You’re Stealing It Wrong: A Speech By Jason Scott

slipped disk in all of his glory

[Jason Scott], data historian extraordinaire gave this fantastic speech at Defcon 18 about the history of inter-pirate piracy. At an hour long, it is an enthralling journey through computer history, especially pertaining to piracy. Take a seat, no matter how much you know about security and piracy, you are likely to learn a few things. We find the lesser discussed issues like pirates stealing other pirates work interesting, as well as the part where pirates have to crack really boring software to have a release when there’s nothing better out there. Also worth noting, according to [Jason], the demoscene evolved from the little opening sequences from cracks. There are just too many interesting aspects to note here, even some porn related stories during the BBS days.

This is a great lesson from someone who is both knowledgeable and entertaining. [Jason] teaches this stuff without ever sounding stuffy, boring, or overly technical. Catch the video after the break.

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22 thoughts on “You’re Stealing It Wrong: A Speech By Jason Scott

  1. UNBELIEVABLE! I still have a copy of that file BREE_MK2.JPG; it was one of a series of about six, but Rusty n Edie’s was friggin’ huge back in the day and IIRC they were raided and brought down the hard way…

  2. @minus: just ask us. I’m only 30 and I remember being in the scene starting just after the apple II crowd and on into the 9600+ baud bbs scene. I was a paid member of a 14.4kb bbs and remember having connection issues when they switched to 28.8k non-standardized modems.

    at the time, piracy was rampant. all you had to do was copy it. but the big difference between then and now was transfer rates limited piracy in most cases to physically transporting a copy on disk to or from the people you were sharing with. so warez spread differently and in a much more local setting, in spite of the mega-bbs scene blowing up. and just after that the universities were starting to get high speed ethernet; but no meaningful copy protection was instituted on software and mp3s were just becoming a reality: when I went off to cal in 1998, plugging into the campus network and browsing windows shares (and sometimes just typing in IP addresses you expected nearby on campus) produced gold mine after gold mine of high-speed accessible shares. people were uploading and downloading like never before and suddenly after about two years of this the publishers started recognizing they had a problem that was impacting their money supply. they freaked and DRM was hastily born. microsoft went about it with cd keys which were not validated online (not EVERYONE was connected, remember) but which were also short enough to accidentally memorize just because you had to reinstall every once in a while. at the same time CD-R became affordable for the majority, USB storage was still a dream (i used a 40mb flash drive for my bbs on a 486dx2/66 overclocked to 80mhz and with 32 megs of ram. the flash drive cost $330 and connected internally via IDE like a 3.5″ hard disk)…

    they were crazy times indeed. tagging mp3s hadn’t really happened yet so everyone who cared meticulously organized their collections and everyone on campus when i was 18 had all their media directories shared. there was a ton of music, lots of software, some movies, and a little porn on campus and it was almost the same anywhere else.

    just before i went to cal, AOL was becoming a smash hit among non-computer-savvy folks and IRC was growing among people with growing computer fluency. there were conversations like “wtf do you use EFnet when there’s DALnet?” then came khaled mardam-bey with mIRC and it basically turned IRC into AOL version 2.

    for a while in 1996 my BBS employed an ASCII artist whose contract services revitalized the menu system and made it really, really nice to look at. he did the work for free because he got notoriety and apparently the frequency of visitors to my bbs bought him an actual career as an artist.

    it was crazy. you should have been there. but then i wonder what would happen if i were 40 instead of 30? how would i view the whole ‘history-of-the-scene’ thing differently?

    right around that time good video codecs hadn’t been born yet and you could buy crummy movies on two VCDs at officemax for half the cost of regular movies.

    i don’t remember my windows 95 cd key, but at the time i could recite several.

    it was also the first time you could scan and print things with remarkable enough fidelity to be recognized as the real thing to unaware viewers.

    in 1997 and 1998 this was taken advantage of freely by many people to print everything from cd covers to currency. suddenly those in the know of computers had a huge tactical advantage versus lay people in lots of real-life situations.

    #dxm hadn’t invented phrases like “i r 1 2 ett dxm” and “hair makes me a robot” yet.

    a guy called cr0bar made a ‘bastardization of the matrix’ which was funny as hell because of this whole ‘in order to truly control your destiny in this world, you have to be +fjhxmnopBMNO’ [sic] line. seriously i forget the eggdrop flags that made you botnet master. we started spelling “word” as “werd” and when that got boring we started spelling it “w3rd” and when it got too big it sorta tanked and then we all started seeing that as lame and went back to proper typing.

    then a whole new crop of kids shot up, pacific bell pure digital pcs was bought up by a company that supported SMS and those new kids never did learn how to spell.

  3. You are now an honorary old fart.
    Good luck with that.

    > When I went off to cal in 1998, plugging …
    > suddenly after about two years of this […]
    > they freaked and DRM was hastily born.

    I think you may have premature Alzheimer’s, kid. Now that you’re old enough to use the phrase “new crop of kids”, you’ll soon figure out that innovation usually means “suddenly mass marketed” rather than unexpected invention.

    The pirate “Warez” scene dates back at least to the player piano circa 1900, when pirates would duplicate piano rolls for other piano owners. And before that, people were knocking out bad copies of the bible and other popular media in the mid-1600’s, when pirate editions of popular plays were all the rage.

    Ever seen that old b&w film where they shoot a rocket into the eye of the moon? It was made by Georges Méliès in 1902, and then pirated by one of Edison’s gang and duplicated en mass to let them sell more edison projectors in the americas.

    The keys were not a microsoft invention, BTW.

    DRM has been an issue ever since some idiot figured out how to reliably make magnetic tape and then disks. You know, not counting the paper tape piracy that plagued the micro world back when the poorer hobbyists still used old 20ma loop connections to WW2 vintage teletypes.

    Bill gate’s “ye all be thieves” letter was written because of the robin-hood approach many of these guys with cassette decks took, which was the same as those before them with tape punches took.

    He must have forgot how he and his buddy just happened to “acquire” the source for the cross compiler they modified to write code for the 8080. Cause you know, it isn’t stealing if you smuggle it out of the building.

    Of course, back when Bill worked for MITS, you couldn’t patent software, which might explain why Ed Roberts was so surprised to discover that he had founded and funded Microsoft without getting anything back from the deal.

    Maybe if Ed’s dad had been a well-connected big-name lawyer, he might have played a bigger role. But time steps past those of us who slumber and smile.

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