between urban legends and fake archives, the legacy of peer to peer counterfeiters

In the early 2000’s, when the Internet began to spring up in homes, an incongruous track of System of a Down was played on loop CD players: titled The legend of Zelda, we can hear the singer of the American group, Serj Tankian, sing with his characteristic voice an ode in honor of Link, the knight of the Nintendo saga. All accompanied by basic instrumentation and cries of joy that suggest that the piece was recorded on a whim, during a public performance.

Except that this recording of the band never actually existed. Going against what many still believe today, the System of a Down itself, having denied being at the origin. Guests of an American radio program “Love lines” in 2002, Shavo Odadjian and John Dolmayan, the band’s guitarist and drummer respectively, said:

The song “Legend of Zelda” found on Morpheus, KaZaa or any of these other download platforms is not ours. (…) It was probably a child in his room, with one of these new computer programs, who made this piece and published it stating that it was System of a Down.

The nude metal band is far from the only one to which songs are mistakenly attributed. In videos that garner millions of views on YouTube, Bob Marley is still regularly rewarded with the performance of do not worry Be Happy, Red, red wine o bad guys (songs by Bobby McFerrin, UB40 and Inner Circle); many punk songs are connected to Blink 182 Californians (much to the chagrin of Lit and Me First and Gimme Gimmes), and Nirvana has never recorded a single entitled Half the man he used to be (actually it is horrifying, of Stone Temple Pilots).

The culprits of these unfounded beliefs? They are called eMule, Limewire, Kazaa or eDonkey. As suggested by the response of members of System of a Down on the radio, these pieces, which are still sometimes poorly attributed to the network and memories, are the direct result of the era of peer to peer (P2P, “Peer to peer”direct exchanges between Internet users) and the birth of online piracy.

Read on too From Napster to Zone Download, a brief history of Internet piracy
The house with nude graphics from the eMule site, in May 2022.

The scourge of an era

We are in the year 2001. The first P2P platform dedicated to music, Napster has just closed its doors after two short years of existence, under pressure from rights holders. Very quickly, other services followed: Kazaa, Limewire and especially eMule (formerly called eDonkey2000) …, each has its own protocol, but they all have a big difference from Napster: its decentralization.

“Because there was very little moderation, these fake files kept circulating”explains Ernesto Van Der Sar of TorrentFreak

porn movie instead of MatrixPirate version of Windows paralyzed by viruses, poorly encoded pieces of Radiohead … This decentralization is the main reason why, at that time, users quickly assimilated the idea that the file they are trying to hack could be bad quality, if that was what they were. looking for. “In the late 1990s and early 2000s, most sharing was done by average Internet users, and it was more difficult to distinguish between quality content and bad-name files. And because there was very little moderation, these fake files kept circulating. “explains Ernesto Van Der Sar, founder of the TorrentFreak site, which specializes in sharing, piracy and copyright issues.

The exchanges that took place between users, without going through a single database, the quality of a file and the associated information depended entirely on the goodwill of those who made it available to the community. Not to mention that at the time, 56K modems often forced users to wait a few hours to download a file (thus multiplying the likelihood of making mistakes) and that rating and commenting systems, which can help separate wheat from straw, they were still very rare.

But why make files available that we know aren’t the right ones? “I think some people thought it would be ‘fun’ to annoy users with fake files”, says Ernesto Van Der Sar. And, in fact, many American netizens, today in the forums, remember that one of the recurring jokes of the time was to put a Bill Clinton statement made at the time of the Monica Lewinsky affair and place the files most sought after.

Added to this were the malicious people who concealed malicious software with popular filenames, and the more opportunistic ones who renamed their files to match the most searched terms by Internet users. This ensured that they could be downloaded in bulk and, in turn, allowed them to improve “proportion” on sharing platforms, that is, the relationship between what they download and what they make available. Important data, a bad proportion that may be accompanied by a slowdown in downloads, or even a ban. Some went even further in crossings, navigating trends to make themselves known or to deceive users. Like the American rapper Soulja Boy, who made his career by making his songs seem popular on download platforms.

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

Professionalization of hacking

This scourge of erroneous or corrupt files, denounced by the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. regulator of trade, among others, has been disappearing as practices have evolved and spread. “It was the BitTorrent protocol that brought illegal downloading on an industrial scale”, explains Sylvain Dejean, a professor at the University of La Rochelle and a specialist in the digital economy and the Internet. According to the researcher, the joint arrival of broadband and new exchange technologies, such as BitTorrent, have led to a “Community Download”.

BitTorrent, born in 2001, has launched closed groups, often based on co-optation

While services like eMule or Kazaa were completely open, BitTorrent, born in 2001, launched closed groups, often based on co-optation. In these smaller communities, few bad records are in circulation, according to the economist, as they were built on a “quality requirement” and with “a strictly controlled upload / download relationship”. Like Oink’s Pink Palace, whose origins Stephen Witt explains in his book Assault on the disk empire: when an entire generation commits the same crime (Castor Astral, 2016), and thus writes in place of the Guardian : “While some files continued to be artifacts of unknown origin, from undescribed Internet dwellers, the vast majority of MP3s originated from a handful of organized groups.”

Read on too Article reserved for our subscribers Illegal download: how hackers feed networks with the latest news

To this is added a form of “professionalization” piracy, according to Ernesto Van Der Sar, linked to the structuring of the piracy economy and cross-platform competition:

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

If piracy still exists, it has changed dramatically: torrent files and direct download have given way to streaming, which today accounts for 95% of illegal online content, according to a report by Musso. And more books, sports competitions and series are being targeted today, mainly due to the proliferation of exclusive video content on platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV or Disney + – users who can’t afford multiple subscriptions without harming your bank. beware, they target more illegally uploaded content.

Read on too Article reserved for our subscribers French football wants to eradicate illegal match streaming

In the end, thanks to the appearance of comments, various forums and a handful of articles, justice was finally done to System of a Down, but especially to the group that, during all these years, has unfairly dispossessed. The legend of Zelda. Contrary to what Odadjian and Dolmayan suggested twenty years ago, the song was not recorded by a child playing on his computer but by a very real group: The Rabbit Joint, originally from Maryland. Composed by Joe Pleiman and Jesse Spence, we can still find the title track thanks to another vestige of the Internet: MySpace.

Leave a Comment