Two men accused of copying computer programs and putting them on the internet saw themselves as "latter-day Robin Hoods", a court has heard.
Companies like Microsoft are among those affected
Steven Dowd, 39, of Sandpiper Close, Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, and Alex Bell, 29, of Chafford Hundred, Essex, deny conspiracy to defraud.
Bruce Houlder QC, prosecuting, told the Old Bailey on Tuesday that the pair were part of an international group.
He said that their conspiracy involved "cracking" software protection.
They saw themselves as stealing from rich companies like Microsoft, to give to the poor by cloning software programs and putting them on the internet, Mr Houlder said.
But, in reality, it was a cover for fraud in the multi-million pound world of computer technology, he added.
Mr Bells and Mr Dowd are alleged to be part of the UK end of an international internet group called DrinkorDie, which had a reputation for cracking complex and expensive programs.
A number of members in the UK and the US had pleaded guilty to "cracking" software protection to allow games and programs to be downloaded, the court heard.
Mr Houlder said the aim was to defraud the copyright holders.
Hundreds of CDs and CD ROMs had been found at the homes of Mr Bell and Mr Dowd, the court heard.
Mr Dowd's home was a "treasure house" of expensive copied software products. He described his collection as his "hobby".
Mr Houlder said: "They do not do what they do for money. They do it for streetwise credibility.
"They may see themselves as latter-day Robin Hoods, stealing from the rich to give to the poor, but in reality it is a cover for fraud.
"Computers are their universe. They live and breathe a world of computer software."
The case continues.