The Empire Strikes Back
This whole people versus the record companies deal almost plays exactly like the titles of the Star Wars movies (forgetting the prequels). Napster was the 'New Hope', the RIAA is the Empire and KaZaa is just a ship in the fleet of a rag tag bunch of P2P apps, all of which are a target for the evil Empire.
Well guess what, the Empire has a new weapon and they're using it liberally. This only came to my attention last week, after I downloaded the latest 50 Cent album (yes all of it). The main reason for downloading the album, was his new track called P.I.M.P., so obviously this was the first track I listened to.
So there I am, sat in my comfy leather chair, 5.1 surround sound system pumping with some phat choon, when all of a sudden my speakers start screeching at me. I look up at winamp and notice that the progress bar has started moving backwards, while the screeching continues.
My immediate thought was, 'Those sneaky little RIAA b*stards!'. I assumed it was the Empire behind this and assumed they were spreading corrupt files throughout the network. However, undeterred, I went back to KaZaa (my tool of choice) and downloaded another version of the same track...then another version...and another, they were all corrupted! I couldn't believe that the RIAA had managed to put this many different corrupted versions of the same track online so I checked my version of winamp, updated it and tried the tracks again, only for the screeching to start AGAIN! Same thing happened in Windows Media Player. I just couldn't quite believe it!
So today 28/10/03, I went on Google (my saviour), to find out what the skinny on this problem was. Could I be the only one blighted by it? OH HELL NO!
Here's what I've been able to find out....
"The record companies don't spread wrong versions: They spider kazaa etc for a version of their song, download it, corrupt it (by adding a lot of strings 'AABBCCDDEEFFGG1234567890' to the file), then they share it themselves, only they do it through a lot of fake-users with LOTS of bandwidth. People will continue to download that corrupt version and so the corrupted one will spread like hell. Try Paul van Dyk - Nothing But You, for fun. There are good versions of it, though, rarely :)
If u wonder if it's your player, or just a record-company corrupted file, rename it to .TXT, then open it in Notepad (takes a while on a slow pc), then scroll down, till suddenly the random weird numbers and signs show a repeated short pattern, mostly simple like: ABCDEFG123456789#$%^&*ABCDEFG123456789#$%^&*ABCDEFG123456789#$%^&*ABCDEFG123 456789#$%^&*ABCDEFG123456789#$%^&*"
I've since checked one of my own files and sure enough, it's full of not so random strings, similar to the above. These strings are certainly not generated by an encoder, they're added by hand (which also means they can be stripped out theoretically), by the RIAA's hand.
What's the solution my fellow rebels?
There appears to be a few to hand:
When downloading files from big name American artists, do not go for the track with the most sources...hell don't even touch ones with more than ten sources. Look for a track that's shared by a handful of sources. These are a lot less likely to be corrupt.
Attempt to edit corrupted files yourself. It shouldn't be too difficult, but the results cannot be guaranteed. I don't even know if the added strings actually replace sections of the track or are in addition to the track. If it's the former, we're screwed (goto option 1).
If it's the latter in option 2, some clever dude needs to create a program to help strip this crap from corrupted MP3s. At least then we put the ball back in the RIAAs court.
May the force be with you!
Article date – 30/10/2003