between urban legends and fake files, the legacy of peer to peer fakes

In the early 2000s, as the Internet began to grow in homes, an inappropriate track from System of a Down was played on CD players in a loop: titled. The Legend of Zelda, we hear the singer of the American group, Serj Tankian, singing his character voice an ode in honor of Link, the knight of the Nintendo saga. All accompanied by basic instrumentation and shouts of joy suggesting that the piece was recorded on a whim, during a public performance.

Except that this group recording, in fact, never existed. Contrary to what many continue to believe even today, the System of a Down, itself, is denied to exist in origin. American radio show guests “Lovelines” in 2002, Shavo Odadjian and John Dolmayan, bassist and drummer of the group, said as follows:

The song “Legend of Zelda” found on Morpheus, KaZaa or any other of these download platforms is not ours. (…) Maybe it’s a kid in his room, who has one of these new computer programs, who makes this piece and puts it out claiming it’s System of a Down.

The nu metal band is far from one of the wrongly accused songs. In videos that garnered millions of views on YouTube, Bob Marley is still consistently rewarded for translating Don’t Be Sad Be Happy, Red, Red Wine or bad boys (songs by Bobby McFerrin, UB40 and Inner Circle); many punk tracks are connected to Californians in Blink 182 (to the chagrin of Lit and Me First and Gimme Gimmes), and Nirvana, in fact, never recorded a track titled. Half Man Before (actually terrible, in Stone Temple Pilots).

The culprits of these baseless beliefs? They are called eMule, Limewire, Kazaa or eDonkey. As suggested in the response made on the radio by members of System of a Down, these pieces, which are sometimes not addressed today, on the Web and in memories, are a direct result of the peer to peer (P2P, “peer to peer”direct exchange between Internet users) and the birth of online piracy.

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The house with stripped graphics on the eMule site, in May 2022.

The plague of a time

We’re in 2001. The first P2P platform dedicated to music, Napster recently closed its doors after two short years of existence, under pressure from rights holders. Very quickly, other services followed: Kazaa, Limewire and above all eMule (formerly baptized eDonkey2000) …, each with their own protocol, but all with a big difference compared to Napster: their decentralization.

“Because there is so little moderation, these fake files continue to circulate”by Ernesto Van Der Sar, of TorrentFreak

pornographic film instead Matrixpirated version of Windows crippled by viruses, poor encoding of Radiohead pieces… This decentralization was the main reason why, at that time, users quickly accepted the idea that the file they try to hack may be of poor quality, what are they. looking for and. “In the late 1990s and early 2000s, most of the sharing was done by the average Internet user and it was more difficult to distinguish between quality content and poorly named files. And because there were so few who did not. moderation, these fake files keep circulating ”explains Ernesto Van Der Sar, founder of the TorrentFreak site, which specializes in sharing, piracy and copyright issues.

The exchanges that take place between users, without going through a database, the quality of a file and the accompanying information depends entirely on the goodwill of the person making 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 (thus increasing the likelihood of making errors) and that ratings and commentary systems, which help separate wheat from chaff, are still very rare.

But why make usable files that we know are incorrect? “I think some people think it’s ‘fun’ to bother those who download fake files”, said Ernesto Van Der Sar. And, frankly, many American Internet users, now on forums, keep in mind that one of the recurring jokes of the time involved putting up a Bill Clinton declaration made during Monica Lewinsky’s event in the area. and places most preferred files.

Added to this are malicious people disguising malware under popular file names, and others, more opportunistically, renaming their files to match the search terms. to Internet users. This guarantees them that they will be seen to be downloaded the most and instead allows them to improve their “ratio” on sharing platforms, i.e. the ratio between what they download and what they use. Important data, a bad ratio can be accompanied by a slowdown in downloads, or even a ban. Some even go on to cheat, surfing trends to identify themselves or to deceive users. Like American rapper Soulja Boy, who kicked off his career by making his songs popular on download platforms.

Online, there are many funny memes about viruses (here represented by a

Professionalization in hacking

This plague of erroneous or rotten files, criticized by the Federal Trade Commission, the American trade regulator, etc., disappeared as practices developed and spread. “This is the BitTorrent protocol that brings illegal downloads to an industrial scale”, explained Sylvain Dejean, professor at the University of La Rochelle and specialist in digital economics and the Internet. According to the researcher, the combined advent of broadband and new exchange technologies, such as BitTorrent, has slowly led to a “Community download”.

BitTorrent, born in 2001, releases closed groups, which are mostly based on cooptation

While services like eMule or Kazaa are completely open, BitTorrent, born in 2001, carries closed groups, often based on cooptation. In these small communities, some bad files are in circulation, according to the economist, because they are built on a “Need for quality” and with “a tightly controlled upload/download ratio”. Like Oink’s Pink Palace, whose origins are recounted by author Stephen Witt in his book Attack on record empire: if an entire generation committed the same crime (Castor Astral, 2016), and who thus wrote the site Guardian : “While some files remain artifacts of unknown origin, from indescribable Internet inhabitants, the majority of MP3s actually come from some organized group.»

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It adds a form of “professionalization” piracy, according to Ernesto Van Der Sar, is involved in the structuring of the piracy economy and competition between platforms:

Twenty years later, it’s all about sharing and discovering the inside. Now, people just want free music, and there are pirate sites to make money. If a site or service offers poor quality content, people will go to competitors.

If piracy still exists, its face has radically changed: torrent files and direct downloads give way to streaming, which now represents 95% of illegal content online, according to a report by Musso . And many more books, sports competitions and series are being targeted today, due to the proliferation of exclusive video content on platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV or Disney +: users can’t afford much subscriptions that do not damage their bank account, the more they return to illegally uploaded content.

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In the end, thanks to the display of comments, various forums and a few articles, justice has finally been done for the System of a Down, but especially for the group that has, over the years, been unfairly detrimental. . The Legend of Zelda. Contrary to what Odadjian and Dolmayan suggested twenty years ago, the track was not recorded by a child playing on his computer but by a real group: The Rabbit Joint, which is from Maryland. Composed of Joe Pleiman and Jesse Spence, we can still find the title track thanks to another vestige on the Internet: MySpace.

Corrigendum on May 13 at 9:20 a.m.: corrected a mistake about the instrument played by Shavo Odadjian.

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