How a Metallica Lawsuit from 2000 Helped Bring in the Current Age of Internet Copyright Law

By: ELLIOTT GARSKE

The internet in its current state is far from the sort of “lawless frontier” that it was thought to be when it was initially created all the way back in the 1960s. This is hugely in part due to how as time has gone on, many laws have been put in place in order to protect copyrighted content such as music that has gone on to age like milk, and, while made with seemingly good intentions, have gone on to create an internet landscape where playing less than 3 seconds of any Taylor Swift song in the background of a video results in being fearful of your entire career, and it can all be traced back to a lawsuit between heavy metal band Metallica and the peer-to-peer file sharing service Napster back in 2000.

To start, Napster was a p2p (peer-to-peer) file-sharing service that was launched back in 1999 by Shawn Fanning as a way to share audio files and music between users. It was shut down two years later in July 2001 after declaring bankruptcy. Shortly after going live, Napster started gaining a lot of criticism from music labels, saying that it was basically piracy, while also gaining tons of positive feedback from its users, who mostly gambled on whether or not they were downloading Gangsta’s Paradise or a 4 minute long cut of Smells Like Teen Spirit that was named “gangstas_paradise.mp3” for whatever reason.

All this was going fine, but then, the heavy metal band Metallica noticed that a lot of their music was being shared on the platform, and among them was a leaked demo from their yet unreleased song “I Disappear” that had started playing on the radio. Because of this, the band filed a lawsuit for $10 million dollars, $100,000 for every illegally downloaded song. As a result, 300,000 users were banned for distributing Metallica songs on the platform, and all Metallica songs were removed from its database.

As a result of this lawsuit, many others such as Mac Dre and multiple other music labels proceeded to sue Napster as well, which caused another 270,000 users to be banned, eventually causing the company to file for chapter 7 bankruptcy and liquidate all their assets. Because of this lawsuit, more and more lawsuits and laws have been passed that have inadvertently made the use of copyrighted material on the internet harder and harder for the average person to make content using them. Which has ushered in an age where you can’t even play half a minute of any popular song in a video without facing a copyright strike. Even if you didn’t even actually do anything wrong.

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