Metallica Drummer Lars Ulrich’s Napster Debate Revisited in ‘Downloaded’ Documentary
'Downloaded' is a documentary which spotlights the meteoric rise and inevitable descent of file sharing service Napster. Directed by 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure' actor Alex Winter, the project takes a look at how Napster divided music enthusiasts on both sides of the fence, with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich's battle with the file-sharing service just one of the topics addressed in the movie.
Winter met Napster creator Shawn Fanning back in 2002 and decided to turn Fanning and partner Sean Parker's experiences into a movie, but that project went into turnaround. Now, over a decade later, Winter has crafted his narrative into a documentary that attempts to explore the many facets of the Napster issue. "I think what we've witnessed was an internal conflict, not just one guy on one side," said Winter in an interview with Billboard.com. "Metallica put their entire catalog on Spotify."
Metallica's iconic status in rock has never been question, but their reputation did take a minor hit after Lars Ulrich was one of the first musicians to actively speak out against Napster. While visiting Washington D.C. to discuss digital music with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ulrich detailed Napster's destructive effects on an artist's rights.
"Just like a carpenter who crafts a table gets to decide if he wants to keep it, sell it or give it away," said Ulrich in his testimony at the time. "Shouldn't we have the same options? We want to decide what happens to our music. Not a company who has no rights to our recordings, which has never invested a penny in our music or anything to do with its creation. The choice has been taken away from us." A portion of his speech to the Senate can be seen in the trailer for the film above.
Even though streaming music is today's norm, the Napster controversy still exists, according to Winter. "One thing I did not count on was the level of rage that still exists," he added. "It's kind of shocking to me how many people are just as angry in 2013 as they were in 2001 ... Clearly, the artist is not getting compensated well enough yet. There's just so much need for better architecture."
Artists such as Metallica and Dr. Dre had their share of conflicts with Napster during its inception, but even as the service waned in popularity it refused to vanish into thin air thanks to its 2011 merger with Rhapsody. 'Downloaded,' featuring interviews with Beastie Boys member Mike D, Henry Rollins, and Noel Gallagher, is now available on video on demand.