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Warez (pronounced like "wares") is a derivative for the plural form of the word "software" meaning copyrighted material traded in violation of its copyright license. The term generally refers to releases by organized groups, as opposed to peer-to-peer file sharing between friends or large groups of people with similar interest using a Darknet. It normally does not refer to commercial for-profit piracy.

Initially this term was only used by members of various computer underground circles, but has since become commonplace amongst more mainstream Internet users and the media. "Warez" is most common as a noun ("My neighbor downloaded 10 gigs of warez yesterday"), but can also be used as a verb ("The new Windows was warezed a month before the company officially released it").

People engaging in warez production and distribution are often called pirates, pirates in this sense being defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as "those who take, make use of, or reproduce the work of another illicitly or without authorization". Although the use of this term is controversial, it is embraced by some groups such as Pirates With Attitude. (For more details on the controversy see Copyright infringement of software). The collection of warez groups is referred to globally as the warez scene, or more ambiguously, The Scene. Among warez users, there is often a distinction made between "gamez" (games), "appz" (applications), "crackz" (cracked applications), and "moviez or filmz" (movies).


How does it work?

Not to be confused with Warez, Profit-motivated piracy is both a large-scale and international phenomenon. Members of the Warez community openly detest and campaign against those making a profit from the copyrighted works of others. However, well-organized groups — often based in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Russia — illegally produce millions of bootleg copies of copyrighted software, which are regularly sold on city streets throughout most of Asia and Eastern Europe and if sold at retail would be worth several billions of dollars annually. While the selling of bootlegs is not as common in Western nations, it's popularity is growing. In Western nations, Warez are usually sold in specific areas, such as Chinatown in New York and Pacific Mall in suburban Toronto.

Pirates exploit the international nature of the copyright issue to avoid law enforcement from specific countries. In Russia, for example, the copying of software was once explicitly permitted by law when such software was not in the Russian language; this is no longer true, but prosecutions for copyright infringement are still very rare. While most copies of pirated software are manufactured in Asian factories, their distribution more often than not begins in Western nations such as the US and the European countries, where the largest international publishers of proprietary software are located.

Software cracking groups (not to be confused with the mostly Asian-based bootleg CD manufacturers and the street vendors that sell "warez"), delegate tasks among their members. These members are mostly located in first world countries where high-speed Internet connections and powerful computers are readily available.

For example:

  1. A popular new piece of commercial software is released
  2. A warez group might use one of its contacts to obtain a pre-release copy (or steals it from a CD pressing plant)
  3. It is then sent to a skilled software cracker/programmer to remove copy prevention
  4. It is then sent to a courier who transfers it around to many FTP servers.

Distribution of warez is usually handled between groups using Topsites. The groups also have private sites for internal purposes, such as archiving their own releases and transferring the unmodified material between their members. Through the users of these sites the warez is delivered to people outside groups where it starts spreading through peer-to-peer networks or direct p2p, like BitTorrent(Direct P2P Connection) or Fasttrack Network (KaZaA) or the Gnutella/Gnutella2 network (Limewire, Bearshare, Shareaza, iMesh, and many others.), and becomes available to the public.

Such releases of a software titles often come in two forms, full and ripped; a "rip" is a cut-down version of the title, typically lacking the PDF manual, and other heavyweight additions included on the legitimate CD, In games the ripped version generally removes all in game video, and compresses the audio to MP3 or Vorbis which must then be decoded to its original form. In full form games and applications are generally released as CD or DVD-writable disk images (BIN or ISO files).

Formats and standards

The modern warez scene deals with petabytes of data and thus the need for an efficient system of handling files was apparent. A typical 1 CD software release contains around 700 megabytes of data; sending a single 700 megabyte file over the Internet can present some challenges (this was especially true in the early days). The same applies even better to DVDs which are typically up to 4.7 GB in size.

The warez scene made it standard practice to split releases up into many separate pieces using a file compression format, usually RAR. A 700 megabyte CD image had unnecessary content, such as user manuals and videos, and these files were often deleted (and sometimes released later as an add-on).

The ISO image is then compressed and split into numerous smaller RAR files, which are then again compressed into another archive (ZIP or RAR). This could then be decompressed in two steps, and the original large file would be recreated.

The sizes of the small archives within the distributed file vary:

  • 1.4 MB
  • 2.88 MB
  • 5,000,000 bytes
  • 15,000,000 bytes (14.3 MB)
  • 50 MB

Using 1.4MB-large elements was useful when diskettes were used, but today they are rare. Also, as the size of the entire collection grew to the size of a DVD or larger, there is little benefit from having too small individual parts.

This method has many advantages over sending a single large file:

  • The two-layer compression could sometimes achieve almost a tenfold improvement over the original CD image, so the overall file size is cut down, lessening the transfer time and bandwidth required.
  • If there is a problem during file transfer and data was corrupted, it is only necessary to resend the few corrupted rars instead of resending the entire large file.
  • In addition, this method creates the facility of uploading from many sources.

