Between urban legends and fake files, the legacy of peer-to-peer forgers

In the early 2000s, as the Internet began to make its way into homes, an inconsistent track from System of a Down played on CD players appeared in an episode: titled the legend of zelda, we can hear the American band’s singer, Serge Tankian, sing in his signature voice a poem in honor of Link, the knight of the Nintendo epic. All accompanied by essential instruments and cries of joy that suggest the piece was recorded on a whim during a public display.

Except that this recording of the group, in fact, never existed. It goes against what many insist on believing even today, the system of the Fall itself, having denied its existence in the original. Guests of an American radio show “love” In 2002, Chavo Udajian and John Dolmayan, guitarist and drummer of the group, respectively, said:

The song “Legend of Zelda” on Morpheus, KaZaa or any of these download platforms is not our song. (…) It might have been a kid in his room, with one of these new computer programs, who made this piece and put it together claiming it was System of a Down.

No Metal isn’t the only group wrongly attributed to songs. In videos collecting millions of views on YouTube, Bob Marley is still regularly rewarded with subtitles don’t worry be happyAnd red red wine or bad boys (Bobby McFerrin, UB40, and Inner Circle songs); Several punk tracks are associated with Californians at Blink 182 (to the chagrin of Lit and Me First and Gimme Gimmes), and Nirvana has, in fact, recorded no track titled Half the man I used to be (It’s actually scary, From the pilots of the Stone Temple).

Guilty of these unfounded beliefs? They are called eMule, Limewire, Kazaa or eDonkey. As the response made by members of System of a Down on radio suggests, these pieces, still sometimes wrongly attributed to today, on the web and in memories, are the direct result of the peer-to-peer (P2P, “peer to peer”and direct exchanges between Internet users) and the birth of Internet piracy.

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House with abstract drawings from eMule, May 2022.

era affliction

We’re now in 2001. The first dedicated P2P platform for music, Napster just closed its doors after two brief years of existence, under pressure from rights holders. Very quickly, other services followed: Kazaa, Limewire and especially eMule (previously called eDonkey2000) …, each with its own protocol, but all have a significant difference compared to Napster: decentralization.

“Due to the lack of oversight, these fake files continued to be circulated”explains Ernesto van der Sar, from TorrentFreak

Porn movie instead of matrixa pirated copy of Windows crippled by viruses, Radiohead pieces poorly encrypted … This decentralization is the main reason, at that time, users quickly grasped the idea that the file they were trying to hack might be of poor quality, if at all searching for. “In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the majority of sharing was done by regular internet users and it was difficult to distinguish between high quality content and poorly named files. With little oversight, these fake files continued to circulate”explains Ernesto van der Sar, founder of TorrentFreak, which specializes in sharing, piracy and copyright issues.

The exchanges that take place between users, without going through a single database, the quality of the file and the information associated with it depends entirely on the goodwill of the person who made it available to the community. Not to mention that at the time, 56K modems often forced users to wait several hours to download a file (doubling the likelihood of errors) and that rating and feedback systems, which could help separate the wheat from the chaff, were still very rare.

But why are we saving files that we know aren’t the right ones? “I think some people thought it would be fun to annoy downloaders with fake files”, says Ernesto van der Sar. And in fact, many American Internet users, today on the forums, remember that one of the frequent jokes at that time was to put the Bill Clinton ad at the time of the Monica Lewinsky case in its place and put the most wanted files.

Added to this are people with bad intentions who hide malware under common file names, and others, more opportunistic, who have renamed their files to match the most searched terms of Internet users. This ensured that they would see them being downloaded en masse, and thus allowed them to optimize files “Rate” On sharing platforms, that is, the ratio between what they download and what they make available. Important data, a bad percentage that can be accompanied by a slowdown in downloads, or even a ban. Some have gone so far as to scams, browsing trends to make themselves known or to deceive users. Like American rapper Soulja Boy, who started his career by making his songs popular on download platforms.

On the Internet, there are many satirical memes about viruses (represented here

hacking professional

This scourge of false or corrupt filings, denounced by the Federal Trade Commission, the US trade organization, among others, has vanished as the practices evolved and spread. “It was the BitTorrent protocol that moved the illegal download to an industrial scale”, explains Sylvain Dejean, a lecturer at the University of La Rochelle who specializes in the digital economy and the Internet. According to the researcher, the common access to new broadband and exchange technologies, such as BitTorrent, has gradually led to “community download”.

BitTorrent was born in 2001, and produced closed collections, often on the basis of cooperation

While services like eMule or Kazaa were completely open, BitTorrent, born in 2001, has taken out closed groups, often on a collaboration basis. In these small communities, there are a few bad files in circulation, according to the economist, since they were built on a Quality requirements and with Upload/download ratio strictly controlled.. Like Oink’s Pink Palace, whose origins writer Stephen Witt tells in his book Assault on the Standard Empire: When an entire generation commits the same crime (Castor Astral, 2016), and then writes on the site guardian : “While some of the files did indeed remain artifacts of unknown origins, originating from the untold population of the Internet, the vast majority of MP3s did indeed originate from a handful of organized groups.”

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Added to this is a form of “Professionalism” Piracy, according to Ernesto van der Sar, is linked to the structuring of the piracy economy and competition between platforms:

Twenty years ago, it was above all about sharing and discovering content. Today, people only want free music, and hacking sites exist to make money. If a site or service offers poor quality content, people will go to competitors.

If piracy still exists, it has radically changed its face: torrents and direct downloading have given way to streaming, which today accounts for 95% of illegal content online, according to a report by Musso. And more books, contests and sports series are the target today, in particular due to the proliferation of exclusive video content on platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV or Disney +: users cannot pay for multiple subscriptions without harming their bank account, they are turning more to Illegally uploaded content.

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In the end, thanks to the advent of comments, various forums, and a handful of articles, justice is finally done for System of a Down, but especially for the group that, all these years, has been unjustly robbed the legend of zelda. Contrary to what Odadjian and Dolmayan suggested twenty years ago, the track was recorded not by a kid playing on his computer but by a very real group: The Rabbit Joint, originally from Maryland. Authored by Joe Pleiman and Jesse Spence, we can still find a trace of the title thanks to another relic from the Internet: MySpace.

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