Taking a step back through time, you certainly remember sites such as Limewire, Napster, and many other P2P sites in which many illegally downloaded their favorite songs. Just when it seemed music was free, Metallica and Lars Ulrich stepped up to the plate to ensure money was paid to the artists.
In 2000, Metallica discovered that an unfinished demo version of their song “I Disappear” was being traded on Napster, which allowed users to share and download music files for free. The band’s management then sent a cease-and-desist letter to Napster, demanding that the company remove all Metallica songs from its platform.
Napster responded by saying that it was not responsible for the actions of its users, and that it was protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, which provided safe harbor for online service providers who host user-generated content.
However, Metallica and other artists argued that Napster was enabling widespread copyright infringement by allowing users to freely share and download copyrighted music without permission or compensation to the artists.
Metallica then filed a lawsuit against Napster in 2000, seeking to have the company shut down and to collect damages for copyright infringement. The case became a high-profile legal battle that pitted musicians against the emerging technology of file-sharing.
In 2001, a federal judge ruled that Napster had to stop allowing users to share copyrighted music and shut down its service.
The band’s lawyer Peter Paterno, who was involved in the case, spoke with Variety in a recent interview that his clients and the legal team did exactly what needed doing.
He stated: “They were basically thieves! It’s not a popular opinion. The popular opinion now is a sort of revisionist history that we shouldn’t have sued Napster, we should have worked something out with them — well, no, there was nothing to work out with them. ‘You could have made a deal.'”
He then pondered if there would have been any deal at all.
Continued: “What was the deal? People were getting music for free. It was really necessary in order to set the ground rules for what music is worth. Those fans aren’t fans — fans pay for music and appreciate its value. It’s like Dre said when we told him about Napster,’ he said, ‘I work 24/7 in the lab and these guys just steal it? Screw them.”
What has happened since? Well, Metallica got a good chunk of money through the case and we now have Spotify, which is probably on par with Napster as far as “morals” go for some. Fans will always have strong opinions about Metallica, especially when it comes to ex-bassist Jason Newsted.