The case of the Metallica’s costly battle vs Napster
Time & Life Pictures, Getty Images / Napster
April 13th, 2000 was the day that marks the beginning of the war between music industry and the Internet.
In that day, Metallica filed suit against Napster, the University of Southern California, Yale University and Indiana University for copyright infringement, unlawful use of digital audio interface device and violations of the Racketeering Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
On one side, Metallica are one of the biggest rock bands in the world, formed in 1981 in California, the band was already famous and successful at that time.
On the other side, Napster was a pioneering reality. It was a free platform, a peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing Internet service, founded by Shawn Fanning, that emphasized sharing digitally encoded music as MP3 audio files.
As Fanning told Newsweek, the original aim that Napster pursued was to create
“a way for people to search for files and talk to each other. To build communities around different types of music”.
The problems came up when Metallica discovered that a demo of the song "I Disappear", which was set to be released with the Mission: Impossible II soundtrack, was being played on the radio.
They traced the source of the leak back to a file on Napster's peer-to-peer file-sharing network. It was also discovered that the band's entire catalogue was available for free download.
In 2014, Lars Ulrich looked back on the entire Napster lawsuit claimed:
“I was also stunned that people thought it was about money,” Ulrich continued.
“People used the word ‘greed’ all the time, which was so bizarre. The whole thing was about one thing and one thing only – control. Not about the internet, not about money, not about file sharing, not about giving s— away for free or not, but about whose choice it was. If I wanna give my s— away for free, I’ll give it away for free. That choice was taken away from me.”
The Metallica’s lack of farsightedness costed them a lot, they paid a heavy price, the disappointment of their fans.
Who'd have thought that the online music sharing would become the normality and, moreover, the segment that would save the music industry?!