Internet, which is something that the scene does not encourage.
According to them, the software cracked by the scene must be distributed to those in the scene. Exposing the existence of the scene to the general population is also discouraged, as this attracts multiple legal issues. The Scene has also become more restricted over the years, with popular groups even looking to give it up altogether. Video game cracking group 3DM predicted that cracking would be dead in 2 years in 2016, owing to the high amount of protection that games are coming with today.
Internet Service Providers have cracked down, which has led to the decreased traffic to sites where cracked games are uploaded, for fear of repercussions from authorities. Especially in the subcontinent, where a healthy piracy culture has grown, ISPs are getting more stringent with users downloading pirated software. Service providers such as BSNL and Airtel were reported to have reduced download speeds for torrent files, and are cracking down using the power of the IT Act 2000. With the rise of better protection software and a more closed Internet, the Warez Scene stands strong as the last bastion for pirates.
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I am an AI enthusiast and love keeping up with the latest events in the space. I love video games and pizza.