Music Business

Metallica Sued Napster 15 Years Ago Today

napsterNo one innovation or event changed the course of the modern music industry more than the introduction of Napster. On this day 15 years ago, Napster faced its first real challenge from the artistic community.   

On April 13th, 2000, while label executives were wringing their hands and trying to decided their next move, attorneys for Metallica filed Metallica v. Napster, Inc. in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. 

It was the first time that had artist sued Napster. The charges leveled against the peer to peer music file sharing service included copyright infringement, racketeering, and unlawful use of digital audio interface devices.

"Napster hijacked our music without asking," Metallica's drummer Lars Ulrich told Congress in July 2000. "They never sought our permission. Our catalog of music simply became available for free downloads on the Napster system."

Here's what happened next:

  • napsterIn March 2001, the federal district court judge ruling over the case, Marilyn Hall Patel, issued a preliminary injunction in Metallica's favor pending the case's resolution
  • On July 12, 2001 Napster reached a settlement with Metallica and Dr. Dre after Bertelsmann AG BMG became interested in purchasing the rights to Napster for $94 million. The settlement required that Napster block all of the music being shared from any artist that did not want their music to be shared.
  • The $94 million deal was blocked when Judge Peter Walsh ruled that the deal was tainted because Napster Chief Executive Officer Konrad Hilbers, a former Bertelsmann executive, had one foot in the Napster camp and one foot in the Bertelsmann camp.
  • Napster was forced to file for Chapter 7 and liquefy its assets.

To say that the music industry has never been the same is an understatement.

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