“Drink or Die” hackers given prison sentences

United Kingdom

Four members of the infamous 1990s “warez” software piracy group “Drink or Die” were jailed for conspiracy to defraud. Drink or Die was formed in 1993 and at its peak had around 60 members. Two members that pleaded guilty to cracking software and recruiting new group members were sentenced to 18 months each. The two other members, who had pleaded not guilty, received 24 and 30 months for their roles as software suppliers to the group.

Drink or Die is most famous for releasing a fully functioning version of Windows 95 two weeks before Microsoft. The group did not aim to financially gain from its software piracy, indeed it was frowned upon by the group, but were instead motivated by the cachet of being the first to break the code of new software. The problem for the owners of the software cracked by the group was that the cracked software often ended up in the hands of organised criminals, who were then able to mass-produce and sell the pirated software. The owners of the software were therefore keen to track down and prosecute those responsible for cracking the software.

As a result of the US customs-led investigations into Internet software piracy in 2000, more than 70 properties were raided at the same time in Australia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the US. More than 60 people were arrested including eight in the UK. Of those eight people, four were the defendants sentenced for conspiracy to defraud.

This article first appeared in our Technology Annual Review, March 2006.  To view this publication, please click here to open a new window.