The New York Times‘ Retro Report series has an excellent new short documentary video about the rise of Napster. Remember the year 2000? We were such pirates back then.
One of the most interesting modern interviews from the video is with a former VP at Universal. He’s forced to basically admit that the entire industry was in denial about the shift to digital music. Arrogantly they just knew that the courts would side with them against Napster. But they didn’t understand that there was really no way to put the music sharing genie back into the bottle.
“We accurately estimated that the courts would say ‘you just don’t have the right to give away all this stuff’ and so we were perhaps a little smug and confident in the belief that the courts would say it’s not that and people would stop doing it,” Albhy Galuten says in the video. “We didn’t really factor in the consumer adoption, the youthful lack of respect for copyright, and the anonymity would combine to make it pretty unstoppable as a model.”
After suing about 20,000 people, the recording industry was eventually brought kicking and screaming into the digital age. People with entrenched interests in the sale of shiny plastic discs clearly didn’t do it with a smile on their face.
I’d love to see follow-up videos made about the people who were sued. How many lives did the industry ruin in an effort to keep their monopoly on distribution? Hopefully Retro Report tackles that story one day, though this video appears to be the “final instalment ” in this series. Here’s hoping they make another series.
You can watch the short documentary over at the New York Times.
Picture: Napster founder Shawn Fanning appears at a press conference October 31, 2000 in New York via Getty