At the beginning of the 2000s, the era of the Internet came. People received multiple opportunities to share different files and programs, and there was no longer a need to purchase physical discs and cassettes. The scope of online file-sharing became a perspective for users and authors. Indeed, multiple hazards existed within the Internet, which turned out to be an unknown and revolutionary sphere. For instance, the file-sharing program Napster appeared at the end of the 20th century and became an innovation in music sharing and downloading. People could get almost every soundtrack they desired, and it gave considerable opportunities to collect music files for free. It created significant issues, in particular, the legal action of Metallica music group and Napster. It is necessary to introduce Napster and Metallica case to understand the reason for the legal action between the music band and the file-sharing network.
In 2000, Metallica recorded the soundtrack ‘I Dissapear’ for the movie ‘Mission: Impossible II.’ It is worth noting that the track was not officially released at that moment. Later, drummer Lars Ulrich acknowledged that ‘I Dissapear’ was promoted on 20 radio stations (Reed, 2020). The office producer called Ulrich and said that Napster was related to the situation (Law, 2021). Metallica did not give official permission to Napster to play the song. Since that moment, Metallica had a severe claim to pursue Napster for illegal soundtrack distribution. Moreover, Metallica was not the only victim of illegal music file-sharing through Napster. For instance, music producers such as Ron Stone from Gold Mountain Management commented on Napster’s activity as unfriendly because of copyright violation (Law, 2021). Metallica evaluated the damage at ten million dollars and demanded deleting all their tracks from the Napster platform.
Napster is a file-sharing network that allows users to share music files. Shawn Fanning, Jordan Ritter, and Shawn Parker jointly created Napster and introduced its first version in 1999. As soon as the network was released, people recognized it; millions of MP3 files became available for downloading (Law, 2021). The main idea of this program was that users could download software to their computers that allowed them to get music and share resources with their hard drives. Napster is a peer-to-peer network based on the equality of users’ rights. The network specialized in MP3 music and provided a convenient interface, thus, earning the loyalty of many users worldwide.
Therefore, Napster became an excellent music service, and people could quickly receive MP3 files. Moreover, the network provided files usually paid for and using Napster, and people downloaded them to a computer at no cost. The program made it easier for people to search for MP3 songs, which were very difficult to achieve at the beginning of the 2000s (Hernandez, 2012). Thus, the specified content was not stored in the central computer files but was located on the devices of different users. Every time the user downloaded the file from Napster, it was received from another user’s computer. It is important to note that the computer could have been located in any country, and the network provided people with free music files around the world through file generation. Indeed, many files turned out to be stolen, or they violated authorship; therefore, file-sharing could become illegal. Moreover, personal files from the user’s computer were available for download, creating a potential struggle.
Before the conflict with Metallica, Napster was a popular platform for sharing files. It made a revolution in the music industry, as it offered innovative methods to share music. Moreover, Napster allowed people to save money they would spend on purchasing a song. Therefore, the network attracted people and facilitated file sharing around the world. In addition, Napster had several unique tools, such as playlists and thematic forums, which contributed to users’ attraction. Indeed, Napster promoted demo versions of unreleased soundtracks, which later created legal problems.
However, file downloading was often illegal due to users’ home copies of licensed tracks and other files. It is worth noting that at the beginning of the 2000s, people could purchase music files through compact discs (CDs), and it was costly for many users (Law, 2021). Therefore, Napster created comfortable conditions for people to share and download music files. Authors attempted to eliminate the consequences of such rapid technological development and violation of authorship. Indeed, users continued to download files, although some were pirate copies. Many authors and music producers reacted to Napster aggressively, saying that the network was “about facilitating piracy” (Law, 2021, para 6). The violation of copyright touched upon Metallica and their single ‘I Disappear,’ which was illegally promoted on multiple radio stations before the actual release (Reed, 2020). Lars Ulrich, Metallica’s drummer, acknowledged that the matter was connected with Napster, as the single leaked to the net through this network. Ulrich spoke unpleasant comments about the service in his interview later.
It is essential to introduce the music band Metallica and give an overview of their music activity. Metallica is an American group that creates metal music. The band is one of the most successful commercial metal music groups. The group earned the love of many people worldwide, and currently, Metallica is a benchmark of the mentioned type of music. Moreover, all participants of the music band were initially musicians, and they united to create a group. Other metal groups such as Motorhead and Black Sabbath influenced the music path of Metallica. As time flowed, group members started producing music albums and generating new ideas. Later, famous figures such as Ozzy Osborne noticed the group and started to invite them to give concerts. It was how their music career started, and then Metallica proceeded to work on multiple albums and give world tours in many countries.
During the situation with Napster, several legal actions arose against this file-sharing platform. American record companies started to initiate pursues against Napster for multiple authorship rights violations. Producers reported that Napster damaged their reputation and depreciated artistic activity. Napster was charged with authorship laws and damage, which Metallica said. For instance, Lars Ulrich mentioned the moral injury which Napster created by underestimating Metallica’s music activity by distributing their music without permission. In addition, Ulrich acknowledged that other songs by Metallica were distributed freely, which added to the severeness of the conflict. Ulrich did not appreciate that Metallica’s music was perceived as a product, not a work of art (Hernandez, 2012). In 2000, Metallica filed a lawsuit against Napster in the United States District Court (Law, 2021). Moreover, participants of the music band were highly concerned about their reputation and the situation with the ‘I Disappear’ single, written for the movie.
Hernandez, D. (2012). April 13, 2000: Seek and destroy – Metallica sues Napster. Wired. Web.
Reed, R. (2020). Revisiting the lessons of Metallica’s Napster lawsuit in the era of coronavirus. Spin. Web.
Law, S. (2021). Metallica vs. Napster: The lawsuit that redefined how we listen to music. Kerrang! Web.