(happy holidays, everyone..... smh)
Trying to Keep Young Internet Users From a Life of Piracy
December 25, 2001
By JOHN SCHWARTZ
When law enforcement agents seized 129 computers in 27
cities recently in a coordinated assault on online piracy,
they focused much of their effort on colleges like Duke,
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the
University of California at Los Angeles.
They were probably too late.
As children have access to
computers earlier and earlier in their educational careers,
experts in piracy, hacking and other forms of Internet
mischief say that any effort to tackle the illicit trade in
digital goods - including video games, computer software,
music and even movies - should be looking at a younger
"By the time we get them, they already believe it's right,"
said David J. Farber, a professor of computer science at
the University of Pennsylvania and the former chief
technologist of the Federal Communications Commission "If
you're willing to bootleg music, you're willing to bootleg
In fact, America's rush to the online world has created an
enormous population of ever-younger computer pirates, say
experts in the field. They compare the situation with
giving every student a car without providing drivers'
"We've got to focus on preparing kids to use the Internet
in a safe and responsible manner," said Nancy E. Willard,
director of the Responsible Netizen Center for Advanced
Technology in Education at the University of Oregon. She
has prepared course materials and guides for teaching
computer ethics in secondary schools to help them meet the
requirements of the Children's Internet Protection Act of
2000. The law, which requires schools and libraries to use
filters or similar technology to protect children from
objectionable materials, also requires an "Internet safety
policy" to prevent "unauthorized access, including
so-called `hacking,' and other unlawful activities by
Online, the searching and trading for wares goes on day and
night. In an online discussion last week using technology
known as Internet Relay Chat, the "warez" channel, or chat
room, was busy. Warez is slang for software that has been
"liberated" from encryption. On the channel, rapid-fire
bursts of messages requesting digital goods - games, DVD's,
business software - were interspersed among the random
comments and insults:
Queball: "Anyone know where I can a copy Sybex virtual lab
. . ."
Porrin: "ATfind 3d studio para *pc*."
Nellie: "Anyone here have save the last dance movie. msg
The patter and trading are constant, yet this is small
time. Far bigger players operate quietly with vast storage
and bandwidth, cracking the copyright protection that keep
the strings of ones and zeroes that underlie everything
from the video game Tomb Raider to the movie "Harry Potter
and the Sorcerer's Stone" and making them available in a
limitless five-finger discount store in the ether.
The recent raids focused mainly on the networks of
hard-core traders in a handful of groups with names like
DrinkOrDie, which tended to trade for fun and not for
profit. Among the computers seized were ones belonging to
business executives and administrators of computer
Unauthorized copying and distribution of software is a
global headache for the industry, which claims that more
than a third of all business software used is pirated,
according to an annual report commissioned by the Business
Software Alliance, a trade group. In fact, the situation
has improved markedly since 1995, when the figure was
closer to half of all software. In the United States the
figure has dropped to 24 percent, the lowest rate in the
world, because of a vigorous education and enforcement
efforts and until recently a strong economy.
Over all, the cost of business software piracy alone was
$11.75 billion in 2000, the group reported, although this
amount assumes that any illicitly used software would
otherwise have been bought by users.
The greatest incidence of software piracy, according to
industry experts, occurs in business, where many employees
of a firm will share a single copy of a program. Internet
trading pales by comparison, said Bob Kruger, vice
president for enforcement at the Business Software
Alliance. But it constitutes "the biggest threat in the
future," he said, "as people become more accustomed to
getting digital works online."
The software industry does not break out the statistics for
piracy in higher education, but "anecdotally, we see a lot
of activity coming out of university areas," said Ric
Hirsch, senior vice president for intellectual property
enforcement at the Interactive Digital Software
Association, the trade association representing computer
and video game publishers.
Eugene H. Spafford, a professor of computer science and
director of Purdue University's Center for Education and
Research in Information Assurance and Security, said if
students lack the ethical preparation when they begin using
the Internet, things quickly spiral out of control when
they reach college, where they have lots of free time,
peers they want to impress and high bandwidth.
That is to be expected, Professor Spafford said, since
college is a time for testing boundaries. "We do encourage
them to try new things, meet new people," he said. "It's
not that surprising that they try to break some of the
bounds, and not just in computing."
But fixing the problem would be expensive and intrusive, he
said. He questions whether the monitoring required might be
worse than the disease.
"When you have one person who goes bad out of 40,000, do
you want to watch that other 39,999 to catch that one?"
Professor Spafford asked. "To find the people doing the bad
things might involve violating the privacy of all those
other people. As a society is that the kind of trade-off we
want to make?"
Professor Farber agreed. Closely monitor students, he
warned, and "pretty soon you'll be looking at what they
write and what they read."
Some experts say they wish the corporations pushing for
ethical behavior among customers would show more of it
Many students bristle at the newest legal tool for
protecting copyright, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
It has been criticized as heavy handed, tipping the balance
of copyright law away from principles such as fair use.
Many also note, Professor Willard said, a federal court
ruling that Microsoft (news/quote) had abused its monopoly
That is how "Incursion" sees it. The Internet name belonged
to a college student from Texas, who was looking for games
recently on the Warez channel. The student said he
generally pays for the software he uses but does like to
sample the goods before buying. "If I feel it's a quality
game," he said, "I'll buy it."
Asked whether using software without paying for it is
wrong, he replied, "depends what you consider wrong."
Pressed for further explanation, he wrote, "A monopoly is
Taking apart rationalizations like that one are part of
what Professor Willard tries to do in materials that she
has prepared for teenagers.
But she added that the argument has power - and that
recklessness and rebellion are not just part of adolescence
but of the American character. "We applaud the U.S.
patriots," she said, "who hacked onto the British tea ship
and destroyed their product."
Ultimately, time might be on the companies' side. The
environment changes so quickly that even would- be pirates
say they find it hard to keep up.
Jeremy, who goes by the online name "Xelsed" and asks that
only his first name be used, insisted that he did not trade
software any more - which did not explain what he was doing
in the Warez channel typing "!gimme stuff," a request he
saw others type and which he figured could lead to offers.
Even if he wanted to, though, he was out of touch, he said,
having not visited the site in several months.
The old formula for a request for software - typing "/xdcc"
and then the name of a program - did not seem to resonate
in the current slang. "Now I really dont know what to do,"
he types in the hasty, error- riddled style of instant
messages. "I have to face the fact that well i'm dated."
Jeremy said he was 27 and out of college and added that he
feels he has outgrown the warez world.
"To be frank," he wrote, "I think its probably alot easer
to buy the game then to spend the hours neccacery to make
`friends' and get into the sceen."
Rumori, the Detritus.net Discussion List
to unsubscribe, send mail to majordomoATdetritus.net
with "unsubscribe rumori" in the message body.
Rumori list archives & other information are at
[an error occurred while processing this directive] N© Detritus.net. Sharerights extended to all.