File verification is accomplished using SFV files and this is sometimes integrated into the FTP server software so that files are verified automatically as they are uploaded.

These methods were required by topsites and if a warez group failed to adhere to these procedures, their releases were nuked meaning they were void and not to be used. It is somewhat ironic, but the distribution methods used by the warez scene are very efficient and sometimes superior to the ones used by actual software companies.

Movie piracy

Beginning around 1998, feature films began to be released by warez groups prior to their official release. These pirate versions come in many forms, VCD, SVCD, KVCD, DivX, XviD and DVD-Rip (which is an image file intended for a writeable DVD). A notable example of which was American Pie [1] (http://www.theisonews.com/release.php?releaseid=4262), this release in particular is notable for 3 reasons:

  1. It was released in uncensored workprint format (the later theatrical release was cut down by several minutes and had scenes reworked to avoid nudity).
  2. It was released nearly 3 months prior to its release in theaters (CNN Headline News reported on its early release).
  3. It was listed by the movie company as one of the reasons it received an Unrated DVD edition.

The most well-known form of a pirated movie is known as a "Cam" recording, typically made by an audience member who aims a camcorder at the screen to record the movie. The "Cam" recording is often low in quality. Other forms are typically higher in quality and more complex and involve an associate who either works for a movie theater, movie production company, or video rental company. These are:

  • the "DVD-Rip" (reasonably common) – a final retail version of a film, typically released before it is available outside its originating region. Often after one "release group" releases a high-quality DVD-Rip, the "race" to release that film will stop. (see DVD Region Codes).
  • the "Screener" (somewhat rare) – an early final theatrical release of a film (either on VHS or more commonly on DVD), typically sent to movie reviewers, Academy Award members, and executives for review purposes. A screener typically has a message indicating who manufactured it and a message similar to "the film you are watching is a promotional copy, if you purchased this film at a retail store please contact 1-800-NO-COPIES to report it." However, screeners are generally of extremely high quality, approximating that of a DVD-Rip. (Denoted by "SCR", "SCREENER", "DVD-" or "VHS-SCREENER".)
  • the "Telesync" (very common) – a camcorder mounted typically on a tripod for a more steady shot with a secondary audio recording done with a professional microphone or plugged directly into a sound source such as an FM radio tuned to the frequency that a theater uses for a system designed to accommodate hearing-impaired customers. The audio and video are resynchronized during the digital encoding process. Often, a "Cam" is mislabelled as a telesync. (Denoted by "TS" or "TELESYNC".)
  • the "Telecine" (somewhat common) – a film projection camera used to frame by frame transfer film from its analog reel to digital format. These were rare because the telecine machine for making these prints is very costly and very large, however, more recently, telecines have become much more common. (Denoted by "TC" or "TELECINE".)
  • the "Workprint" (somewhat rare) – an early version of a film as produced by the studio, typically a workprint is missing effects overlays, and may not be identical to its theatrical release. Some workprints have a time index marker running in a corner or on the top edge. Sometimes these also have a watermark. Recently, a workprint of Star Wars Episode 3 was stolen and released onto the "warez scene". (Denoted by "WP" or "WORKPRINT".)


Unlike the pirated CD manufacturers and street vendors, cracking groups obtain no monetary profit from their actions. The motivation of these groups varies. Warez groups are competitive amongst each other, and a fast warez release is viewed as a social accomplishment.

The morality of copyright infringement is also much more disputed than that of conventional property theft, and members of warez groups often view their actions as socially positive. Justifications include the alleged impossibility of copyright enforcement and the perceived injustice of not sharing information with those who could not afford to obtain it otherwise (and thereby comparing themselves to Robin Hood). They also claim that a warez release may actually increase the value of software through the network effect. Laws such as the draconian DMCA may also contribute to the motivations of those involved in warez, as user rights are increasingly threatened in the United States, and rights holders attempt to lock out consumers.


The production and/or distribution of warez is illegal in many first world urban countries, and typically overlooked in poorer third world countries. (See: Copyright infringement of software for legal details).

Sometimes, in addition to actual illegally copied data, warez dealers distribute Free software and documentation, copyrighted works whose copyright license specifies that the work may be legally redistributed. The free software community generally doesn't have any relation to the warez scene, however, many warez groups contribute free software to the public, including archival and compression tools, etc. Warez has also helped increase the popularity of formats such as DiVX, MP3, and is a significant factor in the domination of companies such as Adobe, Borland, and Microsoft, all of whom benefited from rampant piracy in the 1980s and 1990s (vast numbers of college students adopted applications from these companies as they were readily available; many went on to use them in their professional lives, purchasing legitimate licenses for business use).

Warez groups

See List of warez groups

See also


External links

da:Warez de:Warez fr:Warez nl:Warez ja:Warez pl:Warez pt:Warez ru:Варез sv:Warez


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