History of computer piracy

History of computer piracy

You hear about computer piracy almost every day. Media reports of millions in losses of software manufacturers and pirates convicted of stealing intellectual property. It seems that this problem appeared with the widespread access to computers.

What was it really like? Is it possible to eliminate computer piracy?

The origins of computer piracy

It is easy to guess that software piracy appeared when computers gained popularity. Back in the first half of the 20th century, the issue of intellectual property in relation to computer programs was not as obvious as it is today. Only in 1966 in the UK for the first time the software was patented and it was considered that it should be protected from theft.

Interestingly, soon after, the phenomenon of computer piracy appeared. And it happened in Silicon Valley. In 1975, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) lost the paper tape with the BASIC interpreter. Soon it turned out that it was duplicated by members of the Homebrew Computer Club. A year later, a frustrated Bill Gates issued a famous open letter to hobbyists, in which he argued that piracy is a big problem for the entire computer industry, and using illegal copies of software is depriving manufacturers of money that will not go to pay for programmers. History has shown, however, that just Microsoft on piracy benefited. Some researchers somewhat mischievously prove that this pirated copies of Windows limited the expansion of the largest competing system, Linux. But let’s get back to the story.

The computer industry and related software continued to develop, and piracy also developed at the same time. Getting an illegal copy of the software was getting easier. Computer users met at various rallies and events, during which they exchanged software. In the early ‘ 80s. appeared Bulletin Board System (BBS), a service that allows a computer owner to share the space where files were stored on their hardware. BBS-y were connected to each other via a telephone line (modems). In this way, you could use files, services and programs on another computer. Of course, such connections left much to be desired at that time, but it was done first step towards unlimited data exchange.

Copying media and security breaches

Hardware such as the Atari 2600 produced since 1977, or the legendary Commodore 64, which appeared on the market in 1982, spread computer games and other software. In a banal way copied data that was stored on tape recorders. In Poland, even radio programs, during which software was played in the form of squeaks and grunts, which listeners recorded on their tape recorders and thus acquired new software. Then the favorite game of Pirates became Pac-Man.

The software manufacturers quickly noticed the problem and tried to fix it. For example, the so-called. Lenslok (a special prism that had to be applied to the screen to read the password and start the game) or the different parts of the password were placed on different pages of the manual. Over time, the cartridges were displaced by cartridges that seemed safer. However, it soon became clear that it is possible to disassemble such a medium and copy the chips inside it, and then put them in a new case. Quickly appeared on the market also reworked consoles on which it was possible to run such “Pirates”.

In the early ‘ 90s. the Amiga 500 debuted, which used software placed on floppy disks. It was very easy to copy. But even this medium soon proved insufficient, and the market conquered CDs. The software on them was initially secured with empty records, which were not copied on the “Pirates”, and therefore it was impossible to run programs. The answer was the specialist groups that formed the so-called “socialists”. crack cocaine – programs that bypass newer and newer security and allow you to run software without disks in the drives. Although the program media changed over time, and CDs gave way to DVDs, the crack continued to break security. Finally, the prices of blank CDs and DVDs fell, and on the black market appeared ISO, i.e. images of original discs.

It is worth adding that both cassettes and later software media could easily be bought on stock exchanges, and sometimes in legally operating stores. The most famous place in Warsaw, where you could buy pirated software for a long time, was the now-defunct Stadium of the decade.

Computer Pirates go online

The spread of the internet has brought computer piracy into a whole new era. You no longer had to leave your home to download huge amounts of data to your computer. The case became easier as the bandwidth increased. The first sites with pirated software were created in the world in 1995, and in Europe-3 years later. Warez-type websites, which collected links to illegal material, became increasingly popular. However, anti-piracy organisations (e.g. BSA) were quick to catch such sites and shut them down.

This situation has created a demand for new solutions. P2P (peer to peer) quickly debuted on the market-it did not use a single server, which could be easily traced, and the software was exchanged between users. Each of them simultaneously downloaded and shared data with other users. The most famous P2P network was Napster (1999-2000), allowing you to exchange MP3 files, but over time, many more such solutions began to work (e.g. Kazaa, Direct connect, Gnutella, etc.). However, soon, because already in 2003-2004, the first lawsuits against P2P users began. another medium of piracy is the network BitTorrent, which in recent years has come under heavy fire from anti-piracy organizations, manufacturers and distributors of content and software.

Faced with the growing scale of the phenomenon, software manufacturers began to use much more advanced techniques to protect against pirates. Enter keys to unlock the software or need for online activation. However, crackers always took the gauntlet, broke the code of programs and developed keygens or crackers. Because broadband internet access is now standard, more and more software manufacturers are moving their products to the cloud. This is already a very difficult target for pirates.


As long as there is a demand for illegal software, as long as computer piracy does not disappear. Manufacturers do what they can to protect their software from illegal distribution, and Pirates quickly break these restrictions. It just goes to show that you probably can’t come up with an effective solution that computer criminals can’t handle. Therefore, a big role in the fight against computer piracy is really played by user education.

The decreasing use of illegal software in Poland is an example that people are beginning to understand the problem of intellectual property theft and increasingly they do not want to participate in it. They prefer to buy the original software or use the free equivalent, which is often not inferior to the paid version.

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