Eleven Questions for a Warez Site Owner

14 Dec

The operator of a software-piracy site takes us behind the scenes of the warez business.

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Part 1 of a special five-part series.

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Steve Bass

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 10:00 PM PST

You need a copy of Adobe’s Photoshop or maybe the latest version of CorelDraw? Or how about downloading Beowulf or a DVD rip of American Gangster? If you know where to go, they’re all available for free, at rogue sites that link to pirated software and other content–also known as “warez.”

I recently interviewed a warez site operator to find out how he started the site, how he makes money, and how he justifies passing out illegal copies of practically everything under the sun.

Oh, right–you want to know how to get to this site. That was my editor’s only restriction: the guy’s name and his site’s name need to be kept secret.

Bass: Okay, first, the obvious question: What’s your payoff for running the site?

Warez: Now it’s not a lot, and I mostly keep it for the community. It makes about $20/day. But before Google’s AdSense banned the site, it was making $150 to $200 per day. Those were the good times.

Bass: What was the inspiration for starting your site? And has the site done what you expected it to do?

Warez: I didn’t start it. I bought it from a friend for $3000. It was making about $10 per day. After I optimized the ads, it jumped to $150, so I got my investment back in one month. It was a good deal.

Bass: In your Terms of Service, you say people coming to your site cannot, “upload, post or otherwise transmit any Content that infringes any patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright, rights of privacy or publicity, or other proprietary rights of any person or entity.” Kind of ironic, no?

Warez: This is the standard TOS I guess. Anyway, we don’t host any of the files on our servers. The files are hosted on sites like [free Web-hosting service sites].

Bass: Granted you’re not hosting the files; but what would you do if someone hacked into your warez site or legitimate Web-based business and was able to drain off half your income–something that hundreds of software vendors might feel like you’re doing to them?

Warez: Of course, no one would like that. However, the visitors have the choice of buying software–or getting it for free from warez sites. If they don’t get it from my site they could easily get it elsewhere.

Bass: Is there any software you won’t distribute via the site? If so, what’s your criteria?

Warez: I don’t write the posts from the site. Our members (more than 20,000) write the posts. I have a moderator that selects the best ones which appear on the front page. Since our site is visited by lots of teenagers we don’t display anything that is adult related.

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