Order in the Warez Scene: Explaining an Underground Virtual Community with the CPR Framework


The paper analyzes the warez scene, an illegal underground subculture on the Internet, which specializes in removing copy protection from software and releasing the cracked software for free. Despite the lack of economic incentives and the absence of external laws regulating it, the warez scene has been able to self-govern and self-organize for more than three decades. Through a directed content analysis of the subculture’s digital traces, the paper argues that the ludic competition within the warez scene is an institution of collective action, and can, therefore, be approached as a common-pool resource (CPR). Subsequently, the paper uses Ostrom’s framework of long-enduring common-pool resource institutions to understand the warez scene’s longevity and ability to govern itself. Theoretical and design implications of these findings are then discussed.

Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems