WarezWarez (a "leet" deformation of the word "wares") are distributions of copyrighted software traded in violation of the software's copyright license. To allow distribution, either the software's encoded copyright protection (if any) is removed or circumvented by programming means ("cracking") or the software is distributed with valid serial numbers. Methods of distribution include IRC, the world wide web, and, prior to the widespread use of the Internet, Bulletin board systems.
Note: Warez sometimes refers to unauthorized copies of music and/or multimedia (for example: documentaries, movies and tv-series).
The distribution of warez is illegal in many jurisdictions. Mere possession or use of warez are not crimes, although they may subject the user to civil penalties (see software piracy). The deliberate circumvention of software copyright protection is illegal in the United States under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
People who infringe software copyrights are often called "pirates", figuratively referring to the pirates of ocean commerce. Well organized groups of software pirates in China and Russia have illegally produced millions of copies of copyrighted software, which if sold at retail would be worth several billions of dollars annually - however, it is unlikely that many of the purchasers of pirated software would have paid retail price for a legitimate copy, so the actual economic losses to software producers are far smaller. It must be added that in Russia, the copying of software is explicitly permitted by law when such software is not in the Russian language.
In addition to organized groups of pirates who profit from illegal software redistribution, there also exist more or less organized groups of high-school or undergraduate students who also commit software piracy. The morality of software piracy is much more disputed than that of conventional property theft, and many warez groups 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.
Anti-warez groups like the Business Software Alliance reject those views, although they primarily target copyright violators with commercial interests. Some software companies have even been known to tolerate or encourage some piracy in difficult markets, in order to increase the value of their software through the network effect.
High school and college age pirates sometimes refer to themselves as 'warez d00dz', while others refer to them derogatorily as 'warez kiddies'. (See script kiddies).
Among such groups, distribution of illegally copied programs on the same day as the commercial release ('0-day warez'), or even before ('negative-day warez'), is considered a mark of accomplishment. Beginning in the early 2000s, feature films have been frequently released by the groups prior to their official release. As of 2001, there were about 8 to 10 major warez networks.
In Early 2003, the house of David Rocci was raided and iSONEWS.com was taken over. This was because Rocci was using his warez news site to advertise the modchips he was selling. The raid had nothing to do with the fact that his site featured "releases" by "groups". The raid on the website enfuriated many free speech activists. However, only the domain isonews.com was taken over, iSONEWS continues to operate at other domains including StoleMy.com and TheIsoNews.com.
Some warez groups have included:
- DrinkOrDie, subject to raid in December 2001
- FLT FairLight
- Radium (Providing illegal copies of expensive audio applications)
- Software piracy
- Free software and free documentation; (copyrighted works whose copyright license specifies that the work may be legally redistributed)
- Piracy Textfiles