Basically, pirates "hack" programs, and provide a "crack" (which often alters the .exe of a program, or replaces a .dll). The program can be downloaded (usually a trial version, but not always, as retail software can also be cracked) and the crack installed to make the software appear to be registered and fully functional. Pirates can also provide working serial numbers for such programs, or create small applications called "keygens", which allows the user to generate a serial number based on a user name. This serial number is often recognized as valid, even by the manufacturer of the application in some instances, especially if the program is sold through a variety of distributors, instead of directly from a single, central source. It's hard to keep track of whom has actually made a valid purchase of a program if it is sold by many different vendors.
This approach doesn't always work out that well, as programs hacked in this manner can't always be automatically updated, which is especially applicable to anti-virus utilities. And some companies have discovered ways to find "blacklisted" serial numbers and activation keys on the Web, and alter a user's Registry to invalidate the program or the license key so that it won't ever run again, unless the hard drive is formatted, and everything is reinstalled from scratch.
The cracks don't always work, either. And if you intend to upgrade a program (such as installing a new build or version), this often means having to search for and installing yet another crack. If you can find it.
It's also risky, because a crack might be something more than is expected ... it might not be a crack at all. It <i>could</i> be a virus or a trojan horse that wrecks your system.
At the very least, in order to locate a crack, you might have to browse through dozens of websites, loaded with popup porn banners. Some of these banners can install software right through holes in the browser's security. This kind of software is often highly unstable and very difficult to remove, and will usually transmit personal information obtained from your system to many different places, such as marketers that use the information for spamming. The common term for applications like this is spyware.
The price for indulging in software piracy can be steep ... up to five years in prison, and fines up to $250,000, or both.
The safest bet when installing software is to spend the money, and only use retail, fully-validated software. And never share the software with anyone else, because if the information is ever found on the Internet by the manufacturer (and this is happening more and more often), one day you'll turn on the computer, and discover that your program no longer functions. And if the company decides that this isn't to be tolerated, you might be looking at hiring a lawyer.
Personally I personally believe that most forms of intelectual property actualy harm society.
The idea of large mutlinational companies owning basic ideas makes me shudder. Large companies patent absurdly simple methods then use them to crush smaller companies that can't afford the expense of challenging the patent in court.
Currently it is nearly impossible for an individual to be procecuted for using pirated software. The laws are in place, but they are not being enforced against individuals.
Personally I would welcome individual prosecutions.
Then all the hordes of people currently using pirated software would wake up and start using free open source alternatives.
<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by Codesmith on 07/13/03 12:06 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
Would u consider the RDRAM controversy applicable as an argument of abusive patent practice/attempt?
If people had to pay the full price for every piece of software out there I bet there would be very few people with computers. Imagine if MS had been greedy. I bet there would be much less interest in computers on the home front. Do I really need a $3/4000 typewriter?
It has payed the software industry to turn a somewhat blind eye to "piracy". Every cottage industry that turns into a legitimate business is a potential customer. Each and every one of us running around saying how great computer are fuels the industry if only some percentage of software bought is legitimate. If we all went around with [sad] faces saying they are too damm expensive and not worth it where would this item that has become a household item almost anywhere in the world be?
Ok, I love Linux too!
The loving are the daring!<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by Flinx on 07/14/03 10:17 PM.</EM></FONT></P>