Warez Culture

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Marie Lechner:

"Computer-based piracy was originally a means of distributing, testing, and getting to grips with technologies amongst a small group of users. It was indeed not too dissimilar from the type of group activity that brought into existence the free software movement. It was a commonplace occurrence to supply your friends and colleagues with a copy of software. Clubs formed and began to learn the basics of computer programming by decoding software programmes to the great displeasure of the then infant IT industry, as attested by Bill Gates’ infamous letter of 1976 that The Pirate Book has exhumed and which denounces amateur IT practitioners for sharing the BASIC programme created by his fledgling company Altair. IT manufacturers made a concerted effort to shift the original meaning of the word hacker (which until that time had been associated with a positive form of DIY) that was then conflated with cracker which translates as “pirate.” The view underpinning this semantic shift was later adopted by the cultural industries with regards to P2P users, and is analysed by Vincent Mabillot. This privatisation of the code and the creation of software protection mechanisms led users to rebel by cracking digital locks and by fostering anti-corporate ideas in the name of free access. At a time when commercial software and IT net-works gained momentum and complexity, a more or less independently instituted division of labour emerged among specialised pirates who belonged to what is termed The Scene. The Scene is the source of most pirated content that is made publicly available and then disseminated via IRC, P2P, and other file sharing services used by the general public. The Scene comprises, amongst others, small autonomous groups of pirates who compete to be the first to secure and release the pirated version of digital content. The Pirate Book sheds light on the modus operandi and iconography of this Warez culture (the term designates the illicit activities of disseminating copyright protected digital content) from which the content consumed online in the most well connected countries originates and which is subsequently resold at heavily discounted prices at stalls across the globe." (http://thepiratebook.net/category/about/)