Software cracking is the modification of software to remove protection methods: copy protection, trial/demo version, serial number, hardware key, date checks, CD check or software annoyances like nag screens and adware.
The distribution and use of cracked copies is illegal in almost every developed country. There have been many lawsuits over cracking software, but most had to do with the distribution of the duplicated product rather than the process of defeating the protection, due to the difficulty of constructing legally sound proof of individual guilt in the latter instance. In the United States, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) made software cracking, as well as the distribution of information that facilitates software cracking, illegal. However, the law has hardly been tested in U.S. courts in cases of reverse engineering for personal use only. The European Union passed the EU Copyright Directive in May 2001, which makes software copyright infringement illegal as the member states pass legislation pursuant to the directive.