Cover

PIRATE CENTRAL

Robert Scott November 8 1999
Cover

PIRATE CENTRAL

Robert Scott November 8 1999

PIRATE CENTRAL

Cover

Site0 is an extraordinary phenomenon, an online cabal of the wiliest of software programmers, who live in places such as Manhattan, Moscow, Germany’s Ruhr Valley and Toronto. This global group of program “crackers” makes it their mission in life to break copyright codes that are designed to prevent the duplication of software. The other 80-odd members of SiteO (pronounced Site Zero) are the “providers,” who supply copies of new software to the “crackers.”The clandestine bunch is united by a conviction that—despite all copyright sanctionssoftware should be free to share.

Much software copyright protection is rudimentary, but cracking sophisticated codes is like breaking into a bank, and

then its steel vault. The crackers of SiteO are among a handful in the world with such ability. They have broken protection code on the specialized software used by video animators, desktop publishers and other professionals. If software companies saw how easily their programs were cracked at SiteO, they might not bother trying to shield them. A few months ago, the latest version of a multimedia program was uploaded at noon on SiteO. Although the maker had spent about $1 million on copy protection, by early afternoon the software was making the rounds of the Hotline network.

Hubris is also not in short supply at SiteO. The smug European programmer who broke that code said: “It took longer to download on my modem than to crack.”

Robert Scott