Hackers, pirates, and illegal downloaders. All are facets of a larger industry problem that has for years now been prominent without the agencies stepping in to do anything about them. For those who are unaware, your latest copy of Windows, that shiny new version of Photoshop, or even the latest and greatest in music and games are all available for your downloading pleasure online - and by pleasure I mean of the illegal sort.
Software piracy is something that the PC industry in general has had to deal with for a number of years now. With the advent of the floppy came the first pirates in the late 1980s. They would rewrite the codes on the floppies in order to allow all users to access the data without having the proper authorization (in those times, it was usually a key you had to write into the text box prompt).
Today's anti-software-piracy industry is a multi-million dollar industry. Leading companies, like the developers of SecuRom, StarForce, and Safedisc, all make millions of dollars a year in what must be the most futile practice in the world. Please don't misunderstand me - I'm completely for copyright protection and the intellectual copyrights of the companies - however, it seems that no matter how hard they try, these companies cannot develop a software protection device that hackers cannot bypass. To give you an idea, the new PC game, Spore, uses Securom - it was available over bittorrent almost five days before its North American launch window.
But copy protection continues to be a hot-button issue with gamers and PC software purchasers in general. The end-user sees it this way: if I buy a piece of software, why is that parent company telling me how many times I can install their software? The companies on the flip-side, see it as a way to protect their investment. Ultimately, the people usually get their say - with software like Spore, Photoshop, and others getting patches to remove deep restrictions in the copy-protection programs.
But this article is about a recent in surge cracking down on hackers across the world. Popular bittorrent tracker Demonoid.com went offline a few months ago, mostly thanks to raids by dedicated police in the server host country. (It has since come back online.)Thepiratebay.org is another website in Sweden that has more than once had its servers raided by the local police.
The biggest problem with cracking down on these hackers are their versatility and their foresight. The government may have the mobility to attack the hackers at any point in time, but the hackers usually have backups to their backups and manage to keep things running, mostly because some countries operate with a gray area in the law - neither banning nor supporting software piracy.
In my homeland of Brazil, for instance, almost 99.8% of all software is pirated. Mostly because people have ease accessing chinatown-like stores that sell the backup copies for a fraction of the price they would have to pay in a retail store anywhere. In this way, the hackers are satisfied making a buck off the software, the consumer is satisfied with the pirated software's price, and the people who made the product don't see a dime for their intellectual content.
Software piracy continues to be a very touchy subject both ways. The consumers (even those who don't pirate the software) see it as a violation of their rights to install software over and over again. The companies use increasingly more sophisticated technology only to see their software getting pirated. In the end, many people who pirate go undetected, mostly because a good bittorrent server leaves you vulnerable for only a fraction of a second and the software companies do not have the resources to catch and find everyone who does this. For their part, the software companies are actually much more lenient than the RIAA or the MPAA, who in recent years have gone after individual IP addresses, bringing 5 or 6 people to justice out of the millions who continue to pirate.