Internet Piracy

Nothing has contributed more to the rise of software piracy than the Internet. With increasing connection speeds, downloading a software program can take just minutes. The anonymity and the wide-spreading reach of cyberspace make it a pirate's haven.


A Bulletin Board System is an electronic message center, accessed by a dial-in modem connection. Most BBS systems serve specific interest groups, by bringing people together for electronic newsgroup-type messaging. BBS piracy was the origin of online copyright infringement. Before Internet Service Providers (ISPs) became popular, most people would dial in to a BBS, which would usually serve a local area. On BBS systems, people would be able to request copyrighted software, which would be uploaded to the BBS by other users. With the growing popularity of ISPs, people have turned away from BBS systems. However, there are still many BBS services still running around the country.


Usenet newsgroups are the Internet alternative to BBS systems. Similar to BBS's, newsgroups allow people to post messages for public reading. There are hundreds of thousands of newsgroups in service today, and the number keeps growing. There are newsgroups for every possible topic, and some of the more bandwidth-intensive ones carry pirated software. The popular alt.binaries.warez.* hierarchy (which include and alt.binaries.warez.mac) allows people to upload and download pirated software. Each ISP can decide which newsgroup to carry, and some (like Stanford University) have blocked the warez newsgroups.


Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, is an Internet instant messaging system used by millions of people worldwide. IRC was the first to offer online chat rooms (called "channels") for people to enter real-time live conversations. There are a myriad of channels devoted specifically to people trading warez. They allow for people to get in contact with one another and trade information on where to find the latest cracked software. Many people set up an FTP server for a single day, and then log onto an IRC chat room to advertise it. This behavior is repeated by others, allowing for a rapid spread of pirated software, while at the same time making it hard for authorities to track individual pirates down.

Warez Web Sites

There are tens of thousands of web sites which provide free pirated software. Many sites, often funded by pornographic banner advertisements, simply offer the warez for download to anyone who wants it, but some of them are organized into "rings" or "clubs," which require membership in order to download software. A member is required to upload software in exchange for access. Some sites also sell pirated software to the general public.

FTP Servers

With increasing connection speeds and the increasing power of personal computers, it is now possible to set up a personal FTP server on a home PC. Software pirates often use this method to trade warez.


GnuTella is a "Napster for warez." Although originally not developed for software piracy, it has now been adopted as a pirate's dream tool. It allows users to communicate in real time and distribute files amongst themselves, while at the same time making the process completely anonymous.

Online auctions

Many pirates have turned to making profits by selling illegal copies of programs on online auctions (such as eBay) for a fraction of the retail price. Pirates try to deceive buyers into thinking they're buying legal software. The actual software is counterfeit.