Warez often originates from hackers that crack a code for the thrill of the challenge. But “crackers,” those in the hacker world who crack and profit from software piracy, have capitalized on the efforts of hackers and their cracked codes – successfully building a billion dollar international underground economy. This underground community of “cracker” pirates thrives on international software and Internet piracy.
Litigators, copyright holders, and media giants are working together with law enforcement agencies to beat down the doors of the pirates’ virtual underground warehouses. New copyright laws and international piracy treaties are on the table at nations across the world, awaiting rewritten code to revitalize current piracy laws and keep up with the swift currents of Internet technology. FBI operations go undercover by names such as the 2001 Operation Buccaneer, Operation Bandwidth, and Digital Piratez, and the more recent Operation Site Down, Operation Copycat, Operation Jolly Roger and Operation Fast Link. Warez Operation Buccaneer resulted in 58 search warrants worldwide – which was the “largest” crackdown of 2001. Operation Bandwidth corralled the pirates by setting up a fake warez software piracy website. The Digital Piratez operation resulted in only 9 warrants. This was just the beginning of the Warez crackdown and the FBI’s foray into the world of crack addiction.
The warez pirates continue to circumvent the piracy laws that are on the verge of crumbling down their underground economy. As they continue their overseas pirating escapades – so to does the FBI continue their undercover operations. A 2008 United States Department of Justice report summarizes the statistics of the warez operations Sitedown and Fastlink – which resulted in 108 felony convictions, confiscation of over one-hundred million dollars worth of pirated software, and 200 search warrants that traveled to over 15 countries. Far more than the 58 search warrants that served the pirates of 2001. In 2007, there were 217 intellectual property cases filed. Letters from hackers under investigation litter the Internet – warning their co-conspirators to “get out” before it’s too late.
The FBI wasn’t alone in the warez crackdown operations. Fifteen countries assisted the US in their search for warez piracy. Suppliers who supply the hardware to a warez website, Scripters who help build a website, Brokers who develop active groups, and Encoders who overwrite the copyright protection, have all been held liable in federal court. Charges included not only copyright infringement, but also conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, circumventing copyright infringement and trafficking illegal goods.
Piracy law will continue to gain attention by law enforcement agencies and warez pirates. The US House unanimously approved the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act which allows for current federal law to be rewritten for liberal seizure procedures and the creation of a position for a presidentially appointed U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Representative. It also creates a new division in the Department of Justice for intellectual property enforcement and ten positions within embassies. Internet piracy is being tracked daily by the feds. But the heat won’t be putting out the pirates completely anytime soon.
The warez scene is addictive. Hackers live for the challenge of cracking a code – even if there isn’t any financial gain. Warez groupies get a rush from seeing how fast a cracked file can start spreading like wildfire. Pirates that serve international traffickers prey on these addictions – offering slick trades of expensive hardware and digital ware that feeds the warez scene. Piracy laws are building up strength to fight billions of dollars of intellectual property theft and copyright infringement. But they are also fighting an addiction. And addictions can skew perceptions. The hackers and crackers of the warez scene might not see the reality of piracy law until the Feds come knocking at their door. Reality will then strike as hard as the clang of iron bars.