Bye, Metallica: a lost fan

The headline reads:
April 13, 2000, 4:35 p.m. PT

Heavy-metal band Metallica sued the Napster MP3-trading software company and a trio of universities today, charging that together they were responsible for massive violations of the band's copyrights.

Is this issue a simple matter of copyright violation, or is there something more profound happening here?

Napster is not software designed to violate copyright, but software which allows individual people to share files with each other, an extending the basic facilities of the Internet without the arbitrary distinction separating higher-powered servers from the users desktop. Attempting to shut down the Napster service is not going to achieve Metallica's goals but will instead alienate their previous fans who are interested in moving to a more modern music distribution system.

Metallica's lawyers claim is that "Napster has built a business based on large-scale piracy". This is about as out-of-touch with reality as previous claims that the Internet was purely a tool that facilitated copying of copyright restricted materials. The use of the word "piracy" itself is an invalid comparison since it suggests that illegal copying is ethically equivalent to attacking ships on the high seas, kidnapping and murdering the people on them.

Limiting the right to copy information via copyright is generally promoted as the only method to ensure that musicians get paid for their craft. In fact it is being used as a tool being used to centralize all aspects of human communication and remove basic freedoms of choice and by extension threatens freedom of speech. While Metallica might have been made rich from their music, many musicians are not able to make a living and it is partly because of this centralization of the entertainment industry.

When people are paying for the music of widely-promoted bands such as Metallica, this is money they would not have available to go towards other entertainment. The widely-promoted bands have the huge overhead of the promotion, meaning that a smaller percentage of your entertainment dollar makes it to the musician with this entertainment form over others. Services such as Napster provide valuable promotion for musicians for free, cutting out some of these expensive middle-men.

There is a real threat to Metallica's bottom line here, but it is NOT from not getting paid for music shared over the Internet. It is from the lowering of popularity they will receive as a direct result of people having more freedom-of-choice in how they get entertained as alternatives to the monopolizing music industry becomes more and more available to the population. Metallica is not protecting the ability of musicians to make a living at their craft, they are trying to impose one specific business model onto the entire music industry.

I for one am starting early, and as a protest against Metallica's promotion of yesterdays centralized music industry, I am getting rid of all the Metallica CD's. I will be trying to find a home for them with someone else who might otherwise purchase them, reducing their sales in a minor way. I was once a fan and had a number of their CD's, but now have no interest in listening to this band, nor supporting them financially in any way. This case is going to hurt the industry more than it will help as more people are being forced to think more about how the music they listen to gets to them. I know I will be moving my entertainment from these monopolists to independent artists and media.

Metallica Albums I previously owned:
  • Master of Puppets
  • The .98 C.D. Garage Days Re-Revisited
  • ...And Justive for All
  • Metallica
  • Load
  • ReLoad
I was missing a few: Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, Garage Inc., but given the way that Metallica wishes to do business and hold back the forward movement of the industry, I am not going to miss any of them. I have given away or sold the albums I owned in the hopes that my passing these copies onward will mean 6 less CD's bought by someone else and 6 less CD's worth of support to this dinasaur band.
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